Angelo Sodano’s background: the Godfather of the Vatican


The main accusation against the Vatican in the pederasty scandal is that it has covered up for the guilty in recent decades. As more becomes known, Benedict XVI, then Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981, comes out better as someone who tried to deal uncompromisingly with the allegations, as opposed to another, more powerful sector of the Curia that chose to cover them up. As Ratzinger bitterly put it in 1995 when he found himself held back from acting on the scandal of Vienna Cardinal Hermann Groer (whom the Vatican excommunicated for sexually assaulting young Benedictine novices), “the other side has won”. He confessed this to Cardinal Christopher Schönborn. But Schönborn added that “the other side” was led by Angelo Sodano, whom he accused of having blocked five years earlier the creation of a commission of inquiry into Groer’s sexual abuse. This was an unprecedented Vatican infighting to go public.

One of the most serious accusations against Sodano is that he was the protector of Mexico’s Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, an ultra-conservative order promoted by John Paul II, who is now considered by the Holy See to be “an unscrupulous criminal”. After the investigation ordered by Benedict XVI, it turned out that he was a paedophile, had two wives, three children, three different identities and managed funds worth millions. There were allegations against him in the Vatican, but thanks to Sodano they were bogged down.

The National Catholic Reporter, a prestigious American Catholic publication, has published a devastating investigation that denounces how Maciel bought his protection in Rome with donations to Sodano and other heavyweights of John Paul II’s old guard, such as his personal secretary, Stanislaus Dziwisz, who was archbishop of Krakow, and the Spaniard Eduardo Martinez Somalo. The magazine claims that Maciel paid Sodano US$10,000 for a talk and organised the 200-cover banquet for his appointment as cardinal in 1991. Maciel also hired Sodano’s nephew Andrea, an engineer, to build the order’s lavish university in Rome. Another reputable publication, America, of the American Jesuits, reacted thus: “There is a cardinal whose head must roll, Sodano”.

He started out in a diplomatic career and was nuncio in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship. He had a friendly relationship with him and was one of the architects of John Paul II’s controversial visit to the country in 1987. It was during this visit that Karol Wojtyla was famously locked in, as he was shown a door behind a curtain and suddenly appeared on the balcony with the dictator, where photographers were waiting for him.

Nevertheless, something about Sodano’s opaque and sinuous character must have appealed to John Paul II, who appointed him Secretary of State in 1991. In 1999 Sodano still remembered his friend Pinochet and intervened in his defence on humanitarian grounds when he was arrested in London. “The Holy See is in the front line when it comes to defending human rights in any area,” he claimed when it became known.

In 1994, Sodano had another offender close to him, his own brother Alessandro, convicted of corruption in “Clean Hands”, and it was even more so in 2008 with his nephew Andrea, the engineer. He was a partner of Raffaello Follieri, an executive and playboy swindler who posed as a Vatican man in the United States. He was young, a millionaire, a friend of Bill Clinton and his girlfriend was the actress AnneHathaway, until he was arrested by the FBI and got four years in prison. They had a curious idea to make money: to buy up the real estate properties of US dioceses bankrupted by the pederasty scandal at a good price.

The clergy sex abuse scandal and its institutional cover-up in Chile probably all but closed the chapter on his long reign as the Vatican’s most influential. But it will not erase the immense, and not always positive, impact he has had on the church and its institutional shape to which he devoted his long and prodigious life as a career diplomat of the Holy See.

One incident in which his power and influence were particularly decisive dates back to 22 June 2006. On that day, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Sodano was retiring and handed the job of Secretary of State to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a trusted aide from the Pope’s time as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Although the transition would not take effect until three months later (15 September), it was on that day that Benedict XVI inflicted a mortal wound and slowness on his own pontificate by rejecting Cardinal Sodano.

The Italian had tried to dissuade him from choosing Bertone for the post that was de facto second only to the Pope in the Vatican hierarchy. In the weeks leading up to the retirement, Sodano had advised Benedict to select an experienced diplomat for the post, which was not Bertone, a mediocre canon lawyer and Salesian.

One of the names on the outgoing list of candidates proposed by the Secretary of State was Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican’s “Minister of Foreign Affairs” at the time.

Lajolo was one of Sodano’s trusted allies and came from the same region of Italy as him, Piedmont. But, more importantly, Lajolo had also been papal nuncio to Germany (1995-2003) and spoke the Pope’s native language, which his cardinal protector believed made him an attractive choice for Benedict to accept.

But the now Pope Emeritus rejected Sodano’s advice and insisted on appointing Bertone. In doing so, he lost the vital support of the majority of Vatican diplomats in the Roman Curia, led by Angelo Sodano, who astutely fed the narrative that the pope had marginalised them by choosing the undiplomatic Bertone. From that moment on, Ratzinger’s pontificate went from one major crisis to another, both within the Vatican and on the world stage. After nearly eight agonising years he and his small circle of trusted aides were largely isolated. Faced with all this, the venerable theologian Pope resigned.

Sodano and his allies survived, however, and at the 2013 conclave, as dean of the College of Cardinals, his duties included presiding at mass and moderating the pre-conclave discussions. It is known for certain that once the vote was underway, he had persuaded other cardinals to cast their votes for Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ, the man who is now Pope Francis.

It is unclear whether Sodano delivered the decisive votes for the election of the Argentine pope, but those counts were essential. And Francis was and remains aware of that.

He began his pontificate in full knowledge that Sodano still had considerable reach and influence over much of what was happening in ecclesiastical Rome. He also had personal experience of the former Secretary of State’s fervent willingness to decide and promote, especially in Latin America, at least since the 1970s, political decisions and appointments of bishops.

During the 1992 CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Conferences) meeting in Santo Domingo, Bergoglio, as a newly ordained auxiliary bishop, witnessed how Cardinal Sodano – together with one of his Chilean protégés, the future Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez – went over the bishops’ heads and, although not entirely successfully, tried to dictate the content of the meeting’s final document.

Besides his native Italy, Latin America is probably the part of the world that Angelo Sodano loved most. During his more than 50 years of service to the Holy See, his only diplomatic postings abroad were there. His first assignments as a priest were in Ecuador (1961-1963), Uruguay (1963-1965) and Chile (1965-1967). After another ten years in Rome in the Secretariat of State, he returned to Chile in early 1978, newly ordained to the episcopate and ready to serve a full decade as apostolic nuncio.

Sodano, more than any other Vatican official, played a decisive role in the formation of Chile’s episcopal leadership. From the rise of the late Cardinal Jorge Medina to that of Bishop Juan Barros, linked to the Karadima case, Sodano’s fingerprints are everywhere.

When he became Secretary of State, Sodano was able to continue to exert his influence over the appointment of bishops in Chile (and elsewhere) as a member of the Congregation of Bishops, a post he held until 2007.

It is highly likely that Sodano intervened in the Barros case and advised Pope Francis not to listen to recurring accusations that the bishop turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children by his mentor, Fernando Karadima.

Who knows how many more times he used his power and position to stop investigations into crimes committed by his ecclesiastical colleagues out of concern for “the good of the church”?

Finally, and boasting of Sodano’s extensive and dark tentacles, Henry Kissinger himself called him the world’s most cunning politician-diplomat. Too bad he used that cunning to do evil. It will be difficult for his soul to rest in peace.

Complete Article HERE!

San Diego Bishop McElroy named by Pope Francis as a cardinal

Robert W. McElroy, bishop of the diocese of San Diego, attends a conference at the Vatican on nuclear disarmament in 2017.


Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, one of Pope Francis’ ideological allies who has often sparred with more conservative U.S. bishops, was named by the pope on Sunday as one of 21 new cardinals.

The San Diego diocese said McElroy will be installed by Pope Francis on Aug. 27 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Among his notable stances, McElroy, 68, has been one of a minority of U.S. bishops harshly criticizing the campaign to exclude Catholic politicians who support abortion rights from Communion.

“It will bring tremendously destructive consequences,” McElroy wrote in May 2021. “The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare. This must not happen.”

In selecting McElroy, Francis passed over the higher-ranking archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone. Earlier this month, Cordileone said he would no longer allow U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.

McElroy, in a statement, said he was “stunned and deeply surprised” by the news of his appointment.

“My prayer is that in this ministry I might be of additional service to the God who has graced me on so many levels in my life,” he said. “And I pray also that I can assist the Holy Father in his pastoral renewal of the Church.”

A native San Franciscan, McElroy received a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard in 1975 and a master’s in history from Stanford in 1976.

He studied at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, and in 1985 received a theology degree at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. He obtained a doctorate in moral theology at the Gregorian University in Rome the following year and a PhD in political science at Stanford in 1989.

He was ordained a priest in 1980 and assigned to the San Francisco diocese, where he served in a parish before becoming personal secretary to Archbishop John Quinn. Other California parish assignments included Redwood City and San Mateo.

He became an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco in 2010. In 2015, early in Francis’ pontificate, he was named bishop of San Diego.

Over recent years, McElroy has been among the relatively few U.S. bishops who questioned why the bishops’ conference insisted on identifying abortion as its “preeminent” priority. He has questioned why greater prominence was not given to issues such as racism, poverty, immigration and climate change.

“The death toll from abortion is more immediate, but the long-term death toll from unchecked climate change is larger and threatens the very future of humanity,” he said in a speech in 2020.

Last year, he was among a small group of bishops signing a statement expressing support for LGBTQ youth and denouncing the bullying often directed at them.

The bishops’ statement said LGBTQ youth attempt suicide at much higher rates, are often homeless because of families who reject them and “are the target of violent acts at alarming rates.”

“We take this opportunity to say to our LGBT friends, especially young people, that we stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you,” it read. “Most of all, know that God created you, God loves you and God is on your side.”

The Diocese of San Diego runs the length of California’s border with Mexico and serves more than 1.3 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties. It includes 98 parishes, 49 elementary and secondary schools, and, through Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego, various social service and family support organizations throughout the region.

Complete Article HERE!

New head of Italian bishops launches sex abuse query

The new president of the Italian Conference of Bishops on Friday said he would launch an independent inquiry on sex abuse by Catholic clergy in Italy, but the announcement disappointed victims advocates because it will only go back 20 years.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the new head of the Italian bishops conference, arrives for a press conference in Rome, Friday, May 27, 2022. Pope Francis named a bishop in his own image, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, as the new head of the Italian bishops conference, as the Italian Catholic Church comes under mounting pressure to confront its legacy of clerical sexual abuse with an independent inquiry.

By Paolo Santalucia

The Italian church is coming under mountain pressure to confront its legacy of clerical sexual abuse. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who was appointed this week by Pope Francis, said the investigation will limit its scope to two decades in order to be “more accurate and accountable.”

Zuppi promised a report would be delivered by Nov. 18 by a panel of independent experts selected among university professors.

“We are starting from them (the victims),’’ Zuppi told a news conference. “It is clear that their suffering drives us, and it should stimulate us to give responses that are trustworthy and serious.”

Victims’ advocates say the initiative does not go far enough. They want investigations to span 50 years, and they want to be directly involved in drafting the report.

Francesco Zanardi, founder of Rete L’Abuso (Abuse Network), one of Italy’s main victims’ advocacy groups, said most of the victims report the abuse only after decades have passed.

“The maturation of a trauma takes between 30, 35 or 40 years, when it goes well,’’ Zanardi told reporters in Rome. “I, for example, spoke about my trauma (when I was) 40 years old … more than 30 years went by … this says that 20 years is not enough.”< The Italian Catholic Church is one of the few in Western Europe that has not opened its archives to independent researchers to establish the scope of abuse and cover-up in recent decades. Whether by government mandate, parliamentary investigation or church initiation, such reports in Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France have shown systematic problems that allowed thousands of children to be abused by Catholic priests. The churches in Spain and Portugal have recently agreed to launch similar investigations. By Zanardi’s count, 164 priests are under investigation for abuse in Italy and another 162 have been convicted. His group has gathered information another 161 new cases that have come to light this year. Complete Article HERE!

Pelosi vs. Cordileone isn’t only about abortion.

It’s about women and bishops.

The list of reasons Catholic women stopped listening to bishops is a long one.


In October 2021, Pope Francis initiated a two-year “Synod on Synodality,” aimed at finding out what Catholics and others think about the church. He may get more than he asked for.

Preliminary results indicate one thing: Women are fed up. They like Francis well enough, but they are not much interested in what bishops and priests have to say.


The latest kerfuffle between San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is at the tip of a very big iceberg.

Pelosi’s perceived support of legalized abortion at the federal level collides with Catholic teaching. Hairsplitters who support her will argue that she does not support or promote or procure abortions, she simply supports current American law and works to preserve it.

Hairsplitters on Cordileone’s side will argue that because Pelosi is perceived to be, as they say, “pro-abortion,” she creates public scandal and therefore must be denied access to the Catholic sacrament of Communion. They say the Code of Canon Law trumps U.S. law.

But Pelosi and Cordileone’s battle may be seen more broadly as one battle in a decades-long disintegration of trust between women and the bishops.

Some say it all started with Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” which ignored the recommendation of his own Pontifical Commission on Birth Control. Eight years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved the first oral contraceptive pill, the pope took some 7,000 words to say “no” to contraceptive measures beyond what came to be known as “natural family planning.”

Catholic women in the United States and around the world ignored the pope’s decision. You didn’t have to track sales of “the pill” to realize what was going on. Jokes about the size of Catholic families suddenly became a gauzy memory. Women were clearly listening to the opinions of the men in the pulpit, then returning to their homes to manage their private matters as they saw fit.

Once women began to bypass church teaching on birth control, they found other reasons to ignore the bishops. At the top of that list are clerical sex abuse and the subsequent episcopal cover-up. But there is also the question of allowing women to be active participants in Masses, and the ordination of women.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law decreed any layperson could perform the duties of lector and acolyte, or altar server. It took another decade before the Vatican agreed that “any layperson” included women. To this day, many bishops around the world want women kept away from the altar, despite Francis’ updates to the law that allow women to be formally installed as lectors and acolytes.

Ordaining women as priests is not a discussion the hierarchy is going to have, but ordaining women as deacons is a distinct question. Women were ordained as deacons in the early church. No matter: The naysayers connect the two orders, saying because women priests are definitively forbidden, so also are women deacons. (They overlook the fact that their logic fails. If the two orders are so connected, then the historical fact of ordained women deacons may be used to argue for women priests.)

The arguments over ordination, altar servers, lectors and birth control are all debatable, however. The definitive nature of church teaching on abortion is clear.

But all the same, for a bishop to make a public event out of a private discussion is unseemly. Before she was elected to Congress, Pelosi had five children — after the FDA approved the birth control pill. She is proud of her Catholic heritage.

Pelosi is the most powerful Democrat in the Congress. Would Cordileone, or any other bishop, prefer a non-Catholic? Or is the problem that Pelosi is female?

Complete Article HERE!