How the Vatican sold its soul
2009-06-15 0:00

By Philip Willan | guardian.co.uk



A new book by the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi lays bare a history of political bribes being paid through the Vatican's central bank

The Vatican appears to have an enduring vocation for Italian political and financial scandal. Secrecy and intrigue were the order of the day when American archbishop Paul Marcinkus held sway in the Bastion of Nicholas V, the medieval tower housing the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), the Vatican's central bank.

The requirements of a clandestine global struggle against atheist communism may explain the choice of business partners such as Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, whose mafia links and ruinous bankruptcies brought lasting discredit on the Catholic church three decades ago.

The Vatican hoped that a goodwill payment of $240m to the creditors of Calvi's Banco Ambrosiano's would salve its conscience and erase the memory of Marcinkus's inept and dishonest banking practices. We were led to believe that a new broom, wielded by the lay banker Angelo Caloia, had since swept the premises of the IOR.

The process of reform has been slower and more painful than previously thought, however, to judge by a new book, Vaticano Spa ("Vatican Ltd"), by the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. According to Nuzzi, despite the best efforts of Caloia, a cavalier attitude to financial ethics appears to have continued well into the 1990s, with huge political bribes being laundered through the IOR and funds donated for charitable purposes or to pay for masses for the souls of the dead being casually misappropriated by the bank's administrators.

Nuzzi's allegations are based on internal IOR documents, more than 4,000 in all, that were smuggled out of the Vatican by a disgruntled employee. This unique violation of IOR confidentiality was made possible by an unlikely whistleblower, Monsignor Renato Dardozzi. An electronic engineer who held a top job at the state telecommunications company, Dardozzi discovered his vocation late in life and was ordained a priest at the age of 52.

He worked in the IOR under Marcinkus, participated in the joint Vatican/Italian commission that examined the IOR's role in the Ambrosiano saga, and witnessed Caloia's uphill struggle against the personnel and practices of the Marcinkus era.

Monsignor Donato De Bonis, who served as secretary general under Marcinkus, continued to work under the new regime.

In 1987, according to Nuzzi, De Bonis set up the Cardinal Francis Spellman Foundation, with its own account at the IOR. Signatories on the account included De Bonis himself. During its first six years of operation the account received some 50bn lire (£22m) and paid out 43bn.

The choice of the staunchly anti-communist Spellman as "patron" of the fund is interesting. The well-connected cardinal of New York earned the sobriquet "money-bags" for his fund-raising skills and earmarked significant sums for Italy's Christian Democrat party during the cold war years.

The Spellman fund seems to have been administered by De Bonis with promiscuous generosity. A variety of convents and clerics were to benefit, with payments ranging from the modest 1m lire paid to five mother superiors, to the $50,000 sent to the auxiliary bishop of Skopje-Prizen, for the Albanian-speaking faithful, and the $1m delivered to Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, the archbishop of Sao Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.

There were also payments of a more personal nature: 100m lire for one of the lawyers of Giulio Andreotti, the veteran Christian Democrat politician, $134,000 for a conference on Cicero in New York sponsored by the former prime minister, and even a 60m lire payment to Severino Citaristi, a former treasurer of the Christian Democrat party convicted on corruption charges.

Part of the massive Enimont bribe, paid to politicians to secure their approval for a reorganisation of the chemicals sector, was also bounced through the Spellman fund, according to Nuzzi. But Caloia and Dardozzi chose discretion over transparency when questioned about it by prosecutors from Milan. "Despite the full collaboration promised and publicised in the press, they limit themselves to referring only what can no longer be concealed," Nuzzi writes.

It is interesting to note that Dardozzi's motive for turning whistleblower was not unalloyed disapproval of the IOR's unethical conduct. His decision to smuggle his secret archive out of the Vatican was motivated, at least in part, by anger at the institute's refusal to pay him a commission on the sale of a valuable real estate property near Florence. The unusual monsignor wanted to leave the money to his adoptive daughter, whose health condition required expensive hospital treatment.

Whatever the reason, Dardozzi's archive offers an unprecedented glimpse of the inner workings of one of the world's most secretive and unaccountable financial institutions. The idea that a noble end – winning the cold war or funding one's favourite charity – justifies almost any means, still seems to endure at the pope's bank in the Nicholas V Tower.

Philip Willan is the author of The Last Supper: The mafia, the Masons and the Killing of Roberto Calvi. His website is www.philipwillan.com

Source:
guardian.co.uk



Related Articles
Why was 'God's banker' killed?
"My God - they killed him!"
What You Didn't Know About The Popes Of Rome
Red Ice Radio - Eric Phelps - Vatican Assassins
Red Ice Radio - Eric Jon Phelps - The Vatican Behind the Creation of Islam
Vatican paper set to clear Knights Templar
Tied up in the Rat Lines
The Rothschilds and their "Nazi" Pope
On Top Of Mount Zion, All Coveted By Rome
The Road From Rome


Latest News from our Front Page

Swedish parliament removes Baroque artist's bare breasted painting for offending feminists and Muslims
2015-03-06 3:28
A nude painting named Juno, which was painted by baroque artist G E Schröder and has hung in the dining room of the Swedish Parliament for 30 years has been taken down for fear of offending the sensitivities of feminists and Muslim visitors, Swedish newspaper, The Local reported on Thursday. Explaining the ban on the baroque breasts, a source from the ...
White US children will be minorities by 2020 after immigrant 'baby boom', Census reveals
2015-03-05 19:50
This is the result of an ongoing trend of declining birth among white Americans and a baby boom among immigrant groups, as well as a surge in immigration. By the year 2020, 50.2percent of all children in the US are expected to be non-white, according to the Census. By 2044, whites will be outnumbered by minorities. The Census study, released ...
New Jersey Shopkeeper Hangs 'White History Month' Sign In Window
2015-03-05 18:08
A deli owner in Flemington, New Jersey, has angered many of his neighbors by posting a sign on his window that reads, "Celebrate Your White Heritage in March White History Month." Jim Boggess, who is the owner of Jimbo's Deli, says he put up the sign to remind everyone that they should be proud of their race and culture. "No matter what ...
The Viking ”Maine Penny” Mystery
2015-03-05 3:41
In 1957, during his second year of digging at the Goddard site; a large prehistoric Indian trade village in Penobscot Bay on the central Maine coast, local resident and amateur archaeologist Guy Mellgren found a small silver coin. The coin is later identified by experts as a Norse silver penny dating to the reign of Olaf Kyrre, king of Norway ...
The Sagas of the (Viking) Icelanders Shed Light on Golden Age
2015-03-05 3:40
The Sagas of the Icelanders have long been preserved as the most comprehensive specimen of the literary culture of the 13th and 14th centuries of Iceland. In writing these sagas, many attributes of the 10th and 11th centuries were conserved, particularly individual biographies, the history of family feuds, and the overall evolution of the one of the greatest settlements ...
More News »