By Betty Clermont | 20 December 2014
“Americans will vote for Republicans even though they disagree with them on everything. [O]n the biggest issues facing Congress, they still agree with Democrats on … almost everything. That includes issues like raising the minimum wage, making the rich pay more in taxes, letting illegal immigrants stay in the United States, taking action to stem global warming, legalizing same sex marriage and fixing the Affordable Care Act rather than repealing it,” noted Zachary A. Goldfarb, policy editor at the Washington Post, after November’s elections.
By 2014, “the state of the nation has improved dramatically over the past four years. Unemployment is down to 5.9 percent and consumer confidence is back to levels not seen since before the deep recession which began in late 2007. The stock market is at record highs while the annual federal budget deficit is less than half of what it was when Barack Obama first took the oath of office,” explained Jon Perr who cited the above article by Goldfarb.
A majority of Americans don’t know this because the corporate media don’t report it.
“At its founding [in 1934], the Federal Communications Commission viewed the stations to which it granted licenses as ‘public trustees’ and required that they make every reasonable attempt to cover contrasting points of views. The Commission also required that stations perform public service in reporting on crucial issues in their communities. Soon after he became FCC Chairman under President Reagan, Michael Fowler stated his desire to do away with this Fairness Doctrine.”
“The devolution of the American press began when Ronald Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine. [Broadcasters] no longer have an obligation to serve the public interest. Their only obligation is to their shareholders,” stated Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. [By 1992] fewer than two dozen … owned and operated 90% of the mass media — controlling almost all of America’s newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies. [In 2000] the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market.
As the plutocracy took control of the media, corporate-funded neocon think tanks churned out talking points, sound-bites, messaging. These were “framed” according to the best market research available to propel the electorate to get out and vote for Republicans. The propaganda was spread through the virtual monopoly of the media dubbed the “echo-chamber” because the same shrewdly constructed lies and distortions are endlessly repeated until they became “fact.” Special attention was paid to TV, where 87% of Americans still get at least some of their news, and radio (65%) which were no longer required to provide equal time to opposing views.
GOP victories ensued until the 2006 midterm elections when Americans counted their sons and daughters killed, maimed and left broken by Bush’s wars. The financial collapse helped get Barack Obama elected in 2008. The loss of the 2012 presidential election, however, caused the Republican Party to do some soul-searching about how to become more appealing to Americans in the middle of the political spectrum — those who really decide elections. Their response was the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy report” encouraging future GOP candidates to sound more populist.
Establishment Republicans “plan to change the public perception that the GOP doesn’t care about people…. It is time to smartly change course … and learn once again how to appeal to more people.” Their candidates in competitive states will campaign on populist issues, “talking in normal, people-oriented terms.” The methodically constructed image will be that of a “compassionate” person who “will better serve the middle class.”
The GOP now has a model for the success of this strategy backed by the corporate media’s “echo-chamber.”
“GOP Eyes Pope Francis for Divine Inspiration” wrote Ron Fournier for the National Journal after the relatively unknown and unaccomplished Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Forbes “World’s Fourth Most Powerful Person” and Fortune’s No. 1 on its list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” within months of becoming pope. “For top Republicans … the pontiff’s headline-seizing efforts to reverse negative stereotypes of one of the world’s oldest and most ossified institutions … stands as an example for the GOP,” Fournier wrote. The Republican Party “is viewed by many in the United States as insular, intolerant and lacking compassion for the poor while consorting with the rich,” while “the Catholic Church has the same ‘brand problem’ — and since his election in March, Pope Francis has ruthlessly tackled it,” observed Fournier.
Almost all analogies are imperfect, but the pope’s “pastoral” approach of saying nice stuff while consulting with the plutocracy and strengthening the U.S. Religious Right can be considered as similar to the GOP’s new “populist” model while continuing their efforts to economically enslave the 99%.
The following illustrates the appalling power of the corporate media to create a world leader and will hopefully generate a conversation, using this example, about how to overcome its lies and omissions. Information about Pope Francis withheld by the corporate media comes after the popular headline.
“Who am I to judge?”
The Vatileaks scandal had seriously weakened the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Factions in the Curia (the Vatican bureaucracy) were dishing dirt to the media in turf wars over influence and control of assets. Benedict appointed a group of cardinals to discover the sources of the press leaks. Their report was confidential but it was generally understood that one of the cliques was a “gay lobby.”
Pope Francis’ first appointment within the Curia was assigning Monsignor Battista Ricca as his representative to the Vatican Bank. Bergoglio “intended to place a trusted person in a key role within the [bank] with the power to access all of the proceedings and documents.”
Ricca was outed by Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister, as “Prelate of the Gay Lobby” on July 19, 2013. Ricca had been removed as papal nuncio (ambassador) to Uruguay because, “The intimacy of the relations between Ricca and [his boyfriend] Haari was so open as to scandalize numerous bishops, priests, and laity of that little South American country.” This information had been withheld from the new pope as “the cruelest and most subtle deception … hatched against Jorge Mario Bergoglio,” according to Magister.
During the July 28 return flight from his triumphant appearance at the World Youth Day events in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis was asked by a reporter, “[An] image went around the world, which was that of Monsignor Ricca and of the news of his private life. I would like to know, Holiness, what do you intend to do about this question? How will this question be confronted and how does Your Holiness intend to confront the question of the gay lobby?”
The pope responded:
[For] Monsignor Ricca, I did what the [Church’s] law requires and did the preliminary investigation. And from this investigation, there is nothing of that which he is accused…. But, if a person, lay or priest or sister, has committed a sin and then has repented, the Lord forgives. And when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives…. Then you spoke of the gay lobby…. I think that when you encounter a person like this, you must make a distinction between the fact of a person being gay from the fact of being a lobby, because lobbies, all are not good. That is bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them? (emphasis mine).
It could be said that the pope was defending his decision to keep Ricca in place while letting his employees know that bashing each other’s reputations via the press would have no effect. Since then, the pope has denounced gossip numerous times stating on one occasion that it “threatens the life of the Church and the life of [the Vatican] every day.”
In a religious context, the famous quote “has been very misused … because [the pope] was talking about someone who has already asked for mercy and been given absolution, whom he knows well,” explained Chicago Cardinal Francis George.
In 2010, as cardinal primate of Argentina, Bergoglio wrote pretty much as would any leader of the Religious Right about legislation for marriage equality.
At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law…. This is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill but a ‘move’ of the father of lies [i.e. Satan] who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God. We look to Saint Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus and ask that they fervently defend the family in Argentina at this particular time. We remember what God said to his people in a moment of great anguish: ‘This war is not yours, but God’s’: defend us, then, in this war of God.
Sounding like his American confreres’ tirades against President Obama, Bergoglio accused the Kirchner government’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage as “demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power.”
In December 2013, Pope Francis referred to same-sex marriage as an “anthropological regression.”
He removed the “Bishop of Bling” for sullying the image of a “poor Church” but the following prelates remain in place:
Archbishop Zeigler of Monrovia declared in October 2014 that Ebola is a punishment from God for the act of homosexuality.
Ugandan Bishop Wamika, referring to the anti-gay legislation — “an ongoing, de facto genocide of the LGBT community,” told parents of gay and lesbian children that they would be rewarded in heaven if they turned over their children to the state for punishment. “The bishop went on to call for a blessing for Uganda’s Christians who worked so hard to ‘free the land of gays.’”
Archbishop Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, “who is close to Pope Francis,” was among the first cardinals created by this pontiff. Sebastian had compared homosexuality to his own high blood pressure — “a defect I have that I have to correct as far as I can…. Pointing out a defect to a homosexual is not an offence because many cases of homosexuality can be recovered and normalized with adequate treatment.”
In contrast, Brazilian priest, Roberto Francisco Daniel, was excommunicated for defending same-sex marriage. He wrote an open letter to the pope in November 2014: “[W]here is the open Church that you say you are building?” He also “asks about the pedophile priests who were removed from their duties, but not excommunicated by the Church.”
Pope Francis also excommunicated the Australian Fr. Greg Reynolds “because of his public teaching on the ordination of women contrary to the teaching of the Church.”
Earthquake/Seismic Shift at the Synod on the Family
The unmarried, childless bishops had heated discussions over preliminary wording that “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities” deserving of “welcoming these people” to “fraternal space in our communities.”
Neither the pope nor any of the 200-plus attendees suggested changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states that persons with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are “objectively disordered” and that “homosexual acts” are a “grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered.”
As noted by theologian Jamie Manson, damage to families caused by the Church’s ban on contraception (condoms, safe and effective birth control) and its effect on the poor was ignored.
For the global poor, access to contraception can mean the difference between starvation and nourishment, poverty and stability, illness and health, death and life. Few issues are more crucial to the fate of poor families around the world…. In addition to a massive population growth, sub-Saharan Africa also accounts for almost 70 percent of the global total of new HIV infections…. Last year, 1.1 million people died of AIDS in that region, and a devastating 24.7 million are currently suffering with HIV or AIDS…. Of course, some of the poorest in our country still do not have adequate access to contraception…. While in the U.S. many of us have the luxury of ignoring the Church’s teaching on contraception, in many developing countries the Church’s position on birth control directly impacts the law of the land. You would think we would understand this lesson after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops almost single-handedly widened conscience exemptions on the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.
Consideration of other deaths of women and children from Church dogma were similarly omitted from discussion.
Few regions see as many unsafe clandestine abortions [as Latin America]: more than 4 million a year, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute — a quarter of which result in hospitalizations or death from complications. According to Human Rights Watch, 40% of all pregnancies in Argentina end in illegal abortions. Some Latin American countries, especially in Central America, suffer maternal mortality rates 20 times higher than Western Europe’s.
Kenyan Cardinal John Njue said in March 2014 that a WHO/UNICEF sponsored tetanus vaccination campaign for girls and women to prevent deaths of their babies from this disease concealed an agenda of forced contraception. “Tetanus vaccines … have been confirmed by laboratories to contain a sterilization chemical that causes miscarriages,” reported the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, “a wholly owned subsidiary of the Catholic Church in Kenya [upholding] Catholic teachings in medicine, particularly with respect to reproductive health.” WHO/UNICEF denied these lies as did the Kenyan government.
U.S. Bishops Struggle to Follow Lead of Francis
Since Pope Francis has never even suggested any change in doctrine, dogma or praxis, U.S. bishops have little to complain about.
“The greatest change the Holy Father has brought about is changing perceptions about the Church’s message…. There is no great revolution,” affirmed Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi.
Prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Timothy Dolan: “[I]t’s a matter of persona, of tone, of personality. People say to me ‘We really like this new pope. We’re listening to what he’s saying.’”
In his first address as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2014, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville “praised Pope Francis’ tone and style.” Kurtz, who attended the recent synod, said the synod’s final document was a “clear affirmation that the teaching of the Church is unchanging.”
Pope Demotes U.S. Cardinal Critical of His Reform Agenda
Cardinal Raymond Burke’s demotion was first reported on September 17, 2014, by Sandro Magister before the synod and Burke’s criticism that the Church under Pope Francis is like a “rudderless ship.” Burke’s removal as head of the Vatican Supreme Court was “another transfer to a lower-ranking position … among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman Curia,” according to Magister. In other words, the pope is replacing men loyal to Benedict with his own supporters.
Pope Francis confirmed this when he said “that the move was part of a broader restructuring of the Vatican bureaucracy that had been decided well before the October 5-19 synod of bishops on the family. The reason he waited until after the synod to make it official, he said, was so that Burke could still participate in the meeting as the head of a Vatican department.”
As to Burke or any U.S. prelate being “too conservative” for Pope Francis as was widely reported? Hardly.
Pope Francis Seeks Reconciliation with the SSPX
The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is an order of priests founded in 1970 by the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre because he rejected changes in the Church occurring after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) including the declaration that Jews are innocent of deicide. “The society claims to have 600,000 supporters. It maintains six seminaries, 14 districts, 161 priories and 725 mass centers and is active in 1,000 locations worldwide. The society is growing in the United States, Asia and Africa.”
The SSPX “is imbued with the historical dream of a restored Catholic Monarchy, allied with pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic fascism.”
According to a Spiegel article: “The SSPX is becoming increasingly powerful despite the controversy and is attracting more and more supporters.” At a gay pride parade, SSPX priests held up signs that read “Save Children from Perversion” and one of them condemned the event as “moral pollution.”
British fascism poses a “real danger” and “might draw strength from the assiduous networking” of the SSPX. “Further connections are being built among the elite of British fascism, where far-right Catholics associated with the Society of St. Pius X are increasingly active.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center stated in its June 2012 report, “European Extremist Movements,” that “In Europe — western civilization’s heartland — hate movements are once again on the march.” The report named the SSPX as influential within the French far-right, anti-Semitic party.
Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated in 1988 by Pope John Paul II for ordaining four SSPX priests as bishops without his approval. The four new bishops were also excommunicated and the Society was declared to be schism with the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI was universally criticized for lifting their excommunication in January 2009 on the same day an interview with SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson was broadcast on Swedish television. Williamson had repeated his opinion that “no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps … not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber.”
The Vatican initiated “non-official” contact with the SSPX leading to an “informal meeting” between Bishop Bernard Fellay, now head of the order, and Vatican officials in December 2013.
Fellay met with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in September 2014, “with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation with the Catholic Church.”
“On the latest developments [a month later] between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X, it would seem that the Holy See [the name of the Church’s global government] does not intend to put any pressure on Lefebvre’s followers but would like an agreement to be reached…. What we are given to understand is that Rome intends to show greater flexibility on any aspect that does not regard doctrine.”
Pope Francis Strengthens His Alliance with Evangelicals
Pope Francis granted a private audience to Steve Green, billionaire owner of Hobby Lobby, in March 2014. The pope asked how the Hobby Lobby (Supreme Court) case was progressing.
On June 5, 2014, the pope met in private with Doug Coe, head of the Family, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and former U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne who served under Bush 43 amid unprecedented scandal. The Family is “the oldest and most politically influential Christian conservative organization in Washington.” “Their goal is a worldwide invisible organization…. The core issues are capitalism and power.”
Lee is Sen. Ted Cruz’ right-hand man. They cosponsored the anti-gay State Marriage Defense Act in February 2014. “When 46 Democrats cosponsored legislation to reverse the Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, Cruz said from the Senate floor, ‘Mr. President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church?’”
On June 24, 2014, a delegation of evangelical leaders met privately with Pope Francis for almost three hours and then had a private luncheon with him. Attendees included Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance and two other WEA officials. The WEA recently terminated the membership of Oasis Ministry after founder Steve Chaulk’s decision to support gay marriage and faithful same-sex relationships.
Tunnicliffe and a delegation of the WEA met again with Pope Francis on November 6, 2014, “to talk about areas of potential collaboration.” Tunnicliffe: “[L]et us see this time as a new stage in relations between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics.”
Following the synod of only Catholic prelates, Pope Francis called for an “ecumenical” conference on marriage Nov. 17-19 at which he gave the opening address. The major participants and speakers were all males.
“Marriage can only be between a man and a woman…. The Church must not cave in,” declared evangelical icon Rick Warren. Afterwards, Warren recorded a video for the Catholic News Service supporting a closer alliance with the Catholic Church. He “has called on non-Catholic Christians to join with Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in pursuit of their common goals.”
“I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelicals believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled,” said the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, defending his attendance. Following the pope’s lead, “Southern Baptists change their tone but not their substance on homosexuality.”
Nicholas Okoh, the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria “called homosexuality a ‘manifestation of the devil’ and praised the Nigerian president’s ‘courage’ in signing a harsh anti-gay law last December. Okoh said in January that people who oppose the law will face ‘disaster.’”
Attendee Alan Spears, president of the Alliance Defending Freedom, had “warned that eliminating anti-sodomy laws would lead to the overturning of ‘laws against pedophilia, sex between close relatives, polygamy, bestiality and all other distortions and violations of God’s plan.’” Sears said the pope’s planned U.S. visit comes “at a time when the debate on marriage is so fierce [and] could be the opportunity those fighting for traditional marriage have been waiting for.”
Also present was Archbishop Charles Chaput who will host the pope’s visit to Philadelphia. While head of the Denver archdiocese, Chaput declared that children with gay or lesbian parents were banned from his schools.
Last but not least, Opus Dei (a secret society of multinational plutocrats seeking hegemony under the auspices of the Catholic Church) member, Prof. Robert George — called “the reigning brain of the Christian Right” and chairman emeritus of the anti-gay NOM (National Organization for Marriage) – was also in attendance.
Pope Francis has made no outreach similar to that with the evangelicals to the Anglican communion or other mainline Protestant denominations.
The pope has held private meetings with American theocons George Weigel, Carl Anderson and others but, other than President Obama, has not granted a private audience to any U.S. Democrat or progressive.
A Poor Church for the Poor
Pope Francis has never ordered nor hinted that any Vatican department, nor any of the tens of thousands of diocesan bishops or superiors of religious orders, divest their assets to make the Church more “poor for the poor.”
“Real estate, stock, gold and currency assets worth at least $10 billion … an overview of all the businesses within the Pope’s holdings,” is the lede for a series of articles published in July 2014 by the Italian newspaper L’Espresso.
The pope’s new financial csar, Australian Cardinal George Pell, recently admitted there were “hundreds of millions of euros off the Vatican’s balance sheet” and that the Vatican has “substantial assets and investments.” Vatican spokesman Lombardi clarified: “It was well known … that the consolidated balances of the Holy See and the Vatican City State … did not in any way encompass the whole of the numerous administrations that are headed by the Vatican, but only the principal institutions of the Curia and the State.” (In 2010, just one of those “administrations,” Propaganda Fide, reportedly held assets worth 9 billion euros.)
“It is all the Vatican’s money, anyway,” said Carlo Marroni, who covers the Vatican for Italy’s leading financial newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore. “Its balance sheets are worth billions of euros, so the findings are not even particularly crucial to their budget. Cardinal Pell’s announcement speaks more of how he is proceeding to centralize the Vatican’s economy and administration, without leaving anything behind.” “Centralize” means making sure every penny is under this pope’s control.
Every year, the Vatican Bank gives the majority of its profits to the pope. Last year, Pope Francis received 50 million euros from the bank “towards evangelization efforts.”
The annual collection from the world’s Catholics given directly to the pope for his “charities” — known as Peter’s Pence — has ranged from $67.7 million to $97 million (2005-2011, the latest figures available). There is no public accounting of how the pope’s personal money is spent.
The corporate media continually tell us that this pope is creating “transparent and accountable” financial systems, but he has kept his offshore banking division in the Cayman Islands “which past media reports suggest its clients consist of international financiers, Saudi oil barons, Russian billionaires, German arms dealers, members of royalty and members of the underworld.”
Opus Dei’s flagship financial institution, “the euro zone’s largest bank and one of the largest banks in the world in terms of market capitalization,” Banco Santander, (“Huge Eurobank, rated ‘Britain’s worst,’ now accused of gouging U.S. consumers”) “offered its availability” to the Vatican. Banco Santander will now “have a presence that is going to mean a new leading role in the Vatican.”
On November 24, 2014, Pope Francis lectured the European Parliament on “rather selfish lifestyles, marked by opulence.” Pell has an apartment in a $30 million guest house in Rome. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the pope’s Council for the Economy, “spent around $11 million renovating the archbishop’s residence and another $13 million for a guesthouse in Rome.”
The pope has given charity to the poor and urged others to do so. Yet he is a lifelong opponent of governments which hope to alleviate the causes of poverty. At the time of his election, progressive Latin Americans tried to inform us about Bergoglio’s politics.
What Pope Francis means by charity is “paternalistic handouts that are equated with evangelization. To go out into the streets and give food to the poor and pray with prisoners is somewhat humanitarian, but it does not solve the problem of social exclusion that afflicts many of the world’s countries,” wrote Brazilian theologian, Ivone Gebara. “Nor does it solve the problem of governments which create poverty and injustice.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s “biography is that of a conservative populist … adamant on doctrinal issues but with an openness to the world, especially toward the dispossessed masses…. But at the same time he attempted to unify the opposition against the first government in many years which adopted a policy favorable to those groups,” according to Ernesto Semán, a historian at New York University and former reporter for two Argentine newspapers. Since the majority of Latin American nations are now governed by left-leaning parties, Semán said that the election of this “very conservative cardinal from the region might help bolster forces that are opposed to continuing this enormous change that’s occurring in Latin America.”
The election of Cardinal Bergoglio was “a masterstroke of Vatican diplomacy. The Catholic Church, about to sink between the financial and sexual scandals, urgently needed another ‘image’ in the face of public opinion in the world and more so in Latin America,” explained Fr. José Nicolás Alessio, an Argentine theologian who was laicized (defrocked) in February 2013 for favoring marriage equality. “In Argentina and on the continent, the right-wing sectors, both political and religious, will be strengthened.”
“In Argentina, his naming as pope has been received with the warmest enthusiasm from the rightist opposition,” noted Andrea D’Atri, founder of Bread and Roses, an Argentine human rights group.
Pope Francis is “using the poor as part of a discourse to strengthen the Catholic Church in Latin America” according to Rubén Rufino Dri, a philosophy professor at the University of Buenos Aires and a former member of the Priests for the Third World. “He’s a great actor, trying to make us think this is a revolution. But he is not humble. He is simply leading the Vatican’s attempt to win back the streets in Latin America, where popular left-wing governments and Pentecostals here have taken power and followers away from the church.”
Bergoglio was promoted up the ecclesial career ladder by Pope John Paul II whose most enduring accomplishment was morphing the U.S. episcopate from a pro-civil rights, anti-war group into leaders of the Religious Right. Bergoglio came to his pontiff’s attention because he shared John Paul’s right-wing ideology, including opposing liberation theology which called for changes to the social and political structures causing poverty.
Vatican spokesman Lombardi called those Argentines who spoke out about Bergoglio’s actions during the military dictatorship “anti-clerical left-wing elements.”
Bergoglio’s first papal action a month after his election validated his Latin American critics. He created a Council of Cardinals, referred to as his G8, and chose Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga to be his “vice-pope,” or head of the G8. “Opus Dei participated actively in the coup against constitutional [and progressive] President Manuel Zelaya…. Opus Dei is headed by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez who has not denounced the violation to the Constitution that the coup was, and has instead blessed it,” according to an investigation by sociologist Marco Burgos.
Rodríguez Maradiaga is also a “notorious anti-Semite,” blaming “the Jews” for the scandal arising from clerical sex crimes.
Pell, also named to the G8, is a close friend of Australia’s conservative PM Tony Abbott. The week before his appointment, Pell attended a “Gala Dinner of the ultra conservative Institute of Public Affairs.” Pell joined Abbott in saluting Rupert Murdoch, the evening’s guest of honor and keynote speaker. When Pope Francis put Pell in charge of all the Vatican’s finance, administration, personnel and procurements, Murdoch tweeted: “Pope Francis appoints brilliant Cardinal Pell from Sydney to be no. 3 power in Vatican. Australia will miss him but world will benefit.”
After John Paul II promoted him to archbishop, Pell invited Opus Dei to establish themselves in Melbourne and then Sydney. Under Pell’s patronage, “Opus Dei’s star is on the rise” a Sydney Morning Herald columnist wrote in January 2002. This reporter saw “signs of a new elitism…. [A] clerical culture is being encouraged in which there is a highly select ‘in’ crowd around Pell.”
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley is the only American member of the G8. O’Malley waged no campaign against Romneycare even though it included coverage for abortion. Rather, “O’Malley said that Romney was a better friend to the Catholic Church than any other Massachusetts’ governor in decades, and he was about the only one that wasn’t Catholic.” O’Malley is a faithful supporter of Opus Dei. He sponsored the canonization of the priest who “established an Opus Dei presence among students and professors at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology” between 1946 and 1956.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, another member of the G8 and now head of the Council on the Economy, was the invited speaker for 300 guests of Opus Dei at a meeting held in the Deutsche Bank, Germany’s central bank. Like O’Malley, he has presided at masses celebrating the group’s founder and visits the Opus Dei center for university students in Munich.
Pope Francis’ choice for Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, “is considered very close to Cardinal Angelo Sodano.” Sodano was John Paul II’s secretary of state and both were allies of Latin American military dictators. (See pp 69 — 82, The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.)
Pope Francis “Cleans Up” Vatican Finances
Unanimously reported by the corporate media as “cleaning up,” “cleaning house,” and “reforming” Vatican finances, none mentioned that this pope had no choice but to make the IOR (the Italian acronym for the Institute for the Works of Religion popularly known as the Vatican Bank) conform to international financial standards.
After 9/11, Europe’s financial oversight agencies began to “crackdown on states that failed to comply with international rules” regarding the financing of terrorists and money laundering according the Financial Times. Regulators required financial institutions to stop doing business in countries without similar laws like the Vatican City State.
An adviser to the Vatican told the FT that “the pursuit by prosecutors and regulators of the Vatican created a shift in mood among bankers to the Holy See. It was the bankers’ fear of being tarnished by their links with the Vatican Bank after the credit crisis — and fears of fines from emboldened regulators – that led them to take steps that forced the IOR to clean up its act.”
Pope Benedict began the process but hadn’t acted fast enough because on January 1, 2013, the Bank of Italy shut down the ATM machines and credit/debit card services operated by Deutsche Bank Italia inside the Vatican. This left tourists to deal in cash-only. “The freeze … is costing the Vatican an estimated $40,000 a day.”
That the IOR would be hampered in its ability to service the legitimate financial needs of dioceses and religious orders in Third World countries or areas where Christians are being persecuted, and the fact that the Vatican was losing revenue, the pre-conclave cardinals would demand that a new pope must “reform” Vatican finances.
Pope Francis “Reforms” the Vatican Economy
Pope Francis has made numerous statements critical of “trickle-down” economics and corporations which gauge the poor. But rather than hiring accounting professionals with experience in large charities or other non-profits who could help him help the poor, or asking law enforcement or regulatory forensic accountants with expertise in transnational finance to show him how to “clean up” his business transactions, Pope Francis has brought in advisors to the plutocracy to assist him.
McKinsey & Co. provided the rationale used as “cover” for CEOs to justify layoffs and increasing their own pay.
“One of the market-leading ‘Big Three’ management consulting services to the Fortune 500 set, along with Bain & Company and The Boston Consulting Group,” in 2011, McKinsey used questionable methodology and cherry-picked information in releasing a survey of employers on their expected response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The results became “a useful tool for critics of the ACA.”
“13,000 McKinsey documents were released as part of a lawsuit against Allstate alleging they were cheating claimants out of legitimate insurance claim.” McKinsey had “recommended the company reduce payouts to insurance claimants by offering low settlements, delaying processing to wear out claimants through attrition, and fighting customers that protest in court. Allstate’s profits doubled over ten years after adopting McKinsey’s strategy.”
Ernst & Young “has agreed to pay $99 million to former Lehman Brothers investors who have accused the auditor of helping Lehman misstate its financial records before the investment bank’s collapse triggered a financial crisis in 2008.”
“KPMG Facilitated the Financial Fiasco” — “Pioneers of mortgage debt securitization from Morgan Stanley and BlackRock set the stage for the financial crisis that severely disrupted the global economy. While these players and poor government policies have received much attention in recent years, auditors, such as KPMG International, enabled the crisis to metastasize at an accelerated rate. KPMG was the auditor for the key players in the mortgage crisis, including Fannie Mae, Countrywide Financial and New Century Mortgage.”
Promontory Financial Group was hired by the pope to make sure the IOR conformed to international standards regarding financing terrorists and money laundering.
“Promontory’s activities focus heavily on the adept circumvention of regulations…. At a U.S. Federal Reserve foreclosure review meant to provide compensation to abused homeowners, whistleblowers from Bank of America came forward to provide compelling evidence that the bank and its independent consultant, Promontory Financial Group, attempted to suppress evidence that borrowers had been harmed by the false and deceptive practices of the mortgages lenders.”
Promontory stated “‘well over 99.9 percent’ of the loans issued by Standard Chartered bank complied with the law and only $14 million of them were illegal. Then the bank admitted that $250 billion of its deals, not $14 million, were illegal. That’s 17,000 times as much illegality as Promontory found in its ‘review.’”
When the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency asked banks to review their foreclosures, “Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and PNC picked Promontory to do the work for them…. Nearly a year and a half into the process, the reviews, which cost banks a whopping $10,000 or more per loan file, had produced no relief payments to borrowers…. Promontory and the other consultants involved in the program had received a combined $2 billion in misspent cash.”
Pope Francis has put Vatican finance firmly under his control by dismissing clerics and laymen loyal to his predecessor and appointing his own team.
George Yeo, former finance minister of Singapore and a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces is a member of the Vatican Council of the Economy. He is on the advisory board of Harvard Business School and Opus Dei’s most important graduate business school, IESE.
Peter Sutherland was appointed by Pope Francis “as an adviser to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, an asset manager for the Vatican.” Sutherland is managing director and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, advisory director of Goldman Sachs Group, former chairman of BP Oil and European chairman of the Trilateral Commission. He is also on the advisory board of IESE.
Among those recently chosen as members of the layman’s IOR Board of Superintendence:
Mauricio Larrain is external director of Santander Bank Group Chile and general director of Opus Dei’s ESE Business School at Los Andes University of Chile.
Mary Ann Glendon is the Catholic theocons’ token female and member of the board of too many right-wing organizations to mention; also Bush 43’s ambassador to the Holy See.
Clemens Boersig, former chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Deutsch Bank and currently on its European Advisory Board, has been charged with attempted fraud in Germany. The U.S. government filed a lawsuit on Dec. 8, 2014, accusing the Deutsche Bank of tax fraud for engaging in a series of transactions designed to evade federal income taxes.
Sir Michael Hintze, former Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse executive, is “an Australian-born hedge fund billionaire. He’s also a major Tory party donor, despite falling out with David Cameron over gay marriage. This may feel far removed from ‘the Church of the poor.’”
Jean-Baptiste Franssu is the president of the IOR board. He was CEO of INVESCO Europe. “Under the 51-year-old Frenchman, the IOR will shift more of its 6 billion euros ($8.2 billion) in client funds into asset-management products…” Franssu’s son, Louis-Victor Douville de Franssu, “prior to joining Promontory, worked as an intern in the government-affairs division of Goldman Sachs in London.”
Cardinal Pell brought his former business manager of the Sydney archdiocese, Danny Casey, to work with him in Rome. Casey helped Pell short change victims of clerical sex abuse out of an adequate compensation. Casey is also close to Opus Dei. Management of the huge Vatican investment portfolios in stocks, bonds and real estate “will be managed by a Project Management Office headed by Danny Casey.”
Pope Francis Addresses Sex Abuse Scandal
Next to appointing and promoting a dozen or so churchmen with records as dismal as his own in protecting predator pedophiles, there is no better example of Pope Francis’ lack of resolve to protect children than his handling of his former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Josef Wesolowski. For more than 16 months after being informed of the accusations against his ambassador, the pope left Wesolowski with free access to more children. Additionally, Pope Francis has done everything possible to prevent Wesolowski from being prosecuted by Dominican officials.
A Catholic deacon, Francisco Javier Occi Reyes, was arrested by the police on June 24, 2013. The deacon “said at the time of his arrest he was ‘pimping’ a youngster for Wesolowski, who was allegedly waiting in his vehicle nearby…. The minors interviewed [by the police] admitted to masturbating for, and of taking part in oral sex with the archbishop as he filmed them with a cell phone [in exchange for cash] while another witness affirmed seeing porno in his laptop at the Vatican embassy.”
Occi confessed to the allegations. “When no one came to bail him out, the deacon sent an anguished letter dated July 2 to Wesolowski…. The deacon sent copies of the letter to Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus López Rodriguez, the head of the Church in the Dominican Republic, and to a Dominican bishop, Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez. The cardinal then carried the evidence to the Vatican, where he met directly with Pope Francis according to Dominican officials.”
Reported with the usual “Pope Francis gets tough on sex abuse” headlines, on July 11, 2013, the pontiff enacted a civil law making sexual violence and possession of child pornography punishable by up to 12 years in prison not only for those who live in Vatican City State, but also all employees, including the diplomatic corps, of the Holy See. Those accused of these crimes would be tried by the Cardinal Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (Supreme Court) and two other judges of his choosing — providing a possible motive for the later dismissal of the independently-minded Cardinal Raymond Burke.
According to experts in international law, the Vatican could have waived diplomatic immunity for the ambassador. But in hindsight, it’s probable that Pope Francis wanted Wesolowski tried under his control.
Because the pope kept the information about Wesolowski secret, the general public knew nothing about the ambassador until a local TV broadcast on August 31, 2013. The result of a year-long investigation, the program contained testimony about Wesolowski’s crimes. Three days after the broadcast, a local bishop confirmed that Wesolowski had already been dismissed by the pope and that he had left the country only a few days earlier. There were accusations that the pope allowed Wesolowski to escape and his whereabouts remained unknown.
“For me it was a surprise to see Wesolowski walking along Via della Scrofa in Rome. The silence of the Church has injured the people of God,” tweeted Santo Domingo archdiocese Auxiliary Bishop Víctor Masalles on June 24, 2014. Another report stated “the former papal nuncio was living in a fairly upscale house for prelates called the Casa del Clero.”
Vatican Diplomat Josef Wesolowski Convicted of Sexual Abuse
On June 27, 2014, Wesolowski was found guilty in secret proceedings under Canon (Church administrative) law, was defrocked (but not excommunicated), but was still on the loose.
The New York Times put an article about Wesolowski on its August 23 front page including statements that Dominican officials would prosecute him if it were not for the former ambassador’s diplomatic immunity. Proving the importance this pontificate places on American public opinion, the next morning Vatican spokesman Lombardi made an announcement that Wesolowski did not have immunity and could be extradited by the Dominican Republic. Dominican officials, however, had been asserting for the past year that “there’s no extradition treaty between the Vatican and the Dominican Republic” and “that the Vienna Convention ruled out the request for extradition of the accused of child abuse. ‘The ideal thing would’ve been and our desire is that he be tried here, but the law forbids us.’”
Pope Francis Takes The Hardest Line On Clerical Abuse
On September 25, the Vatican reported that Wesolowski was placed under house arrest “earlier this week.” Lombardi “said the restrictive measures were taken because the prelate represented a flight risk and because Vatican prosecutors feared he might tamper with evidence. He also said an indictment and trial could take months.”
The next day, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that Wesolowski was arrested by order of the pope because “there was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited.” It also reported that Wesolowski had more than 100,000 computer files of pornography. “Some were downloaded from the internet and others the victims themselves were forced to take. The prelate stored part of this chamber of horrors on his own laptop. The material, which is classified by type, shows dozens of young girls engaged in sexual activities but the preference is for males. Images show youngsters aged between 13 and 17 being humiliated for the camera, filmed naked and forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults.”
A bombshell: “Wesolowski is suspected of belonging to an international network that extends well beyond what has emerged so far.” If other Catholic officials are exposed as members of this “international network,” Pope Francis will have a huge scandal to contend with.
“I don’t celebrate the fact that the Vatican is going to start a trial, and I don’t welcome it because for us the important thing isn’t to start the trial, it’s that the Vatican should waive its jurisdictional privilege in favor of the Dominican Republic and that the former envoy faces Dominican justice for the terrible crimes committed against children and adolescents who live in extreme poverty,” Dominican National District prosecutor Yeni Berenice Reynoso stated. Wesolowski “abused that poverty and used that mechanism to approach children and take advantage of them for years.” Reynoso also said she was particularly impacted by testimony of one of the abused boys, whose disease she affirms Wesolowski used to exchange drugs he needed for sexual favors. “For me that’s an act of extreme perversion.” Thus far, no one has proposed compensation for the boys who came forward with allegations, Reynoso added.
Wesolowski was seen walking “quietly inside the Vatican City … in apparent freedom” on November 22 and is reportedly still living there.
On December 3, Lombardi confirmed that “As the deadline for his remand into custody has expired, and in view of his health, Archbishop Wesołowski was given authorization for some freedom of movement, albeit with the obligation of remaining within the confines of the [Vatican City] State and subject to appropriate restrictions on his communications with the outside.”
Pope Francis Calls for ‘Truth’ in Case of Former Ambassador
Lombardi also said that the Dominican attorney general, Francisco Dominguez Brito, made a statement that “he and the Holy Father expressed the importance of the truth prevailing.”
The pope gives a General Audience most Wednesdays when he is in Rome. He gets in the popemobile and is driven around St. Peter’s Square to the adulation of the assembled masses. With prior arrangement, a few get admitted to a VIP section outside in the plaza. The pope gets out of his car, shakes their hands and exchanges a few words. This was the only meeting between Dominquez and the pontiff but enough to make a headline that Pope Francis “called for truth.”
Nobel Peace Prize
It would be comforting to think that at least one notable group remembered the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Church’s sexual torture of children.
The February 5, 2014, report from the UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child stated the Vatican had failed to adequately address their “systematic” responsibility for worldwide child sex abuse.
The UN Committee on the Convention Against Torture gave their concluding observations on May 23, 2014. They were “concerned by reports” that Catholic officials “resist the principle of mandatory reporting” of abuse allegations. They said the Vatican should ensure that abuse allegations are pursued by “independent prosecutors” and there is “no hierarchical connection between the investigators and the alleged perpetrators.” The Committee repeated the criticism that although individual priests might be convicted, there was no accountability for bishops and other officials who aided, abetted and covered up the torture of children. The Committee said the Vatican “should ensure effective monitoring of accused clergy and prevent the transfer of clergy who face credible abuse accusations.” They criticized the Church for failing to make sure that victims received adequate compensation.
There was a robust campaign for Pope Francis to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. London bookmakers said the pope was the 5-2 favorite to win the coveted honor.
Yet the Nobel Institute, who in the past has given the award to Liu Xiaobo “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” and to the European Union “for over six decades contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe,” instead gave this year’s prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satvarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
“I am a Son of the Church”
Pope Francis has described himself as a “son of the Church” on several occasions — a Church which, with few intervals in the past thousand years, ignored Jesus words “My kingdom is not of this world” and sought alliances with emperors and dictators. The Church has wielded its “moral authority” to support a ghastly assortment of vile rulers who, in return, protected and advanced the Church’s interests.
We are still suffering from the alliance created between Pope John Paul II and Reagan neocons to form the U.S. episcopate into leaders of the Religious Right. And the cardinals created by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI elected Cardinal Bergoglio to carry on their support for the plutocracy.
If the pope’s diplomatic goals were only humanitarian, he would not have refused the Dalai Lama’s request for a meeting on December 11, 2014. The occasion could have been used to publicize China’s “calculated and systematic strategy aimed at the destruction of Tibet’s national and cultural identities,” often personified by their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Instead, Pope Francis made his decision so as not to complicate the Vatican’s relations with China “currently going through a very delicate — in fact crucial — phase.” This pontificate is trying to increase its stature and influence in Asia and China is key to its success.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu appealed to the pope to meet with the Dalai Lama. “I am deeply saddened and distressed that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, should give in to these pressures and decline to meet the Dalai Lama,” Tutu said in a statement.
The pope’s choice was a victory for China. “[T]he attention of public opinion in the West to the Dalai Lama is going down by the day,” the chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the top advisory body to China’s parliament told the state-run Global Times on December 19, 2014.
Pope Francis mediated Pres. Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba. The decision, applauded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will lead to increased U.S. trade and investment on the island.
In 2010, Raul Castro released some political prisoners and used the Catholic Church as an intermediary in a failed effort to increase U.S. exports to his suffering populace. Pope Benedict XVI, when visiting Cuba in March 2012, denounced the U.S. trade embargo. In May 2012, the Castro government allowed the Church to open Cuba’s first business schools, training their students to become leaders in the new market economy.
Why the Corporate Media Created Pope Francis
The right-wing has always hated the United Nations. How much better is it to have someone considered to be the planet’s highest “moral authority” on your side and influencing confidential international negotiations?
Fully mindful of Bergoglio’s record in Argentina, the American cardinal/electors dominated pre-conclave Rome with their highly-funded media and were successful in having their carefully vetted man elected pope.
Prelate of Wall Street Dolan said it helps to have a popular pope “because the reputation and the credibility of the Church are much higher now…. [I]t’s clear that the goodwill Francis enjoys right now makes things easier for bishops to move the ball on many fronts.”
Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009).
– Opus Dei Influence Rises to the Top in the Vatican
– The Catholic Right: An Introduction To The Role Of Opus Dei
– Opus Dei: Neofascism Within the Catholic Church
– Opus Dei: The Vatican-Pentagon Connection
Decoding the Past, Opus Dei Unveiled
Real Time with Bill Maher: Gerald Posner – God’s Bankers (HBO)
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