An Italian News programme yesterday reported on alleged corruption within the Holy See. Associated Press have reported it, and we publish the Vatican response below:
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Nicole Winfield, Associated Press VATICAN CITY –
An Italian news program has obtained letters from a top Vatican official to the pope in which he begs not to be transferred after exposing corruption in the awarding of Vatican contracts that cost the Holy See millions of euros (dollars).
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano was removed in October as the No. 2 administrator of the Vatican city-state and was named the pope’s ambassador to Washington. While the job is highly prestigious, the posting took Vigano far from headquarters and out of the running for the Vatican’s top administrative job, which carries with it the rank of cardinal.
The investigative news program “The Untouchables” on the private La7 network broadcast a series of letters Vigano sent Pope Benedict XVI and the secretary of state last year in which he claimed to have exposed corruption and abuse of office in the running of the Vatican’s administration.
Vigano said he corrected them during his two years as secretary-general of the Vatican city-state, the Vatican department that is responsible for everything from maintaining the pope’s gardens to running the Vatican Museums.
But in the process of cutting costs, Vigano made enemies who he blamed for launching a smear campaign in the Italian media in 2011 calling for his removal that, he claimed, sealed his fate.
“Blessed Father, my transfer in this moment would provoke confusion and discouragement for those who thought it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of office” that for a long time have been rooted in the Vatican administration, Vigano wrote Benedict on March 27, 2011.
Seven months later he was named ambassador to Washington after the sudden death of the previous envoy following complications from surgery.
Vigano claimed that when he came into office in 2009 he discovered a small coterie of businesses held the vast majority of Vatican contracts and charged the Holy See twice the going rate for services, according to the letters shown on the La7 report.
The Vatican’s larger-than-life-sized nativity scene, for example, cost the Holy See euro550,000 in 2009. Vigano said he trimmed the cost for the 2010 edition to euro300,000.
He denounced the workings of an unofficial group of Italian bankers appointed after the global financial crisis to try to shore up the Vatican’s finances, charging that their management of two investment funds “resulted more in their own interests than ours.”
In one Dec. 9 transaction they lost the Vatican $2.5 million, the letter on La7 said.
An email seeking comment from Vigano at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington was not returned Wednesday. The Vatican spokesman said he had no immediate comment on the report.
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the recently retired head of the Vatican’s finance department, was asked by the show’s host if Vigano’s claims of corruption were well-founded.
“From what I know, I don’t think there was actual corruption,” De Paolis said. But he suggested that there may well have been “instances of a lack of correctness” that can happen anywhere.
Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, insisted on the show that Vigano’s transfer to Washington wasn’t a punishment for exposing wrongdoing or stepping on too many toes. He noted that Vigano had been in the Vatican’s diplomatic service for years and said he was being promoted to the Holy See’s most important overseas post.
“He wasn’t sent away. He was made the pope’s representative in Washington!” Vian said.
The show was hosted by Gianlugi Nuzzi, author of Vatican SpA, a 2009 book outlining the shady dealings of the Vatican bank that was based on a trove of leaked Vatican documents.
PRESS NOTE ON ITALIAN TELEVISION PROGRAMME
VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) – At midday today the Holy See Press Office
published a note written by its director, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J.,
concerning a television programme, “Gli intoccabili”, transmitted yesterday
evening by Italy’s “La7” television network. Fr. Lombardi highlights the
“questionable journalistic methods” with which the programme was made, and
his “disappointment at the revelation of reserved documents”, noting that
such things often form part of the “biased coverage of the Vatican and the
The Holy See Press Office director then turns to focus on two
considerations “which were not given space in the course of the debate”.
Firstly “the activities of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano as secretary
general of the Governorate of Vatican City State certainly had many positive
aspects, as he contributed to the efforts being made to ensure
administrative rigour, economisation and the improvement of what was a
difficult overall economic situation. … However, a fairer evaluation would
have taken account of the trends of the market, the investment criteria
adopted over recent years, and other important circumstances. … Certain
accusations – some very serious – made during the course of the programme,
especially those concerning the members of the Finance and Management
Committee of the Governorate and the Secretariat of State, will lead both
the Secretariat of State and the Governorate to adopt all measures
(including if necessary legal measures) to protect the honour of morally
upright and highly professional people who serve the Church, the Pope and
the common good. In any case, the positive criteria of correct and
transparent management which inspired Archbishop Vigano certainly continue
to guide the current directors of the Governorate. … This is in keeping
with the policy to which the Holy See is committed of increasing
transparency and attentively monitoring of economic activities”.
Secondly “the difficult process of discerning the various aspects involved
in managing a complex institution such as the Governorate – which are not
limited to administrative rigour – was presented in a superficial and biased
manner, highlighting the evidently negative aspects with the simplistic
result of presenting the structures of government in the Church as being,
not so much affected by human frailty (which would be easily
understandable), as profoundly characterised by arguments, divisions and
power struggles. … Yet, all this disinformation will certainly not obscure
the daily and serene efforts towards increasing transparency in all Vatican
institutions. … In this context, it must be decisively affirmed that
entrusting Archbishop Vigano with the role of apostolic nuncio to the United
States – one of the most important roles in Vatican diplomacy given the
importance of the country and of the Catholic Church there – is proof of
unquestionable respect and trust”.
“The Vatican’s larger-than-life-sized nativity scene, for example, cost the Holy See euro 550,000 in 2009. Vigano said he trimmed the cost for the 2010 edition to euro 300,000.”
Couple of shepherds here, couple of oxen there, soon adds up… (Do we really need ALL THREE wise men, anyway?)
These issues of financial accountability incompetence and partisan interest and petty personal disputes, in the management of what elsewhere would be purely local affairs of no interest outside the local community, are necessarily exacerbated into national and sometimes international issues where they occur in a microstate or some similar offshore territory.
But it is a mistake to imagine that these issues of municipal micromanagement should concern anyone apart from the Citizens and the working population of Vatican State, whose tax contributions will have financed this Christmas extravaganza.