Vatican Finances Now Controlled by the Company Men
The term “company men” refers to those whose loyalty can be described as willing to do whatever the company needs. During his reign, Pope Francis had appointed some men to control his finances who would allow their personal ambitions or agendas to influence their decisions. Not anymore.
Within four months of his election, Pope Francis had enacted his first law. It “criminalized leaks of Vatican information.” The penalty was up to eight years in prison if the material concerned the “fundamental interests” of the Holy See.
Pope Francis’ last law, enacted on June 1, 2020, is named “Norms on the transparency, control and competition of public contracts of the Holy See and of the Vatican City State.” However, “certain contracts are exempt from the legislation, contracts related to matters covered by the pontifical secret, contracts funded by an international organization [and] contracts necessary to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of the Holy See or the Vatican City State.”
Secrecy is important for this pontiff.
Along with the new law, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Kevin Farrell, 73, as president of his newly created Commission for Reserved Matters to oversee those transactions that would remain hidden. Farrell is suspected of keeping secret even the most notorious Church scandals.
Pope Francis had named Farrell as camerlengo in 2019. The camerlengo manages the Vatican during the period between a pope’s death/renunciation and election of a new pope. This prelate also has authority to direct many of the meetings and details surrounding the conclave. Farrell took an oath before Pope Francis who gave him a scepter, a symbol of his authority, reported the National Catholic Register.
“The decision to name Cardinal Farrell to the post of camerlengo raised a few eyebrows,” noted Christopher R. Altieri, Rome Bureau Chief for The Catholic Herald. “Cardinal Farrell went through formation and was ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Legionaries of Christ, founded by the notorious Fr Marcial Maciel, who used the priestly society to create and maintain both a respectable façade and a source of income for his perverse proclivities. Maciel allegedly abused scores of victims, including minors, seminarians, and his own illegitimate children, who he had with at least two different women, whom he seduced under assumed names and false pretenses,” reported Altieri.
Farrell was chaplain at the Catholic University of Monterrey in Mexico. Monterrey was the center of Maciel’s activities, Carlos Ramirez stated. Farrell later “acted as general administrator of the Legionaries with responsibilities for seminaries and schools in Italy, Spain and Ireland,” noted Patsy McGarry. Yet, when asked what he knew about Maciel being a sexual predator, Farrell told the Irish Times, “I worked in Monterrey and maybe I would have met Maciel once or twice, but I never suspected anything.”
Fr. Farrell left the Legionaries in 1984 and joined the clergy of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. becoming the archdiocese’s finance officer in 1989. In 2002, he was elevated to auxiliary bishop and served as vicar general, a chief advisory role, to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
A recently released report on McCarrick documents his rise up the Church hierarchy. In 2000, Pope John Paul II had “appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington despite repeated warnings from Church officials about allegations of decades of sexual misconduct,” NPR reported. Although Bishop Farrell lived in the same residence as McCarrick, Farrell told the AP, “Never once did I even suspect McCarrick” of anything untoward.
In 2016, Pope Francis elevated Farrell to cardinal and appointed him as supervisor of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which functions as the Vatican’s treasury and wealth manager – commercial real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, currencies, bullion and gold coins. The February 2019 appointment as camerlengo “was noteworthy – not because the cardinal will have new influence at the Vatican, but because the appointment confirms the influence that he already enjoys,” observed the journalist, Phil Lawler.
By July 2019, “it became clear that there was a hub of corruption within APSA related to two Swiss bank accounts holding €7 billion,” according to the most reliable English-language Vatican reporter, Edward Pentin. “The events discussed in this article comprise just a small sample of the misconduct in play,” Pentin wrote.
APSA’s dominance of Vatican finance “has never been higher,” another very reliable Vatican reporter, John L. Allen, Jr., wrote on Dec. 29, 2020.
In addition to Farrell as president, in June 2020 Pope Francis named three members to the new Commission for Reserved Matters: Bishop Nunzio Galantino, whom Pope Francis appointed as president of APSA in June 2018, Bishop Fernando Vergez Alzaga, secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State appointed by Pope Francis in 2013, and Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, appointed as head of Secretariat for the Economy, i.e. the Vatican’s Minister of Finance, by Pope Francis in November 2019.
Galantino and Guerrero are “seen as enjoying the pontiff’s trust,” Allen reported. “He clearly believes in Galantino, whom he plucked from obscurity as the bishop of a minor Italian diocese in 2013 to make him secretary of the ultra-powerful Italian bishops’ conference, and then moved him to APSA in 2018. In the same way, he culled Guerrero from a quiet administrative role within the Jesuit order to put him in charge of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2019 …. The bottom line is that Galantino and Guerrero how hold the Vatican’s financial cards,” Allen stated.
Abuse of donations for charity
“The Vatican sold charitable asssets to pay down a €242m loan from Credit Suisse that was used to partly fund [a controversial] London property development,” the Financial Times reported in October. The loan was secured against securities that the Holy See has described as ‘derived from donations’ held in the Swiss bank.” Furthermore, “The Vatican, which declined to comment, was not forced to sell assets by Credit Suisse but chose instead to voluntarily reduce its debts to the bank,” the FT noted.
The Italian press had already disclosed in 2019 that the Vatican’s purchase of the London property was financed in part by funds from the Peter’s Pence collection, money donated to the pope to aid the poor and the needy. Only 10% of these funds have been used by Pope Francis for that purpose according to the Wall Street Journal.
During a November 2019 in-flight news conference, Pope Francis confirmed and defended his misuse of Peter Pence funds to make dubious investments. “What do I do? Put in a drawer? No, this is bad administration,” he said. “But I look to make an investment … when there is the necessity,” the pontiff explained.
Galantino, 72, tried to obfuscate the disgraceful misuse of money for the needy in an October 31 interview reported by the National Catholic Register. He said that the Vatican did not use money from the Peter’s Pence fund to cover its losses on the London deal, omitting the fact that these funds were used to purchase the property. As for the Financial Times report that the Vatican sold assets meant to be used for charity to voluntarily pay down a loan, Galantino said there was no “plundering” of this bank account, skirting the fact that the FT report was correct.
Funds sent to Australia
“The Vatican and its associated entities have transferred $2.3bn to Australia since 2014 without the knowledge of senior Australian Catholic Church leaders,” The Australian reported on Dec. 23. The figure was obtained from a chart published last year listing every country’s flow of money to and from Australia. The chart was prepared by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac), the nation’s financial crime regulator that monitors financial transactions to identify money laundering, organized crime, tax evasion, welfare fraud and terrorism financing, explained the Associated Press.
Austrac “has been working closely with the Holy See’s financial intelligence unit.” They found “anomalies” in the figures, “which are expected to be revised soon,” Pentin wrote on Jan. 7 in the National Catholic Register.
Galantino “denied knowledge of the fund transfers, telling the Register that only a sum ‘not exceeding 800,000 euros [$980,000]’ was transferred to Australia ‘during the years indicated.’ All those transactions were ‘trackable and traceable’ he said, ‘since they are salaries, pensions, travel reimbursements, nunciature expenses and two transfers of 100,000 [euros] each to an IT company.’”
Then Galantino, seemingly contradicting himself after stating that 800,000 euros had been sent, “stressed that the funds reported by Austrac did not come from Vatican City.” Galantino’s “proof” of this latter statement was that a Vatican official, who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity, had said so.
Pentin then explained: “One suspicion is that the money relates to ‘ciphered accounts’ connected with APSA. The accounts, first reported by an official under oath in 2007, came to prominence in the 2010s. Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, a Vatican accountant at APSA who was arrested for transporting 20 million euros back to Italy from Switzerland, mentioned them in court proceedings and interviews.”
“Asked to comment on Msgr. Scarano’s claims of ciphered accounts and whether they could have been used for the Australia transfers, Gallantino said he had ‘no information to answer your questions, nor do I know what Scarano said,’” even though Scarano’s testimony in open court and disclosures to the press were widely publicized at the time.
On Jan. 13, The Australian newspaper reported that Austrac admitted “it had significantly overestimated the transfers, and that instead only $7.4 million was transferred from the Vatican to Australia from 2014 to 2020. A computer coding error was believed to be the source of the miscalculation.”
“But Austrac confirmed that despite the massive miscalculation, investigations were continuing into ‘specific transfers from the Vatican to Australia,’ according to The Australian, which also reported that Vatican prosecutors are currently examining ‘hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud and money laundering,’” as noted by Pentin in the Register.
In November, Galantino confirmed that future Vatican investments will be made only by APSA. The bishop also said that all Vatican departments “must” request permission from the Secretariat for the Economy, headed by Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, 61, another member of Farrell’s commission, for any “extraordinary administration,” as reported by the Register.
Pope Francis had appointed Guerrero to replace Cardinal George Pell, who resigned to face charges of child sex abuse in his native Australia, as prefect of the Secretariat in November 2019. Under Guerrero, “the Secretariat for the Economy regained power and influence,” veteran Vatican reporter Andrea Gagliarducci wrote. [Pell, 78, was acquitted in April 2020.]
When Guerrero presented the Vatican’s 2019 accounts in October he said, “The economy of the Holy See must be as transparent as a glass house, the faithful have the right to know how we use our resources.” At the same time, Guerrero also stated that “the budgets of Vatican City [and] Peter’s Pence, as well as a good number of Foundations that collaborate with the various departments” were excluded from his report and would, therefore, remain secret. In response, Gagliarducci noted: “In the past, the Holy See’s balance sheets were generally published along with the Vatican City State Administration balance sheet. This time, only the Curia balance sheet came out. Why? And why was the balance sheet not presented in a press conference in the Holy See Press Office so that anyone could pose questions?”
UNDER OPUS DEI’S SUPERVISION
In August, Pope Francis appointed Máximino Caballero Ledo as general secretary of the Secretariat of the Economy, “sort of vice-minister for finances,” Gagliarducci explained. Caballero is “one of just a few people” trusted by Pope Francis and with whom he has a “personal relationship,” he noted. Caballero is also, a “long term friend” of Guerrero, Gagliarducci said. Furthermore, Caballero had “specialized in Economics at Opus Dei‘s [flagship graduate] business school, IESE in Barcelona.” Caballero “has lived in the United States since 2007, where he is vice president of international finance at Baxter Healthcare, Inc., a medical products company,” reported the Catholic Herald.
Also in August, Pope Francis appointed the former British MP Ruth Kelly to the Council for the Economy which has some oversight of Vatican finances. She is a member Opus Dei, according to the British Independent newspaper.
Caballero and Kelly join a roster of Opus Dei members or associates already appointed by Pope Francis to direct his finances.
A month after his election, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal George Pell to his Council of Cardinals. A week earlier, Pell had attended a “gala dinner of the ultra conservative Institute of Public Affairs, which openly boasts about its political influence, which in truth is its raison d’être. This is not an inexplicable coincidence…The guest of honor and keynote speaker was Rupert Murdoch,” according to thepoliticalsword.com website.
When Pope Francis appointed Pell as prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy in February 2014, Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch), who owns Fox News, tweeted: “Pope Francis appoints brilliant Cardinal Pell from Sydney to be no. 3 power in Vatican. Australia will miss him but world will benefit.” The second most powerful man in the Vatican was considered at the time to be the head of the Council of Cardinals, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, “some might say vice pope.” “Opus Dei participated actively in the  coup against constitutional President Manuel Zelaya, said a study … Opus Dei is headed by Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez who has not denounced the violation to the Constitution that the coup was, and has instead blessed it.”
After his promotion to archbishop in 1996, Pell had invited Opus Dei to establish themselves in Melbourne and then Sydney. Under Pell’s patronage, “Opus Dei‘s star is on the rise” a columnist wrote in 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.”
Pope Francis’ other appointments to the Council for the Economy include:
George Yeo, former finance minister of Singapore and a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces. Yeo is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the Hong Kong Economic Development Commission and the advisory board of IESE.
Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, head of Opus Dei in Peru, was close to Pres. Alberto Fujimori (1990 – 2000) and his lieutenant, Vladimiro Montesinos, both convicted and imprisoned on charges of corruption and other crimes in the country. Cipriani has been called “a representative of Catholic totalitarianism that allied itself with the delinquent dictatorship of Fujimori. He kept quiet about massacres and massive crimes.”
Pope Francis appointed Peter Sutherland as an adviser to APSA. Sutherland was 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 was also on the advisory board of IESE
After Pope Francis’ election, it was noted that Banco Santander will “have a presence that is going to mean a new leading role in the Vatican.” Banco Santander is owned by the Botin family, “close to Opus Dei.”
Pope Francis added the following laity to the board of the Vatican Bank:
Mary Ann Glendon, awarded an honorary doctorate by Opus Dei’s University of Navarre.
Mauricio Larrain, external director of Santander Bank Group Chile and general director of Opus Dei’s ESE Business School at Los Andes University of Chile.
Sir Michael Hintze is a hedge fund tycoon, top British Conservative party donor, and former Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse proprietary trader.
STAGE IS SET FOR THE NEXT CONCLAVE
Plans for the election of the next pope are well under way. In the last quarter of 2020, there were indications as to what the next pontiff will say and do. [See my blog: The Next Pope.] While making inconsequential appointments and changes, the next pope will maintain his predecessors’ opposition to women’s and LGBTQ person’s human rights while appearing to be liberal on issues pleasing to the American mainstream media.
He will continue to make meaningless policies and procedures about child sex abuse. So thousands upon thousands of children around the world will remain at risk of being sexually tortured. All will be severely traumatized for life. Many will die.
Like his predecessor, the next pope could make children safer by ordering his bishops to report all credible allegations of child sex abuse to civil authorities, make their records and archives freely available to these authorities and by holding all those who aid and abet the perpetrators truly accountable. But he won’t.
Vatican finances are now under the control of men loyal to the institution willing to do whatever is needed to protect its secrets. Like his predecessor, the next pope could hire forensic accountants to clean out the Augean stable of his opaque wealth, but he won’t.
Leaders of the Catholic rightwing have united behind the pope and will continue in the future, doing and saying whatever is necessary to bolster the prestige and influence of the head of the Church.
And Opus Dei will continue to control an autonomous city/state providing criminal and civil immunity from any other authority to Vatican residents and government officials, and which also provides access to global financial markets. [See my blog: Control of the Vatican: What’s at Stake]
Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009).