Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Pope resignation releases a flood of rumors

What should have been an earth-shattering story has been met with a resounding “ho-hum.”
There are rumors all over the web as to the reasons behind the resignation of the Pope:

  • He’s being sued by victims of pedophile priests he protected in his last job before becoming pope.
  • There is an arrest warrant out for him in connection with the Vatican Bank scandal.
  • The Vatican is about to be scandalized by the “vatileaks” report, detailing gay liaisons within Vatican City.
What no one is buying is that he’s retiring because he’s old. Sure he’s old. Every pope since Celestine V has stayed in office until he died or was pushed out. That tends to make a person old.
(Celestine V was a hermit-monk who was ‘drafted’ to be pope in 1294 after the College of Cardinals had for two years argued over a replacement for Nicholas IV. He remained for five months, then wrote an edict that allowed popes to resign and went back to being a hermit.)
Which, if any, of the rumors is true we will probably never know.
Are there gay priests, bishops and cardinals behind the bushes and outbuildings of the Vatican engaging in conduct condemned in the Bible? Is the pope Catholic?
Have Vatican bankers been caught with their hands in the cookie jar? Over and over again. In 1987 arrest warrants were issued for Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, head of the Vatican bank, to answer charges regarding the role of the Vatican bank in a $1.3 billion loss and collapse of an Italian bank. The money was never recovered; the Vatican, swearing its innocence, nevertheless paid a $250 million settlement. Marcinkus spent the remainder of his life either within the Vatican itself – a sovereign state into which Italian officials could not enter to serve their warrants – or within the ‘diplomatic immunity’ of various Vatican-owned vehicles, until his death in a church-owned property here in Phoenix in 2006. (If you’ve never read it, I strongly recommend the book In God’s Name by David Yallop)
One of Benedict’s last official acts as pope was to appoint a new head of the Vatican bank because: anyone, anyone, Bueller? You guessed it, the bank’s in trouble again. The former bank head had been under investigation for two years. In September 2010 Italian authorities seized $30 million in a money laundering scandal. The money was eventually returned to the Vatican, but the investigation continued. When the Vatican failed to achieve the level of financial transparency required by banking authorities, their credit was frozen. As a result everyone inside the Vatican – from Cardinals to tourists – for the past two months has needed to carry cash – ATM machines and credit card readers are all blocked.
Could it be that the arrangements for the retiring pope to remain on Vatican grounds are, as with Paul Marcinkus, to avoid the embarrassment of his being served with an arrest warrant?
So far, the only positive news to come on the financial front is that Italy closed a loophole the Church was using to avoid paying taxes on commercial properties. But even that news is tainted by religious favoritism… Italian authorities, good Catholics all, no doubt, have decided not to go after the billions of euros the Church legally owes in back taxes.
Then there’s the pedophile scandal. More on that in a later column.
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