Thursday, September 29, 2011

Conspiracies Galore

I want to thank Betty Clermont for giving me the heads up on this particular NCR article by John Allen.  I haven't reprinted the entire article, just a number of hugely interesting paragraphs.  The article deals with the appointment of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano as the new nuncio to the US.  I am just stunned with how Allen's description of Vigano's career epitomizes the teachings of Jesus Christ.---OK not really, not at all in fact.

......Though Washington has long been seen as the capstone of a prestigious career, by most accounts it wasn’t Viganò’s first choice. Instead, it’s a sort of consolation prize for coming out on the wrong end of a bruising Vatican power struggle.

Since 2009, Viganò had served as secretary general, or No. 2 official, of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State, responsible for administration of the 108-acre Vatican territory and its personnel. It’s a key role in Vatican money management, and Viganò carved out a reputation as a strong, but also strong-willed and sometimes polarizing, financial reformer.

Insiders say that Viganò had hoped to take over the top job at the Governatorate when Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, 76, steps down in October
It wasn’t an unrealistic aim, given Viganò’s reputation for streamlining the city state’s notoriously cumbersome bureaucracy. Observers say he established a centralized procurement procedure to obtain better discounts from suppliers (among other things, negotiating a new deal with Vodafone Italia to provide cell phone services for Vatican personnel), required rational cost estimates for projects, and demanded that each project have a manager accountable for coming in under budget. After 10 months, Viganò saved enough on running the Vatican Gardens alone that he was able to fund an update of the Vatican’s entire heating system.

Overall, Viganò reportedly turned a $9.5 million deficit into a $40 million surplus, which won him Benedict’s thanks during an audience this spring in which Viganò presented the pontiff with the books. (It seems we have a good steward for a change.  Really though, given the time frame, this is a staggering turn around.  I can't help but wonder how much of it was due to stopping things like graft and financial corruption.)

All that seemingly set up Viganò for a key insider role. Benedict has launched what aides informally describe as a comprehensive “glasnost” of Vatican finances, among other things bringing in a respected lay economist, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, to reform the Vatican Bank, and creating a new watchdog agency to monitor Vatican compliance with international standards of transparency and efforts against money-laundering.  (Uhmmm, Tedeschi is himself being investigated for improprieties in running the Vatican Bank.  Improprieties like money laundering and lack of transparency.  Benedict's new watch dog agency is a direct result of those Tedeschi 'reforms'.)

In fact, however, Viganò’s rising star apparently ran afoul of internal tensions, for reasons both ideological and personal.
Before his job in the Governatorate, Viganò held a key post in the Secretariat of State responsible for assignments to Vatican embassies around the world. That ended in 2009, when a well-known French traditionalist priest, Fr. Claude Barthe, published an essay including Viganò and his nephew, Msgr. Carlo Maria Polvani, who also works in the Vatican, on a list of officials allegedly undercutting Benedict’s efforts to promote a revival of Catholic tradition. (Barthe charged that Polvani is “an old-style admirer of Che Guevara.”)
In Vatican politics, the circles around the secretary of state are regarded as the moderate, pragmatic camp, which has often bred suspicion among more doctrinally-oriented figures concerned with fidelity to Catholic tradition. (Who in their own turn breed paranoia amongst everyone not considered pure enough to be one of them.)
Some observers believe the essay by Barthe, whose liturgical writings have won praise from Benedict, was responsible for Viganò’s transfer to the Governatorate. Once there, Viganò’s efforts to take control of financial management created new controversy -- this time not for doctrinal reasons, but on the basis of complaints from department heads about alleged micromanagement and a lack of collaboration. (I can't help but wonder if all that 'micromanagement' was to keep their discontented fingers out of the financial cookie jar.)

Last year, those tensions were widely held responsible for a series of anonymous e-mails, sent to cardinals and to Vatican embassies, accusing Viganò of nepotism in promoting the career of his nephew. The anti-Viganò drumbeat culminated in a piece in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, published under a pseudonym, that accused Viganò of attempting to seize control of the Vatican’s security services. According to the essay, that effort had been turned back by the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
(Appears poor Archbishop Vigano is just a font of paranoia for his always anonymous attackers.)

If a recent report in the Italian magazine Panorama is to be believed, Viganò also has fans willing to play rough. It claims that Bertone recently received a letter containing a veiled death threat, supporting Viganò’s work at the Governatorate and accusing Bertone of “not knowing how to take decisions and of choosing aides on the basis of personal friendships.” (Why does all this remind me of a good Mafia movie?)

Vatican sources say that Benedict, who has repeatedly expressed warnings about ecclesiastical careerism, has found this public fray distasteful. (I actually find it pathetic, immature, and twisted, but then I sometimes am not exactly PC or even polite.)

As the carping played out, sources say, insiders floated the idea of sending Viganò to the United States as a face-saving solution. Those sources say Viganò wrote to Benedict to express his desire not to go overseas; the pope apparently replied on Aug. 13, asking him to go to America anyway, stressing the importance of having someone “of merit” on the scene for the 2012 elections.....(Better that than floating face down in the Tiber.)


I am at a loss as to understand why John Allen wrote this piece the way he did.  Let me indulge in conspiracy theory.  I wonder if Vigano was not a fan of, nor connected with, Opus Dei and didn't like the way OD handles it's portion of the Vatican pie.  Gotti Tedeschi is both and Allen sort of left out that critical piece of information about Tedeschi's little problem with Italian banking regulators.

I had no idea who Father Claude Barthe was so of course I googled.  He is a priest ordained by Archbishop LeFebre who returned to the Roman fold, but has an indult to say only the Traditional Latin Mass.  His big conspiracy is that by supporting Benedict's 'reform of the reform' and it's Latinizing of the Novus Ordo coupled with adding the Traditional Latin Mass in every parish, eventually there will be very little difference in the two Masses.  Especially if most of the rubrics of the NO are changed to those of the TLM.  This means communion rails and it's kneeler, no lay people behind said communion rail, reversing the altar, and tons of Latin hymns and Gregorian chant.  This will be seen to result in vocations to the priesthood by the bucketful,  a return to Traditional Catholic piety,  and lots of money flowing into diocesan and Vatican coffers.  (Maybe this isn't really a conspiracy theory as much as it is an utter fantasy.)

In any event it does seem the Father Barthe has some pull with Benedict XVI, and things do seem to be progressing pretty much a long the path described in the linked article about Barthe.  Bishop Olmstead in Phoenix readily sprang to mindBut wait, Olmstead is also Opus Dei.  Oh my God, I've found a conspiracy between Vaticanista traditionalists, money,  and Opus Dei.  

I get it now, Vigano had to go because he was actually saving money and being an honest steward.  Unfortunately for him,  the Vatican Tradition is to waste money, launder money, and bilk the laity for even more money, some of which goes to launder the unbelievably expensive TLM vestments lavish amounts of money are wasted on.  It's a perfect circle.

And if this isn't enough to disgust a good Catholic with Vatican insider politics, there's always this article about the Catholic Internet news agency Zenit and the zealous traditional clone of Opus Dei, The Legionaires of Christ. It seems the editor of Zenit, Jesus Colina,  is stepping down because he can't seem to get the Legion to be more transparent in their accounting methods regarding Zenit, and the Legion doesn't trust him for insisting they do. Which means no one trusts anyone.  Wow more paranoia and conspiracy.  Dan Brown would love it----except as fun as this Vatican conspiracy stuff is, I don't get what it has to do with Jesus.



  1. OD and the Legion thrive on secrecy about their respective finances, and I suspect there is much about them that would not look good under public scrutiny.

  2. Exactly Kathy, we are all still waiting for the Legion's Vatican appointed overseer to open the Legions' books. Given this Zenit story, I'm sure hell will freeze over before Legion books are open.

  3. Meanwhile the pope admonishes his priests and bishops to live frugally.

  4. Is Bishop Olmstead an Opus Dei? I didn't know that. From Bishop Rausch to Bishop O'Brien to Bishop Olmstead. Those people must have whiplash. Mark

  5. Thanks, Colleen. Wow! You were able to really expand and expound on factors and intrigues I never saw. You are the best "Vaticanista" is know.

  6. You should work on your propensity for not being PC, which is a rationalization to be an impolite bully, not unlike the very one's you point the finger at in your blog all the time.

    As for Vignani, in my opinion the man got into a job in which his sole purpose was to save money for the Vatican to operate. He accomplished that. The problem is that he got carried away and probably got rid of services and contracts, perhaps unaware, from businesses connected to OD people in order to make those enormous cost cuts.

  7. The difference is I can freely ridicule myself for my momentary lapses, which takes the capacity to see your own behavior objectively.

  8. If one has the capacity to see their own behavior objectively then a consistent trail of so many of the same type of "momentary lapses" seems to cancel out "seeing your own behavior."

    A problem that many have in trying to walk the Way is that there always seems to be characters that are too presumptuous in their assessment of others. The propensity for being a bully have been with us in the RCC for way too long. It has had its negative effect on us all. That is why many continue to leave the RCC in disgust, even of the sort that progressives might prefer, even if they were to be or are now PC.

    Sometimes a little compassion is all one needs to walk the Way. One should try to find ways that are not impolite rationalizations that end up destroying your initial intentions. The People of God need to share that same compassion received by the Holy Spirit, the Angels, the Communion of Saints, that they so much need on the Way for themselves too.

  9. Anon, I really like what you've written. It speaks to me and it's a gentle wind. I don't write much about myself on this blog, and so you wouldn't know I sometimes use my writing in this anonymous world of the internet to sublimate my anger from other situations.

    Even I have noticed I was a lot less angry on this blog when I wasn't working. I'll find the balance.

  10. It's really a very difficult and trying time for everyone. Activists, bloggers, commenters, anyone with an open heart trying to learn & then interject some sanity into the equation of imbalanced perception of self, the world, the Church, politics and the teachings of Jesus, seems to carry a great weight in addition to other works they do. I appreciate your writing and can relate about finding the balance. Peace be with you. And me too. And everyone.

  11. @anon 12:10 am

    Your comments above are really beautiful. Thank you.