Monday, July 8, 2013

One Robert Mickens On The IOR While Two Popes Invoke St Michael

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 account

Robert 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.    


  1. Just an observation: It states in the article that the 5 members of the panel have personal bank accounts in the Vatican Bank. I had read that the Vatican Bank was not the type of bank in which you would have personal checking/savings accounts. In other words, some little person like me couldn't walk in and open an account for $1000.00. It was always described as more of an investment and distribution bank for the Church. I could be mistaken on this.

  2. Bob Mickens gave a speech at the City Club of Cleveland this past year where he predicted the implosion of the Vatican governmental edifice. I think that the people appointed to the IOR board are telling the rest of us the rot will continue to progress.

  3. That was the PR line of Von Freyberg, but it was countered by the recent statement from the Italian investigation, the Msgr Scarano debacle, and the resignations of Cipriani and Tulli who both knew of Scarano's account activities and approved them.

    The IOR has always allowed personal accounts for people working in the Vatican City States, and others who have connections to the Vatican. When Mary Ann Glendon was first announced as member of Pope Francis' Commission I wondered if she herself didn't have an account since she was the Vatican Ambassador under Reagan. The CIA's transactions with JPII could most certainly have used such an account. This is not to say her account was used in this manner, but other personal accounts most certainly were. Mickens answered my question and I have no reason to doubt his information about her account or the other four members.

  4. I watched a video of that speech and really hope Mickens is correct. I unfortunately think in this article for the Tablet he has once again pointed out that the more things seem to change in the Vatican the more they stay the same.

  5. I know nothing about the IOR, so I won't speculate on that, but I did notice the St. Michael dedication and the St. Joseph dedication as being quite symbolic. I thought of protection of children and fighting off temptation/corruption in general, but perhaps they feel under attack from secularism or relativism, that has been mentioned in the past, I believe. Maybe they just want protection in general, like I do! St. Michael is the best, in my opinion, so it was a good choice and the statue is beautiful, absolutely lovely. I am wondering just what structures of the Church are considered necessary for change by our pope. Time will tell, I guess, in the meantime, I keep praying.

  6. Talking of politics and the Church - is there going to be any coverage of events in Egypt ? The attitude of the Churches is alarmingly similar to that of the CC in Argentina after the coup of 1976. Reading about events is like watching a very slow explosion - there will be all hell for the Church to pay if the Egyptian military turn out to be as unsavoury as Videla & Co., or Gaddafi, or the like.

    Maybe the problem is not with the IOR, but with the people who've brought it into disrepute. Change the attitudes, and the behaviour and spirit of an organisation changes. I'm surprised that Glendon is on the panel - if a politician from the US can be on it, why not enlarge the panel to include other lay members of the CC who might be in a position to help ?

  7. I think what you are saying in your last line, Colleen, is that both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis believe they are powerless to make any changes in the "culture" of Opus Dei, Mafia & CIA involvement within the IOR, as they are afraid and they have a situation that is beyond their control with the flea infestation problem? That they finally get it to make the higher "connection' than have to deal with dogs and their fleas?

    What did the Church expect when setting up such a Bank in the first place? It was a short term 'solution' for their immediate problem and desire to topple the Communist governments. Is PBXVI just seeing the light glow onto this subject?

    There is such hypocrisy in the power politics in the Catholic Church, as well as in secular governments and since the Church is made up of people with all sorts of desires which includes of the corrupt variety, it is so easy to devour and destroy what is good about the Church in its heart of hearts.

    Invoking St Michael is a good connection to make. Considering the 'connections' to certain groups and entities that don't have the best interest of the Church and the People of God in mind, heart, body and soul, I hope that the Popes put an end to the evil and corrupt bank that is probably laundering money for the very types of things both Popes are against. However, if all they do is invoke St. Michael and St. Joseph to protect the Vatican State, that seems odd.

  8. Fran, I also think this dedication sends a specific message from Pope Benedict that his door is not open to any curia officials who might think to use him to avoid Pope Francis and his attempts to clean things up.

  9. It is a very well done statue, and I think it does send a specific message about where both popes stand in regards to corruption in the Vatican City States.

    I've read commentary in which Pope Francis' idea is to reinvent the Secretary of States Office in such a way that it serves the Pope as his diplomatic arm, rather than run the curia and the Vatican City States in spite of the Pope. This would be a complete change in orientation for this particular office.

  10. Pope Francis does seem to be attempting to change the attitudes. Once he starts announcing his own people that too will have a big effect.

    The situation in Egypt is really fluid and you are right, the silence is deafening. I really pray it doesn't all turn out like another Syria.

  11. Fascism is a form of government by a powerful group of business men or mafia or other secret organizations attempt to control governance of a country or countries. We know that Opus Dei was born from the fascist followers of Francisco Franco. It has become a cult of personality that uses strict people holding them to strict religious dictums while opening up an "old boys club" of economic opportunities. That Opus Dei works well with the mafia of southern Europe and the US as well as a fear ridden mismanaged CIA is no surprise. These are all very unethical and powerful organizations . People running them seek large amounts of personal resources and are willing to do anything to keep control. The Vatican is indeed very anemic when it comes to dealing with the scoundrels that they themselves allowed in. Even when a Pope is obviously murdered, there is no real investigation. Yes there were two cover up reports but were both proven full of holes. '

    We have a Vatican government that allowed murder of one or more recent popes in an attempt to continue to receive both financial benefits and protection from the most unsavory of men. I agree that the Vatican itself is in the process of total implosion. It could better be used as a historical museum. Perhaps we could call it the Vatican Museum of hypocrisy.

    We will all be better off when this authoritarian religious governance implodes and catholicism is practice independent of popes and authoritarian bishops.