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Cardinal Becciu’s trial is a dysfunctional show with serious repercussions

The London business is messier than it needed to be; more importantly, it is the result of Pope Francis’s governance.

A photo of Pope Francis is seen as Vatican judges Giuseppe Pignatone and Venerando Marano arrive during the third session of the trial of six defendants accused of financial crimes, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, at the Vatican City State criminal court Nov. 17, 2021. Lawyers representing the defendants argued that Vatican prosecutors omitted evidence and testimony they said are crucial in preparing their defense. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

I’m pretty sure the video I received from a friend in Rome was not – as it purported to be – actual footage from the Vatican City courtroom taken while the trial of Cardinal Angelo Becciu and ten six alleged co-conspirators was in session earlier this week. In fact, I’m almost certain the video was a clip from a clown show.

The whole business is on hold for now, anyway, because the prosecution won’t show the defense what they’ve got. The prosecution claims the lacunae in discovery – the official exchange of evidence by the sides in a legal dispute – are owing in part to the sensitive nature of some of the materials, which are being used as part of ongoing investigations not connected to the case currently at trial.

It may be so, but there are lots of ways around that. In any case, it is a universally recognized maxim of civilized jurisprudence that the right to defense includes the right to examine the evidence the prosecution has used to make its case.

The judges have already tossed several of the indictments, citing prosecutorial error.

At the end of Wednesday’s roughly three-hour session, the presiding judge adjourned the trial until December 1st. “We will not begin the examination of the questions of this process,” said Judge Giuseppe Pignatone, “until the defense has complete knowledge of the acts.” That may mean an effective start date is set for the Greek calends.

The big news in the trial this week regarded the Vatican’s star witness, Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, who shepherded the $400 million Sloane St., London, development venture from the Vatican side, and was a suspect in the investigation before he turned witness for the prosecution.

It turns out Msgr. Perlasca may well have been influenced by a narrative proffered by one of his erstwhile superiors in the Vatican power structure: Pope Francis.

Msgr. Perlasca apparently told prosecutors at one point that Pope Francis himself had authorized the machinations they are now saying were part of a criminal shakedown of the Vatican. During the course of an interrogation, however, prosecutors told Perlasca they’d heard a different story from the pope. The prosecutors may or may not have spoken to Pope Francis as part of their investigation, but evidence suggests they did – and that is a problem for the Vatican’s lawyers and for the pope.

Defense lawyers want the court to order prosecutors to turn over transcripts of the pope’s remarks – they want the prosecution to turn over all the evidence they have, and it seems a reasonable request – but Vatican prosecutors insist they “never heard from the Holy Father [on the record]” and say that the remarks to which Perlasca reacted with “supreme bewilderment” were “what the Holy Father … testified regarding this affair in non-suspect times.”

The prosecutor, Alessandro Diddi, said he was referring to the remarks Pope Francis made to journalists aboard the plane taking him from Tokyo to Rome in 2019.

In the portion of a recording defense attorney Luigi Panella attempted to play in court, however, the prosecutor tells Msgr. Perlasca: “Before doing what we are currently doing, we went to the Holy Father and asked him what happened.”

In the remarks to journos during the in-flight presser, Pope Francis admitted to close involvement, from the very start, in the investigations that led to the trial currently underway. He admitted authorizing the botched raids that led to the media frenzy around the blue chip London real estate deal, which in turn led to the Holy See’s temporary suspension from the Egmont Group of financial intelligence units’ critical information-sharing network.

Subsequent reporting has strongly suggested that Pope Francis was better informed about the shady London deal than either he or his flacks in the Vatican have let on, and may well have approved at least some of the steps in the deal that prosecutors now allege was a massive hoodwink and swindle.

The Associated Press obtained a memo from the sostituto of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See – roughly, the papal chief-of-staff – Archbishop Edgar Peña, in which Peña says Pope Francis’s express desire was to lose as little money as possible, and that the best way to do that was to deal with the erstwhile middle-man, Gianluigi Torzi, rather than sue him.

Basically, the Vatican decided to buy Torzi out of the deal, after Torzi outmaneuvered the Vatican types. That option “simply aligned with the desire of the Superior,” i.e. Pope Francis, according to the memo quoted by the AP.

How did they manage to lose money on blue chip London real estate at all?

That question – in the form of an affirmation on the lips of a real-estate expert in the Financial Times – is the one John Allen picked for the winner of last week’s “sound bite sweepstakes” in Vatican news. It was a solid pick, because it speaks to the inveterate dysfunction of the whole outfit.

Still, it is only part of the reason why people should care about this story.

CNA’s Andrea Gagliarducci, in his analysis of the trial-to-date this week, noted that the trial is being conducted under the laws and jurisdiction of Vatican City – a microstate, the primary raison d’être of which is to protect and facilitate the interests of the sovereign actor known as the Holy See – but the implications of the whole business are far reaching and potentially disastrous for the Holy See itself.

It’s admittedly a wonky point, but like many wonky distinctions, it is crucial.

“The Vatican” is at best an abstraction, usually no more or less meaningful than any other journalistic shorthand. Vatican City exists in order to guarantee the temporal independence of the papacy. It is the territorial subject of the Holy See. Its purpose is to support the Holy See, which is the real sovereign expression and vehicle of the pope in the world.

“The balance of power has been reversed,” wrote Gagliarducci. “Today, state interests seem to have somehow gone on to ‘eat’ the Holy See,” he observed. “This is a sign of the ‘Vaticanization’ of the Holy See[.]” One gigantic story, in other words, is that we’re dealing with an institutional case of the tail wagging the dog.

That has made this London business messier than it needed to be, but it is a more general problem. It is the result of Pope Francis’s governance, and it has serious repercussions, only some of which have begun to make themselves felt.

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About Christopher R. Altieri 228 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, editor and author of three books, including Reading the News Without Losing Your Faith (Catholic Truth Society, 2021). He is contributing editor to Catholic World Report.


  1. The Holy See is the servant of the Church, the Ecclesia. The mystical Body of Christ apparently suffers even from the top levels of the Body. The Head remains Jesus Christ, which is a fact the See may want to heed to assiduously.

  2. I have often said that if the Catholic faithful were at all concerned about the pervasiveness of criminal predatory homosexuality on the part of priests and bishops, they should wait around for the real denouement- the thievery of Church funds for sinful purposes and the silence around the misuse and unaccountability of Church funds by prelates. Just to cite one example: Archbishop Lori of Baltimore had to return $7,000+ “gifted” him by the disgraced bishop of Charleston-Wheeling. And no one batted one eyelash about it nor did it call out for a full financial audit and disclosure of the use of all money by the Church. Why does our Catholic Church cozy up to a sinful secular government? Answer: it’s a source of significant amounts of cash.

    It seems that far too many bishops and priests believe that the role of the laity in the Church is that of surrendering the bodies of adolescent males for their pleasure and to supply sufficient funds for both priests and bishops to live the lifestyle they believe is rightfully theirs.

    • Sounds like a replay of the fall of the House of Eli. Eli’s worthless sons, described as such in the Bible, were adulterers and treated the offerings to God with contempt.

    • Valid and proper members of families of valid and proper marriages are not “laity” but instead consecrated in marriage whether as celibates or as male – female spouses exercising an absolute power of authorisation in keeping in uncertainty of belief the inseparability and qualitative equality of their identities and their roles as helpers of the family in education for love.

      This sounds complicated but it applied when I interviewed myself in a parent teacher meeting as my child’s teacher and when in my executive role in an association of parents and friends associated with my child’s catholic school I asked at the annual general meeting of this association if I as a catechist of the Brisbane Catholic Archdiocese serving in this school supported the catholic discipline on intercommunion (canon 844.4).
      “By associating together” (Pope St John Paul 11″s Council for the Family “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family”, [TTMHS], 8 December 1995, 24) with me and I hope others, Pope Francis in with me and I hope these others keeping this inseparability and qualitative equality has put into action from his election in March 2013 an educational project within the family in sexuality and true love.

      The mystery of the family is that of the Trinity.

      Elizabeth’s reported commendation: “Blessed is she …”, of her cousin, Mary’s, ‘prediction’ as what she “believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” at RSV Luke 1:45 has in “Catechesis in Our Time” (CT, 1979, 16, Exhortation of Pope St John Paul 11) that catechesis is “education of the believing conscience”.

      In “Our Time” the application of the multiplier in economics from 1931 to population (marriage) and food supplies (Eucharist) is reported by an accredited source, Colin Clark, as had “a slight advance [in] just about paripassu rate of growth in the developing counties” (“Colin Clark Reminisces with Bruce McFarlane and Derek Healey”, Adelaide University, Australia, 3 August 1977, p. 29 of transcript of audiotape).
      This “slight advance” is now as predicted by theologian Fr Gaston Fessard sj (an influence on Pope Francis) in 1948 to “develop boundlessly” (quoted in “A Christian Anthropology”, ed. Edward Malatesta sj, Anthony Clarke Books, 1974, pp, 41-42: “The Spheres of Human Society – the Family”.

      The prediction of quantum physicist, Peter Higgs, in 1964 in the same year as the findings on natural family planning by the Billings in Melbourne, Australia, the advice of Colin Clark to the Pope’s Commission on Population and the advice of Colin Clark’s future daughter in law, Jane Churchill, to me was proven in 2012 at the Swiss Hydron Collider that at infinity or the eschatological present moment the observation measurement terms for position and momentum of a sub-atomic particle when simultaneously applied in the present moment had 100% accuracy acknowledged by the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics awarded to Peter Higgs for this prediction in 1964.
      “Belief” contrary to the Oxford English Dictionary alternative meanings of “thinking” and “having faith” is the keeping in uncertainty of the inseparability and qualitative equality of thinking and having faith.

      Christ is reported to refer to ‘thinking’ and to ‘have faith’ or ‘faith’ and that “I only do what the Father does” and “I and the Father are one”. The full revelation of “belief” or to “believe” (OED) predicted at RSV John 20:25: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” is in our loving in the present moment on Christs been always our “reference point, through both advice and example” in the period leading to engagement and the choice of that preferred attachment which can lead to forming a family …” (Pope St John Paul 11’s Council for the Family teaching in: “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family”, [TTMHS] PCF, 8 December 1995, 110) and that applies to the “preferred attachment” either to consecrated celibacy vowed to man or to male-female marriage vowed to God.
      At issue is the revelation of the Incarnation as of two natures, divine and human as qualitatively equal and inseparable.
      Oliver Clark for Job’s Trust Disability Trust, unit 8, 178 Kent Street, New Farm, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; Ph.+61 (0)467 299 853; E.

  3. What your commentator appears to miss is the absolute power of authorisation exercised by the Papacy in its teaching mission when: “[b]y associating together [with families to] … put into action an educational project … in sexuality and true love … Within the Family” (Pope St John Paul 11’s Council for the Family: “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family”, TTMHS, PCF, 1995, 24, title).
    The Papacy is a family headed by a divine Father, God the Father, and a mother, Mary, waiting for this associating together believed by the mother as she who “believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). The Higgs Boson (2012) can and must alert us to this absolute power when observation measurement terms are applied to role and identity simultaneously with 100% accuracy at infinity that is the present moment. Pope Francis is teaching the helpers of the family, church and state, including the Vatican church and the Vatican state, that valid (“joined together” [Mt 19:6]) and proper (“shall become one” [Mt 19:5]) family members of valid and proper marriages can and must require from their helpers the respect for what they consider to be their rights: “… which in saving the family, will save society itself.” (Post Synodal Exhortation of Pope St John Paul 11, Christifideles Laici, “On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World”, CL, 1988, 40).

  4. I stand by my assertion that Pope Francis and Cardinal Parolin are complicit in this corruption, and should also be in the dock alongside Becciu.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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  2. FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit
  3. Rule by law has replaced rule of law at the Vatican – Catholic World Report – The Old Roman
  4. The Vatican’s “trial of the century” has turned into a parody of itself – Catholic World Report – The Old Roman

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