|Over the weekend, both Popes Francis and Benedict dedicated this statue of St Michael the Archangel and declared St Michael and St Joseph protectors of the Vatican City States.|
The Vatican Bank (IOR) has been making headlines again for all the wrong reasons. Italian authorities have released a report which contradicts Vatican claims that the IOR is not involved in money laundering. Recent arrests and resignations indicate the Italian authorities have it right and the Vatican has it wrong. Pope Francis recently appointed a five person commission to investigate all activities of the IOR. I had reservations about some of the members and now Vatican correspondent Robert Mickens, writing for Britian's Tablet, has added some background information that does nothing to alleviate those concerns. The following are extracts from his article.
Holding the bank to accountRobert Mickens - The Tablet - 6 July 2013......Baron Ernst von Freyberg insists that the so-called Vatican Bank is a “well-managed and clean financial institution” that merely suffers from a bad reputation linked to old scandals. The German aristocrat and industrialist was hired last February after an extensive search to be the president of the bank – officially named the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR). And he recently began a media campaign to convince people that he and his team were well on the road to bringing greater transparency and propriety to the 71-year-old institution.
But a new and embarrassing scandal has caused a major obstacle to that journey and this past week the president was forced to admit that still more drastic measures were needed to truly clean up the IOR’s bad image and improve efforts undertaken in the past three years to combat money laundering and provide greater transparency.
“It is clear today that we need new leadership to increase the pace of this transformation process,” von Freyberg said in a communiqué issued late on Monday. The unusually timed note announced the sudden and surprising resignations of the two men in charge of the IOR’s daily operations – bank director Paolo Cipriani and his deputy, Massimo Tulli. Both stepped down (or were more likely forced out) after six years in their posts.....
So Pope Benedict's German saviour, Ernst Von Freyberg, is forced to admit his PR campaign was maybe more smoke and mirrors than reality, and that maybe he would have to get real about cleaning up the IOR. Which brings up Pope Francis' commission of five and their 'qualifications' for being Pope Franicis' white knights in the continuing saga of the IOR. Back to Robert Mickens:
.....Next, Francis chose five Vatican insiders to be part of his newly set up commission of inquiry. The president of the group is Italian Cardinal Raffaele Farina SDB, 79, head of the Vatican Library. Spanish Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, a 62-year-old Opus Dei canon lawyer who is secretary at the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, is the commission’s coordinator. There is also French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, 70, one of the Holy See’s best diplomats and currently its top official for interreligious dialogue, as well as a member of the cardinals’ commission that oversees the IOR. Mary Glendon, 74, the American lawyer who heads the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and is a former US ambassador to the Holy See, is also a member. And finally, Mgr Peter Wells, 50, the American who serves as “assessore” or No. 3 in the Secretariat of State, serves as the commission’s secretary. Glendon and Wells have strong personal connections to fellow American Carl Anderson, head of the very wealthy Knights of Columbus and a member of the IOR board of directors. It goes without saying that all five of these people have personal bank accounts at the IOR.
Anyone hoping that the commission of inquiry might be composed of people with outside objectivity and no inside personal interest would be very disappointed with this group. On the other hand, those likely to be most threatened by such a commission and the Pope’s reforms might feel some reassurance by the names on this list.....
I think Robert Micken's is dead on with that final paragraph. I am not particularly impressed with a commission whose members all have personal accounts at the IOR, something Von Freyberg tried to down play and minimize by stating the IOR was basically composed of accounts from religious orders and had few individual accounts. When I factor in the Msgr Scarano debacle maybe what Von Freyberg was trying to say was that while the IOR may have few individuals with accounts, those individuals have multiple accounts. But the truth is, I have a very tough time believing anything from IOR leadership, and apparently Italian banking authorities share my distrust.
The composition of Pope Francis' commission with it's Opus Dei member, American neocons who worked for Ronald Reagan, and it's somewhat nebulous mission all brings up the nest of vipers who were involved in the Banco Ambrosio scandal of the 80's. In that particular time frame, Ronald Reagan was US President and shared JPII's desire to overthrow communism in Poland and elsewhere. Lots of different groups with nothing else in common with the Vatican, shared that particular desire.
In that effort, key players in the Banco Ambrosio affair used their financial connections, including the IOR, to funnel an estimated 100 million CIA dollars to Solidarity. These same shady folks were also involved in laundering money for the Mafia and drug cartels, buying French Exocet missiles for the Peron government in Argentina, and funding many other right wing juntas and governments throughout the globe. They did all of this through networks of off shore banks, friends and 'family', and political connections. They made a ton of money for themselves while doing so.
What brought all these disparate groups together was their mutual fear of communism and their preference for autocratic leadership. The US Mafia had lost big bucks when Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba and nationalized the casinos they built. They had reason to fear similar takeovers in other Carribean and Latin American countries, some of which were key players in their illegal drug business. The last thing the US Mafia wanted was financial brakes of any sort put on their Italian family connections because the Italian connections with the Church and US intelligence agencies, starting with the invasion of Sicily in WWII, had proven very useful for the fortunes of the US mafia.
The Vatican feared communism because of it's truly adversarial role to religion, atheistic philosophy, and the resultant loss of power and influence for Catholic leadership. Western capitalist countries led by the US were not the least bit interested in having their economic interests further constrained by any more socialist or communist governments. Freeing Eastern Europe would open up huge areas of investment. JPII was the key to Poland. Opus Dei had it's own agenda and it's own connections with rich fascists. It's not real surprising it somehow managed to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to help JPII buy off the Vatican debt earned when the IOR guaranteed much of the debt of the fallen Banco Ambrosio. As strange as it might seem on the surface, these diverse bedfellows certainly had a common enemy.
Essentially the IOR has been enmeshed with a pack of dogs with serious fleas and a penchant for doing away with their internal enemies and this has more or less been the history of the IOR since it's inception in 1942. The IOR is in many ways a bastard step child of Italian politics, organized crime, government intelligence agencies, and traditional 'Roman' Catholic authoritarianism.
There really isn't any religious need for the IOR or any real reason that Pope Francis couldn't shut the whole thing down. I can understand there are some historical connections that may give him pause. Some of those IOR account holders are hardly Mother Theresa. I can only hope St Michael was invoked by both Popes as a kind of not so subtle message for some of those 'connections'. But based on the people he selected for his IOR commission, I fear it's more an admission of powerlessness and a plea for supernatural intervention.