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Pell surprised by ‘Technicolor criminality’ of Vatican financial scandals

“I didn’t know that there was so much criminality involved,” Cardinal George Pell said in an interview with Associated Press published Monday.

Pope Francis talks with Australian Cardinal George Pell, former prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, during an audience at the Vatican Oct. 12, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell has spoken of his surprise at the apparent extent of “criminality” involved in recent Vatican financial scandals.

Speaking in an interview with Associated Press Monday, the cardinal, who led the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy from 2014-2017, said that he regretted that his efforts to bring tough mechanisms for financial transparency and accountability had been vindicated by the details of recent scandals.

Pell told AP that he knew, from the time Pope Francis put him in charge of a key part of his curial reform agenda, that the Vatican finances were “a bit of a mess.”

But, the cardinal said, he “never, never thought it would be as Technicolor as it proved.”

“I didn’t know that there was so much criminality involved,” Pell said.

Until 2017, Pell led an effort called for by Pope Francis to bring order and accountability to the Vatican’s finances, which have long lacked centralized procedures, controls, or oversight, claiming at one point to have discovered hundreds of millions of euros being kept “off books” from the ordinary Vatican accounts.

Pell’s reforming efforts met with institutional resistance from some curial officials and departments, most notably Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who at the time of Pell’s tenure at the Secretariat for the Economy, was sostituto of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Becciu at one point acted to cancel a contract Pell had made for an external audit of Vatican finances.

CNA has also reported that Pell and Becciu clashed repeatedly over financial affairs, including the use of Swiss banks to provide financing for different investments allegedly obscured from Vatican balance sheets, including the controversial purchase of a London building.

Since at least 2018, Vatican criminal investigators have been reviewing a web of investments and transactions at the Secretariat of State involving a network of businessmen and curial officials linked to investments related to the London property deal.

So far, one of brokers of the deal has been arrested, and several Vatican officials have had their offices and homes raided.

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals, and has denied subsequent media reports that he used Church funds to benefit family members, or that he had attempted to influence the outcome of a sex abuse trial against Cardinal Pell in Australia, which resulted in Pell taking a leave of absence from his curial post in 2017.

Speaking to AP on Monday, Pell said of the allegations against Becciu that “I hope for the sake of the Church, there’s nothing in it.”

“In fact — I say that quite sincerely — because some Australian people, my own family, said to me: ’Well, if the Mafia is going after you or somebody else is going after you, that’s one thing. It’s a little bit worse if it comes from within the Church.”

“But I think we will find out, whether there is or there isn’t,” said Pell. “Certainly, the party’s not over.”

An October AP report said the allegations against Becciu “appeared more an effort to discredit Becciu and distract attention from the shortcomings of the Vatican prosecutors’ primary investigation into a London real estate venture.”

Last week, police found hundreds of thousands of euros in cash hidden in two homes of Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay official at the Secretariat of State until his suspension, together with four other employees, last year. CNA has previously reported his links to the London deal, including to the broker arrested for allegedly extorting the Vatican.

On Monday, Pell told AP that the rolling series of financial scandals appeared to show criminal behavior, but that a full Vatican trial could eventually establish the whole truth. “It just might be staggering incompetence,” he said.

“It would be better for the church if these things hadn’t happened, if I wasn’t vindicated in this way,” said Pell. “But given that they have happened, it’s quite clear” that his original reforming agenda was necessary.

Pell said his efforts had been “sadly vindicated by revelations and developments.”

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  1. Its worse in the USA in the “Church”, humans who “assume” Catholic positions yet ignore the atrocities as military actions of the Genocide in Yemen, Unjust wars. The forever Unjust wars on Iraq, Iran, and Syria, for Oil.. The originated by the US over throw of Iran and Syria back in the 1940’s. The Catholic leaders that assume leadership but never educate themselves to Truth of what really is Truth.
    Hunger Starvation in the USA today is ignored, as Unbridled Capitalism…
    The meltdown of the USA economics, that has destroyed the US financially.
    A major issue, of a long in the eye, but looking at a splinter in the eye of others.
    Most directly in the issue of bigotry toward the Islamic, by US “assumed” Catholic leaders.

  2. Cardinal Pell muses: “It just might be staggering incompetence.”

    In the secular world, real or feigned neutrality paints every spineless collapse into the flow as simply another step of inevitable Progress (the Darwinian “right side of history”). In (part, not all of) the ecclesial world this business-as-usual mentality might well be nothing worse than staggering incompetence—The Peter Principle of first, skill-free resumes, then the complicity of neutrality, and then sometimes the fraternal collegiality of tactful, mutual advancement?

    As in petty politics, you never know who you might need tomorrow as an ally. We once read about two young naval officers who advanced to become the two youngest admirals in history, mostly by talking-up each other at every social function they attended…

    McCarrick, then, blew the lid off this office subculture with exposure of his side hobby in a beach house. Even the now-prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life—-who lived in the same chancery for years—-apparently blindered-out any notice of McCarrick’s many “nephews” and financial dealings. No need to be, what, a busybody or uncharitable or judgmental!

    A purple/red-hat “staggering incompetency” (or competency?) of: “speak no evil, see no evil, and hear no evil.” With even-handed “justice,” even the broad laity are included and anesthetized: The much-sermonized Beatitudes are one thing, but those old-hat/muted Commandments are another.

    • Or it just may well be staggering self indulgence. Austerity in any knowable form is not in vogue at the Vatican these days [to be fair like politics Vatican hierarchy simply reflect what’s happening worldwide]. Like the Sandals advertisement, Do whatever you want whenever you want. But avoid getting caught. Although as the trend goes on it seems the end game is making the latter irrelevant. Forgive my cynicism. Or is it candor?

  3. Trust in any institutional organization, including my beloved Roman Catholic Church, seems difficult at best in today’s world of misinformation, outright lies and deceit. Maybe it always has been that way but in my naivety and child like trust I have gone from wide eyed and full of hope to a feeling of lost and alone not knowing which shepherds voice to follow since there seems to be no consistency or accountability in their message or actions. This is true from Pope Francis down to our local Priest. Can our faith not be taught with clarity? We are all sinners and in need of mercy before our God. But we are in desperate need of holy Bishops, Priests and laity with the courage to boldly call out sin for what it is. Our conscience is worthless without being developed by truth, not niceties and platitudes to make us feel warm, fuzzy and justified in our sinfulness. It seems we have lost the fear of God, fear of hell and fear of our own eternal destiny. Pray, use the sacraments, have courage and be bold in the faith the teaching magisterium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. It may seem like it but you won’t be alone!

  4. “Saving Face” I believe the Japanese used to call it. Usually ends up not being pragmatic, under the circumstances.

    Bishops need to adopt “The buck stops here.” Christianity is hard, although He makes our burden light.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Pell surprised by ‘Technicolor criminality’ of Vatican financial scandals - Catholic Daily
  2. Pell surprised by ‘Technicolor criminality’ of Vatican financial scandals - Catholic Mass Search
  3. Pell surprised by ‘Technicolor criminality’ of Vatican financial scandals – On God's Payroll
  4. CWR:Pell surprised by ‘Technicolor criminality’ of Vatican financial scandals – chaos

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