Vatican Corruption, Media Dysfunction, Pope Still the 4th Most Powerful Person in the World

By Betty Clermont | 22 November 2015
Daily Kos

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Fraud worth millions, machinations of the Vatican Bank, the true extent of the pope’s treasury” and “offerings of the faithful withheld from charity, theft and trade scams” during the reign of Pope Francis are the subjects of two recently published books. One includes tape recordings revealing the pontiff’s hands-on management of the smallest details of his fortune.

Yet the mainstream media reported that these books prove the pope desires a “Church of the poor” and is “reforming” the Vatican despite opposition from the “old guard” obstructing his “clean-up.”

Due to this type of deceptive reporting, Pope Francis is still the fourth most powerful person in the world behind only Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and Barack Obama, but ahead of Xi Jinping.

Avarizia (“Avarice – the deadly sin as a parasite in the fiber of the Church”) by Emiliano Fittipaldi and Via Crucis (released in English as “Merchants in the Temple”) by Gianluigi Nuzz were both released November 5.

Fittipaldi, a reporter for L’Espresso, has high-powered contacts both in and out of the Church. The author based his book on “a large amount of internal documents of the Vatican gathered from confidential sources and verbal statements from sources inside the curia.” “The greatest bombshell is that the Vatican is still working as a profitable merchant bank,” he said.

Nuzzi is best known for disclosing much of the information which fueled the “Vati-leaks” scandal in 2012 and was included in his book, His Holiness. Nuzzi said his sources were emails, minutes of meetings, recorded private conversations and memos. Via Crucis is about mismanagement, waste and secrecy.

Vatican Bank (the Institute for the Works of Religion or IOR)

Fittipaldi provides details on three accounts in the IOR designated for charity.

In 2013 and 2014, the funds available to the Commission of Cardinals who supervise the IOR – led by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, appointed by Pope Francis and his “close friend” – gave nothing to charity despite a net surplus of 425,000 euro. (The current exchange rate is 1.07 US dollar.)

The account for Holy Masses – where the faithful donate money to be given to priests often in poor areas to offer masses for their special intentions – has 2.7 million euro. In 2014, it disbursed only 35,000 euro.

The account for Missionary Activities gave away only 17,000 euro in 2014.

Fittipaldi: Foundations named for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have IOR accounts totaling more than 15 million euro. Nuzzi: The Pope John Paul I account has 110,864 euro and Pope Paul VI has 125,310 euro in one account and 296,151 in another. Both have been dead since 1978.

The IOR has still not turned over to the Bank of Italy (the country’s central bank) a list of Italian citizen account-holders who took funds out of the country to avoid paying taxes despite promises to do so, wrote Fittipaldi.

“The Vatican Bank hasn’t been cleaned up like we thought,” Fittipaldi said in an interview with The Washington Post. “There are [bank accounts] of Italian entrepreneurs under investigation by Italian authorities still hiding inside.” He cites, for instance, the IOR account under the name of Lorenzo Leone, a deceased Italian bureaucrat who Fittipaldi said had allegedly amassed an illicit fortune while managing an Italian insane asylum. Earlier this year, Italian authorities were surprised, Fittipaldi said, to find out about the existence of the account containing 8 million euro and which was still being used by Leone’s relatives.

Pope Francis hired the Promontory Financial Group to “clean up” such accounts. It was reported that Promontory reviewed each customer account and closed 4,888.  “The offenses that marred the IOR’s reputation in the past ‘have been reported to the competent Vatican authorities.’” But no action has yet been taken against any account holder by Vatican authorities.

In the US, “Promontory’s activities focus heavily on the adept circumvention of regulations.”  In August 2015, Promontory paid a $15 million penalty to New York’s financial regulators for “its actions on behalf of a big British bank which did not meet current consulting requirements.” The regulators “released a scathing report that accused Promontory of lacking independence.”

The Vatican bank has for decades been the subject of dark intrigue. (Photo: Gabriel Bouys / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)

Pope Francis appointed the following men, among others, to the IOR laymens’ Board of Superintendence which co-supervises the bank along with the Commission of Cardinals:

  • Mauricio Larrain is director of Santander Bank Group Chile. Pope Francis has given Santander “a leading role in the Vatican.” Banco Santander, rated Britain’s worst, was accused of gouging U.S. consumers.  In 2014, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs issued subpoenas to two subsidiaries of Banco Santander, which together represent one of the country’s largest originators of subprime auto loans. “The industry takes advantage of vulnerable borrowers who often have to pay steep rates for the loans.”
  • Clemens Boersig, ex-chairman of Deutsche Bank, along with four other bank executives was ordered in March 2015 to stand trial on fraud charges in Germany.
  • Sir Michael Hintze, former Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse executive,  is an Australian-born hedge fund billionaire.

Deloitte was hired during this pontificate to audit IOR financial reports.

In 2013, the international development charity ActionAid accused Deloitte of advising large businesses on how they could use Mauritius to avoid potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of tax in some of the poorest countries in Africa …

Deloitte has been working on a statewide case management system which originally had a budget of around $260 million. Almost $500 million has already been spent and costs are expected to run as high as $2 billion. No single court is yet fully operational. California’s Judicial Council terminated the project in 2012 citing actual deployment costs associated with the project and California’s budget concerns …

On 17 June 2014 Booz Allen Hamilton sued Deloitte, claiming the firm stole proprietary information in order to ‘lift out’ a specialized team of Booz employees …

The Vatican Bank also has an offshore Cayman Islands banking division. In 2012, “reports are that the bank’s clients include German arms dealers and criminal elements.”

Peter’s Pence

Both Fittipaldi and Nuzzi wrote about Peter’s Pence which dates back to English Anglo-Saxon times when every householder paid an annual penny tax to the Roman pope. Once a year, bishops worldwide ask their parishioners to donate money to this fund. The US bishops tell us: “The purpose of the Peter’s Pence Collection is to provide the Holy Father with the financial means to respond with emergency assistance to those who are suffering as a result of war, oppression, natural disaster, and disease.”

For decades, the Vatican reported the specific amount of this donation. The totals between 2006 and 2011 ranged from $101.9 million to $67.7 million. The 2011 collection, reported in July 2012, was the last one publicly disclosed. There has been no public disclosure under Pope Francis.

According to Fittipaldi, the collection for 2013 was 378 million euro, no doubt due to the popularity of this pope. Only 17,000 euro has been given to charity in the past two years.

“Out of every 10 euro that come into the Vatican for the pope’s charity,” Nuzzi told reporters, “six go to balance the accounts of the curia, two are deposited as reserves in a fund that today is up to almost 400 million euro, and only two end up in the pope’s hand to do charity.”

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi wrote in response: “The works of charity from the pope to the poor are certainly one of the essential purposes of Peter’s Pence, but it’s not the intention of the faithful to rule out that the pope himself assesses the urgency of the situation and the way to respond.”

KPMG was hired during this pontificate to audit Peter’s Pence.

2010 – In August KPMG was reported by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority to the Swedish accountancy regulator after HQ Bank was forced into involuntary liquidation after the Financial Supervisory Authority revoked all its licenses for breach of banking regulations.

2011 – In August KPMG conducted due diligence work on Hewlett Packard’s $11.1 billion acquisition of the British software company Autonomy. In November 2012 HP announced a $8.8 billion write off due to “serious accounting improprieties” committed by Autonomy management prior to the acquisition.

2011 – According to an independent panel formed to investigate irregular payments made by Olympus which reported in December, KPMG’s affiliate in Japan failed in its duty to uncover fraud.

2015 – KPMG was accused by the Canadian Revenue Agency of tax evasion schemes. “The CRA alleges that the KPMG tax structure was in reality a ‘sham’ that intended to deceive the taxman.”

IOR profits are also “offered the Holy Father in support of his apostolic and charitable ministry.” This amount was €50,000 in 2013 and €55,000 in 2014.

Pope Francis has never publicly disclosed what he does with the funds given him by either the IOR or Peter’s Pence.

The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA)

APSA holds the Vatican’s investment and real estate portfolios. The “patrimony” referred to is the billion dollars (in today’s money) given Pope Pius XI in 1929 by Mussolini in return for the Church’s support of his dictatorship. Unfortunately, the dictator also created the Vatican City State as an independent country giving the pope and his men immunity to any regulation or law enforcement except what the pope decides to enforce.

Fittipaldi claims APSA acts like a credit institution and cites budget entries detailing loans to banks of 162.7 million euro, 24.5 million dollars, 8 million pounds, 4.5 million Swiss francs and 29.2 million yen.

APSA’s assets were listed as 998 million euro including an investment portfolio worth over 475 million euro as of 2013. Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, the current president of APSA, “has made a retreat in a land of the Holy See in the open, by opening a shell company to his distant relatives. The Vatican has also invested in shares of Exxon and Dow Chemical, corporations that pollute and poison,” per Fittipaldi.

APSA’s real estate is actually worth an estimated 4 billion euros, wrote Fittipaldi, including about 5,050 apartments in Rome. There is also other non-ecclesial real estate holdings in England, Switzerland, Italy and France. There are still no internal ledgers which show the real estate holdings in their entirety.

Some cardinals live in apartments of four, five and six hundred square meters.

“Luxury homes rented at rock-bottom prices, hotels and beauty centers run by private companies used as secret meeting places, property sales listed at lower prices than those actually paid,” reported Corriere della Sera on Nov. 15.

Pope Francis appointed Peter Sutherland as adviser to APSA. Sutherland is the archetype “master of the universe.” Formerly chairman of Allied Irish Banks, chairman of Goldman Sachs International, chairman of BP, director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Sutherland served on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group, as chairman of the Trilateral Commission and chair of London School of Economics Council.

Peter Sutherland was appointed by Pope Francis as an adviser to APSA.

Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (formerly Propaganda Fide)

“In the documents stolen by Vatican moles, there are lists with thousands of names and addresses collected in order to ‘review’ the criteria used for the management of real estate, especially that owned by Propaganda Fide.” according to Corriere della Sera on Nov. 15

Lists of exclusive “clients” have attracted the interest of investigators looking into the use of confidential documents as the potential basis for blackmail and threats …

Inquiries also brought to light the identity of businessmen to whom Propaganda Fide leased entire buildings to use as hotels. A case in point is Mauritius Stornelli, brother of former Finmeccanica executive Sabatino Stornelli, whose company Burcardo in 2013 signed a contract for the lease of an entire building covering hundreds of square meters, converted into ultra-luxurious suites … There are dozens of similar cases.

Moreover – in addition to the list of private individuals who benefited from long-term leases at knock-down prices – Propaganda Fide has relationships with dozens of companies which often served as covers for their real owners. Suffice it to say that the institution owns around 800 apartments covering a total of over 180,000 square meters.  …

In response, “the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples strongly denied accusations of cronyism in renting out properties in Rome. The money collected from properties owned by the congregation is used to support the Church’s missionary initiatives around the world.”

Also in response, Pope Francis said he intended to implement “reform” of the management of “the Holy See’s property holdings, the houses and apartments managed by APSA and Propaganda Fide …There is going to be change,” the pope affirmed.

But no promise from either the congregation or the pope of future public financial statements.

Sales Inside the Vatican City State

Based on a leaked auditors’ report, Fittipaldi wrote that the Vatican earns €60 million a year selling gas, cigarettes and other products at below-Italian-market prices. “They should be available only to the city state’s citizens [about 450], yet more than 40,000 Italians are said to have cards giving them access to the shops inside the Vatican.”

“Hundreds of people are misappropriating the Vatican’s tax-free status to resell cheap gasoline and cigarettes at great profit. An audit of the Vatican museums and pharmacy showed serious discrepancies – amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars – between what appeared on the books and what was actually in storehouses, suggesting either systematic theft or fraud.”

Other Vatican Departments

There are 136 entities connected to the Vatican – secretariats, congregations, councils, offices, foundations, etc.

Vatican assets “by a conservative estimate could be around €9-10 billion including the assets of all the entities linked to the Holy See.” Excluding APSA and the IOR, “for the other ministries there are only estimates of around €5-6 billion including liquid shares and securities. Finally, in the background, the extent of the assets of religious orders is as unknown as it is great,” the Italian business newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, stated in April 2015. (Most of the assets managed by the IOR are owned by depositors leaving 695 million euro in equity.)

Both Pope Francis and his predecessor were forced to make the IOR publish audited financial reports. Pressure from Europe’s financial oversight agencies began to “crackdown on states that failed to comply with international rules [regarding disclosure].” Regulators required financial institutions to stop doing business with countries without similar laws. Since the IOR conducts business on a global basis, both popes had no choice but to meet international standards, according to The Financial Times.

Other than the IOR, there are no detailed financial statements from any of the 135 other entities.

 Cardinal George Pell

A month after his election, Francis chose a “council of cardinals” to advise him, including Australian Cardinal George Pell. Shortly thereafter, the pope also named Pell as his financial tsar. As head of the Secretariat of the Economy, Pell was given “oversight of all economic and administrative activities within the Holy See and the Vatican City State” and “will be responsible for all financial planning as well as staffing, and will prepare detailed financial statements of the Holy See and Vatican State.”

Prior to Pope Francis’ election, Pell made national headlines during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings which covered Pell’s response as archbishop of Melbourne and then Sydney. Parents whose young daughters were repeatedly raped by a priest (one committed suicide) testified that Pell showed a “sociopathic lack of empathy.”

In February 2015, the Royal Commission – the highest form of investigation in Australia – found that Pell placed the Church’s financial interests above his obligation to victims of clerical sex abuse as part of an aggressive legal strategy  to protect his assets. In fact, prior to being elevated to Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy by Pope Francis, Pell’s only previous financial expertise was cheating the victims out of an adequate compensation known as his “Melbourne response” and “Ellis defense” where Pell “instructed his lawyers to crush this victim.”

The Royal Commission hearings are still ongoing and this past week Pell hired his own legal team – separate from those used by the Australian Church – to cross-examine witnesses who have given evidence regarding whether the cardinal covered-up child sex abuse.

Fittipaldi revealed: “Hundreds of thousands of euros for flights in business class, tailored clothes, fine furniture, even a sink costing 4,600 euros – a list of wasteful spending that has reached over half a million euro” which Pell spent for him and his friends within the first six months after the creation of the Secretariat of the Economy. Pell responded that these were “legitimate start-up costs.” But made no offer to produce a public financial statement.

Cardinal George Pell (Sydney), head of Pope Francis’s new Secretariat for the Economy. He has close ties to Opus Dei and is the third most powerful person in the Vatican, with authority over all economic and administrative activities within the Holy See and the Vatican City State.

Tape Recordings

Nuzzi published tape recordings of the pope’s private conversations revealing the pontiff micro-managing his money. Pope Francis told some cardinals, “It is no exaggeration to say that most of our costs are out of control. This is a fact.”

Francis urged prelates to always double check the “fine print” when signing contracts, to guarantee the legality of each transaction. “One of the people in charge would say to me: ‘But they come with the invoice and so we have to pay …’ No, we don’t pay. If something is done without an estimate, without authorization, we don’t pay.” Then the pope enunciates slowly: “Clarity. This is what is done in the most humble firms and we must do it too … Before any purchase or construction job, we have to request at least three different estimates … Let me give you an example, the library. The estimate said a hundred, and then two hundred was paid. What happened? … [Some say] we have to pay for it. No, we don’t. We don’t pay! This is important to me. Discipline, please!”

In another conversation, Pope Francis demanded transparency (to himself) after “reviewing operations of pure malfeasance.” The pope asks, “If we don’t know how to safeguard our money, which can be seen, how can we safeguard the souls of the faithful, which cannot be seen?”

Media Response

Both authors claim their motive was to help Pope Francis reform the Vatican by revealing the extent of the greed, corruption and mismanagement in the Vatican. But Nuzzi writes specifically from the view of “telling the inside fight which Francis and his loyalists are leading to reform the Church.” So the contents of his book are most cited by the media.

AP, Reuters, AFP (Agence France-Presse), Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe, USA Today, Religion News Service, NPR, the Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Esquire, New Yorker, Bloomberg, Fortune, CNBC, BBC, the Guardian, Independent and CTV News (Canada) all similarly reported that the books proved that Pope Francis is “reforming” the Vatican but his enemies were blocking him and that the pope was bringing transparency and accountability to his “Church of the poor.”

Many compared the size of the pope’s suite in Saint Martha’s guesthouse with the size of some cardinal’s apartment. The media never report that the papal quarters in the palace are Spartan and that the guesthouse was built in 1996 to be “more comfortable and less strenuous for elderly cardinals” who found the palace especially uncomfortable in the summer heat. Pope Francis has two valets and two personal secretaries to assist him, which no one would begrudge anyone as busy as a pope. Nor does anyone mind that he rides in custom-built autos.  (Benedict used a partially-electric, hybrid popemobile.) But Pope Francis is not doing his own laundry.

Vatican reporter, John L. Allen Jr., commented, “Yes, there’s real money involved, but the Vatican isn’t a financial colossus.”  But it is to the relatively small number of men who control and/or profit from a “conservative estimate” of “around €9-10 billion” in Vatican assets.

Other “Reforms”

Many of the media reported the following changes, in addition to creating a Secretariat of the Economy, as “proof” Pope Francis has “reformed” the Vatican.

Pope Francis also created the Council for the Economy to consider the Vatican’s policies and practices regarding economic and administrative activities. This body also has oversight on administrative and financial structures and activities.

Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne to this council. “Under Cipriani’s leadership, the Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, became an investor in the stocks of one of the most controversial mining companies which sparked the mobilization of large-scale environmental social movement in the country.” Cipriani has always sided with businesses, never mentioned their pollution, is never on the side of indigenous peoples or farming communities.

Cardinals walk in procession to the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican

The pope appointed the following lay members, among others, to the Council for the Economy:

  • John F. Kyle retired vice president and treasurer of Imperial Oil Ltd., Exxon Mobil’s Canadian subsidiary.
  • Enrique Llano Cueto former audit partner of KPMG. (see KPMG above)
  • Jochen Messemer is a former partner of McKinsey & Company. Pope Francis hired McKinsey as a Vatican advisor. “McKinsey might be the single greatest legitimizer of mass layoffs in history … The origins of the pay gap – which now sits at an absurd 354-to-1 ratio – can arguably be traced to one McKinsey consultant … Enron’s CEO, Jeff Skilling, now serving time in prison, was ex-McKinsey, and so much about how Enron fell apart was due to ideas that Skilling brought over from McKinsey.”
  • Joseph F. X. Zahra, chairman of Middlesea Insurance Co Ltd., is one of Pell’s two “right-hand men.”  The other is Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, president of the IOR.

The pope created the position of Auditor General with the power to conduct audits of any Vatican agency at any time. He appointed Libero Milone who was CEO of Deloitte of Italy.

The pope “beefed-up” the Vatican Financial Administration Authority (AIF), an “anti-money-laundering watchdog” created by Pope Benedict which “flags suspicious transactions and, when warranted, turns them over for criminal prosecution.” The AIF presented a report in June 2015 stating that “after collecting only six reports of suspicious transactions in 2012, AIF received 202 in 2013 and 147 in 2014. The report cited those totals as proof of ‘substantial improvement in the operational performance of the supervised entities’ … as well as ‘full implementation’ of the Vatican’s new legal framework.” But not one of those 355 “suspicious transactions” resulted in criminal prosecution.

In other words, Pope Francis’ “reform” has been to replace his predecessor’s loyalists with his own under new structures and appointed men to watch over other men he appointed. Any wrongdoing will be decided by men he appointed but all final decisions rest solely with the pope.

Reforms Not Made

Pope Francis has never even suggested that his Vatican, bishops or superiors of religious orders divest any of their assets to give more to the poor. It should be self-evident by now that by breaking with tradition and choosing the name Francis, a saint who gave everything to the poor, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio intended his pontificate’s first priority to be good PR.

If the pope wanted transparency, he and all his departments would be making audited financial disclosures.

If the pope wanted accountability, he would hire forensic accountants from a governmental financial regulatory agency, the FBI or Interpol for example.

If he wanted his Vatican to be more charitable, he would hire people experienced in non-profits or international charities to help him give away his fortune rather than hire experts in vulture capitalism.

The Pope’s Response

So damn sure that the media would report like his lapdogs instead of watchdogs about the two books and continue to withhold information about his appointees, Pope Francis had the chutzpah to say the day after the books’ release, “A Church focused on business doesn’t minister or serve, but uses others.” The man who was promoted up the ecclesial career-ladder to cardinal, “assailed [clerical] ‘climbers attached to money’ who have ‘reached a status and live with no honesty.’”

With the same certainty of media collaboration, an interview which the pope gave on Oct. 27 was distributed by the Vatican for publication also on Nov. 6:

Francis was asked about the idea of selling off the Vatican’s wealth. He replied that it’s “an easy question” because “these aren’t treasures of the Church, but of humanity. For example, if tomorrow I say Michelangelo’s Pieta is for sale, it can’t be done, because it’s not the property of the Church,” Francis said. “It belongs to humanity.”

The pope added that everything that is disposable – such as the gifts he receives, or cars that are not being used – has already been sold off or given as prizes in the papal lottery. The proceeds from that lottery, he added, are distributed to the poor through his personal representative in aiding the less fortunate in Rome.

Francis also said that the Church uses its wealth to help the poor, citing the recent example of his decision to wire US $54,000 to Congo to build three schools.

(In 2010, Pope Benedict gave $300,000 of his own money to Catholic charities in Haiti following the earthquake. But he didn’t tell anyone.)

On Sunday, Nov. 8, the pope addressed the crowd in St. Peter’s Square about the documents given to Fittipaldi and Nuzzi: “[B]oth I and my advisers were well acquainted with (the contents of) those documents and steps have been taken that have started to bear fruit, some of them even visible. Therefore I wish to reassure you that this sad event certainly does not deter me from the reform project that we are carrying out, together with my advisers and with the support of all of you.”

The pope has taken no steps to investigate current theft and fraud. Rather, with the pope’s personal approval, the Vatican response was, first, to arrest two people suspected of leaking information to Fittipaldi and Nuzzi.

Then, on Nov. 12, “The Vatican Gendarmerie, in their role as judicial (sic) police, informed the Vatican prosecutors that the activity carried out by the journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi may constitute complicity in the crime of disseminating confidential news and documents. [T]he journalists are now therefore under investigation.”

Both were called to testify. Fittipaldi went but refused to testify citing the protections journalists enjoy in Italy to shield their sources.

Nuzzi refused to be interrogated. He questioned why the Vatican was investigating him and a colleague rather than looking into the serious allegations of financial malpractice made in his just-published book.

Yesterday, Vatican magistrates indicted Fittipaldi and Nuzzi for “unlawful disclosure of confidential information and documents” and ordered them to stand trial. One Vatican official – a Spanish priest – and two Italians who volunteered to work on an advisory committee were also charged with forming “an autonomous criminal association” who gave the information to the authors.

The court stated Fittipaldi and Nuzzi “solicited and applied pressure” on them to “obtain secret documents and information.”

Nuzzi told Reuters he had “never applied pressure on anyone” and would discuss with his lawyers whether or not to attend Tuesday’s hearing. He said his lawyers had told him he risked 4-8 years’ imprisonment. “The Italian constitution guarantees the right to information and expression but the Vatican is a state with no right to information,” he said. “If they think they can silence me they are following the wrong path, because after me other reporters will tell the facts and the information will not stop.”

Fittipaldi told Italy’s ANSA news service he was “shocked” by the news. “Maybe I’m naive but I believed they would investigate those I denounced for criminal activity, not the person that revealed the crimes. I understand they are seriously embarrassed in the Vatican over the things in my book, especially because they could not deny any of it. But I didn’t expect a criminal trial.”

The Vatican release said any who do not attend the trial, set to begin this Tuesday, will be tried in absentia. The priest was arrested Nov. 2 and has been incarcerated in the Vatican since then. Italy and the Vatican have an extradition agreement so the question is what would happen should any of the other four be found guilty.

Only Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement supporting the authors.

Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi just exercised their right to provide information in the public interest and should not be treated as criminals in a country that supposedly respects media freedom … There is a word for this kind of draconian law, the kind typically used by authoritarian regimes, and that word is ‘censorship.’ It is one thing for the Vatican to try to protect itself from this scandal. But penalizing its exposure by journalists whose only sin was to do some investigative reporting cannot be tolerated.

Even though Pope Francis, as absolute dictator, enacted the law criminalizing leaks of Vatican information when he was newly in office, and even though by now every man with authority in the Vatican has been appointed or approved by this pope, even RSF blames “the Vatican” and not the pope.

Like the rest of the mainstream media, anything even remotely positive is attributed to the pope. Anything negative is attributed to “the Vatican.”

Thanks to the media, being the fourth most powerful person in the world means never being accountable in the court of public opinion for the message Pell’s power sends to the hundreds of thousands of the Church’s sex abuse victims, the shady business practices, the loss of tax revenues to Italian citizens and withholding funds from the poor.

Some other things Pope Francis will never be held responsible for:

In response to the terrorist attacks in Paris, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State appointed by Pope Francis, said he supported military intervention. Parolin justified his position by citing the pope’s stated approval of the “use of force to stop an unjust aggressor.”

“Scores of Catholic priests who have been accused of abusing children in the United States and Europe have avoided accountability simply by moving to a less-developed country. [T]he Catholic Church has allowed allegedly abusive priests to slip off to parts of the world where they would face less scrutiny from prosecutors and the media.”

Pope Francis appointed a bishop who he knew was the subject of allegations that he covered-up for a notorious pedophile priest. Then the pope called the bishop’s detractors “leftists” and “stupid.”

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear for the fourth time in five years a challenge to Obamacare. The petitions come from Catholic leaders and include the Little Sisters of the Poor who the pope visited during his US visit. In 2014, the pope held a private meeting with the billionaire owner of Hobby Lobby during which they discussed “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom.” Pope Francis even “asked how the [Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Supreme Court] case was progressing.”

“I see my Church as a major conduit for homophobia which is toxic, a form of hatred,” former Irish president Mary McAleese said in a recent interview.

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009).

Inside the vaults of the Vatican bank

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