Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Curial corruption? Vatican bank resignations

You might recall that last week Pope Francis set up a special commission to investigate the Vatican Bank (IOR), and one of its officials was arrested for attempting to smuggle millions of dollars into Italy.

Now the Director and Deputy Director of the IOR have resigned, effective immediately.  The President of the IOR is acting as director in the interim.

A web of corruption?

The Vatican said in a statement that Director Paolo Cipriani and his deputy, Massimo Tulli, stepped down "in the best interest of the institute and the Holy See."

It is worth noting that Cipriani, along with the bank's then-president, were placed under investigation by Rome prosecutors in 2010 for alleged violations of Italy's anti-money-laundering norms after financial police seized 23 million euro ($30 million) from a Vatican account at a Rome bank. Neither were charged though, and the money was eventually ordered released.

Media reports suggest that the two are deeply implicated in the deals that led to the arrest last week:

"Last week, a Vatican accountant was arrested as part of Rome prosecutors' broadening investigation into the IOR. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano is accused of corruption and slander in connection with a plot to smuggle 20 million euro ($26 million) into Italy from Switzerland without reporting it to customs officials.

Scarano, dubbed "Don 500" by the Italian media because of his purported favorite euro banknote, acknowledged under questioning Monday that his behavior was wrong but that he was only trying to help out friends, attorney Silverio Sica told The Associated Press.

According to wiretapped phone conversations, Scarano was in touch regularly with both Cipriani and Tulli to get the required bank approval to move large amounts of cash into and out of his IOR accounts. Scarano had two such accounts: a personal one and one called "Fondo Anziani" to receive charitable donations for projects to help the elderly, prosecutors say.

In addition to his Rome arrest, Scarano is also under investigation in the southern city of Salerno for alleged money-laundering stemming from a 560,000 euro cash withdrawal he made from his IOR charity account in 2009. Sica, the attorney, has said Scarano arranged complicated transactions with dozens of other people and eventually used the money to pay off a mortgage."

Sex scandal still to come?

A number of people, most notably Jimmy Akin, have been claiming that the alleged Vatican sex scandal is entirely an invention, because of the arrest of the person making the most recent claims for slander.

Given that it was the pope himself who referred to the existence of a gay lobby I think it is a little premature to jump to that conclusion.  And on this subject, The Catholic Herald's picks of the day point to an article in The Daily Telegraph, which I really don't think can be dismissed as an anti-Catholic beat-up.  It is mainly context on the bank scandal, but it also notes that:

"...the presence within the Vatican hierarchy of gay prelates is an open secret in Rome. From time to time, stories emerge in the local media alleging affairs between monsignori and young men, and it is perhaps worth pointing out that in other reported remarks to the same group of clerics at the Vatican, Pope Francis is quoted as saying: “In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there is also a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true.”'

In the lead up to the papal conclave, it was made clear that one of the key tasks for any incoming Pope was to clear out this nest of vipers.

There is surely more to come.

But the Church has survived such times in the past: pray for the new counter-reformation!

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