Vatican paper brands leakers irresponsible “wolves”

The Vatican newspaper on Wednesday suggested those responsible for revealing sensitive internal documents alleging corruption and a cover-up were irresponsible, undignified “wolves,” the latest twist in what has become known as “Vatileaks.”

But an editorial in the Osservatore Romano, while renewing criticism of some media handling of the scandal, also said that the Catholic Church should see the current image crisis as a chance to purify itself.

It was the latest chapter in a saga in which the Vatican has had to scramble to deal with what one spokesman called its own version of “Wikileaks” and what the Italian media have dubbed “Vatileaks.” It also coincided with the publication of new leaks about the Vatican bank.

The editorial was ostensibly to mark the 30th anniversary of the arrival in Rome from Germany of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected pope in 2005, to take up the powerful post as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal enforcer.

But in a section about current events, it described the pope as a man who “is not stopped by wolves” and that he was ready to stand up to “irresponsible and undignified behavior.”

A senior Vatican official familiar with the newspaper’s editorial line, asked if that part of the editorial which referred to wolves was criticizing those who have leaked the documents, said “even them” and added: “They certainly are not boy scouts.”

From leaked letters by an archbishop who was transferred after he blew the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption and cronyism, to a leaked poison pen memo which puts a number of cardinals in a bad light, to new suspicions about its bank, Vatican spokesmen have had their work cut out responding.

But the editorial said the Church should see the entire episode, which some say is part of a power struggle inside the Vatican, as an opportunity for renewal.

The “irresponsible and undignified behavior,” the editorial said, “winds up becoming intertwined with the noise of the media, which is inevitable and certainly not disinterested, but which we need to see as an occasion for purification in the Church.”

EMBARRASSING LEAKS

The flurry of leaks has come at an embarrassing time – just before a usually joyful ceremony this week known as a consistory, when Benedict will admit more prelates into the College of Cardinals, the exclusive men’s club that will one day pick the next Roman Catholic leader from among their own ranks.

The latest image crisis began last month when an Italian television investigative show broadcast private letters to Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the pope from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former deputy governor of Vatican City and currently the Vatican ambassador in Washington.

The letters showed that Vigano was transferred after he exposed what he argued was a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to contractors at inflated prices.

Other leaks centre on the Vatican bank, which is trying to put past scandals behind it. They include the collapse 30 years ago of Banco Ambrosiano in a tangle of lurid allegations about money-laundering, freemasons, mafias and the mysterious 1982 death of Ambrosiano chairman Roberto Calvi – “God’s banker.”

The Vatican bank, formally known at the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), aims to comply fully with EU standards on financial transparency in order to make Europe’s “white list” by June.

But the Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper which has published most of the leaked documents about the Vatican bank, ran more confidential letters on Wednesday which it said pointed to an internal clash over just how transparent the bank should be about its past dealings.

Complete Article HERE!

More dirty laundry

Incoming Fresno Bishop Armando Ochoa has been sued by five parishioners from an El Paso, Texas, parish who say the bishop converted funds they donated specifically for construction of a chapel for the traditional Latin Mass to other uses — and they want their money back.

A Mass of Installation for Bishop Ochoa is scheduled tomorrow in Fresno. Pope Benedict XVI named him as the new Fresno bishop on Dec. 1. Before leaving El Paso, where he had been bishop since 1996, Bishop Ochoa took the extraordinary step of suing one of his priests, Fr. Michael Rodriguez. The bishop’s lawsuit alleges that Fr. Rodriguez, a problematic and outspoken priest, committed financial irregularities and violations of diocesan policy on the handling of parish funds.

The parishioners’ lawsuit, announced in a Jan. 30 press release, is the latest development in the ongoing legal battle. The five parishioners say that more than six weeks ago they asked for a meeting with Bishop Ochoa “to resolve this situation in private and in a spirit of Christian charity,” but never received a response from the chancery.

“We did not donate our money in order for it to be seized by the diocese or San Juan Bautista Parish and used for other purposes,” said the news release. “We simply asked that our money be used for the specific intention for which it had been donated or that it be returned to the rightful owners.”

In a Jan. 11 press release, Bishop Ochoa said Fr. Rodriguez had been removed as administrator of San Juan Bautista Parish on Sept. 20, 2011 “based on credible information and documents that show that he intentionally and materially failed to comply with the Manual of Policies and Procedures of Parish Finances of the Roman Catholic Diocese of El Paso.”

“Fr. Rodriguez’s handling and use of donated funds has compromised the financial integrity of San Juan Bautista,” Bishop Ochoa said in the press release. “I have appealed repeatedly to Fr. Rodriguez to make a complete disclosure and a thorough accounting of his financial administration of the parish but he has refused to do so.”

The bishop said Fr. Rodriguez’s refusal to provide financial information left him with no alternative but to file a lawsuit against the priest and his brother, David Rodriguez.
The parishioners’ lawsuit sheds new light on the conflict between Fr. Rodriguez and Bishop Ochoa. According to the suit, beginning in 2007, parishioners
“expressed a desire to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the Usus Antiquior of the Roman Rite and to do so with the installation of an altar and sanctuary designed for such Mass.”

Their donations, said the parishioners, “were not to be used for any other purpose.” Fr. Rodriguez, they said, collected the money and moved forward with plans for the altar and sanctuary, including the approval of architectural plans.

Parishioners James Herget and Marie Celeste Herget allege in the suit they contributed $32,820; parishioners Mario A. Macias and Francella Macias estimate their donations at $6200; and parishioner Aurora L. Alvarado alleges she contributed $1070. All of them ask that their money either be used to complete the traditional altar and sanctuary — or be returned to them.

Bishop Ochoa and Fr. Rodriguez have been at odds since 2010, when the priest began attending city council meetings to speak out against homosexuality. Fr. Rodriguez also authored several opinion pieces in the El Paso Times critical of the El Paso City Council for extending health insurance to all employees regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

When Fr. Rodriguez became involved in a recall campaign against some in city government responsible for that policy, Bishop Ochoa removed him as parish administrator. “This type of intervention in the political process by religious organizations such as the Diocese of El Paso and San Juan Bautista Church is not permitted under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code,” said Bishop Ochoa in a statement issued at the time.

Fr. Rodriguez has adamantly denied any wrongdoing, saying that Bishop Ochoa’s allegations that he improperly handled donated funds were not true.

“I have always honored, respected, and made good use of the financial patrimony of San Juan Bautista,” said Fr. Rodriguez in a Jan. 12 statement. “I stake my entire reputation on this claim.”

According to Fr. Rodriguez, he met with Bishop Ochoa on Sept. 20, 2011, and “opened my heart to my bishop, like a son to a father, and was completely honest and forthcoming with him as to the financial affairs of San Juan Bautista. I told him everything. He chose not to believe me… I have never misappropriated or misused parish funds.”

Fr. Rodriguez said “the real reason” for Bishop Ochoa’s lawsuit against him “is due to my defense of the Catholic Church’s teaching with regard to homosexuality as well as my adherence to the Roman Liturgy of 1962.” He said he would “continue to proclaim and teach the truths of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the area of sexual morality, no matter the cost” and would also “continue to adhere to the Ancient Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, no matter the cost.”

True to his word, Fr. Rodriguez was back before the El Paso City Council yesterday with a statement attempting to explain the Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality to his elected representatives.

Complete Article HERE!

Corruption scandal shakes Vatican as internal letters leaked

Say it ain’t so! Vatican and scandal in the same sentence? Can’t be!

The Vatican was shaken by a corruption scandal on Thursday after an Italian television investigation said a former top official had been transferred against his will after complaining about irregularities in awarding contracts.

The show “The Untouchables” on the respected private television network La 7 on Wednesday night showed what it said were several letters that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was then deputy-governor of Vatican City, sent to superiors, including Pope Benedict, in 2011 about the corruption.

The Vatican issued a statement on Thursday criticising the “methods” used in the journalistic investigation. But it confirmed that the letters were authentic by expressing “sadness over the publication of reserved documents”.

As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state’s gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure.

Vigano, currently the Vatican’s ambassador in Washington, said in the letters that when he took the job in 2009 he discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.

In one letter, Vigano tells the pope of a smear campaign against him (Vigano) by other Vatican officials who wanted him transferred because they were upset that he had taken drastic steps to save the Vatican money by cleaning up its procedures.

“Holy Father, my transfer right now would provoke much disorientation and discouragement in those who have believed it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of power that have been rooted in the management of so many departments,” Vigano wrote to the pope on March 27, 2011.

In another letter to the pope on April 4, 2011, Vigano says he discovered the management of some Vatican City investments was entrusted to two funds managed by a committee of Italian bankers “who looked after their own interests more than ours”.

LOSS OF $2.5 MILLION, 550,000 EURO NATIVITY SCENE

Vigano says in the same letter that in one single financial transaction in December, 2009, “they made us lose two and a half million dollars”.

The programme interviewed a man it identified as a member of the bankers’ committee who said Vigano had developed a reputation as a “ballbreaker” among companies that had contracts with the Vatican, because of his insistence on transparency and competition.

The man’s face was blurred on the transmission and his voice was distorted in order to conceal his identity.

In one of the letters to the pope, Vigano said Vatican-employed maintenance workers were demoralised because “work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican”.

For example, when Vigano discovered that the cost of the Vatican’s larger than life nativity scene in St Peter’s Square was 550,000 euros in 2009, he chopped 200,000 euros off the cost for the next Christmas, the programme said.

Even though, Vigano’s cost-cutting and transparency campaign helped turned Vatican City’s budget from deficit to surplus during his tenure, in 2011 unsigned articles criticising him as inefficient appeared in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

On March 22, 2011, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone informed Vigano that he was being removed from his position, even though it was to have lasted until 2014.

Five days later he wrote to Bertone complaining that he was left “dumbfounded” by the ouster and because Bertone’s motives for his removal were identical to those published in an anonymous article published against him in Il Giornale that month.

In early April, Vigano went over Bertone’s head again and wrote directly to the pope, telling him that he had worked hard to “eliminate corruption, private interests and dysfunction that are widespread in various departments”.

He also tells the pope in the same letter that “no-one should be surprised about the press campaign against me” because he tried to root out corruption and had made enemies.

Despite his appeals to the pope that a transfer, even if it meant a promotion, “would be a defeat difficult for me to accept”, Vigano was named ambassador to Washington in October of last year after the sudden death of the previous envoy to the United States.

In its statement, the Vatican said the journalistic investigation had treated complicated subjects in a “partial and banal way” and could take steps to defend the “honour of morally upright people” who loyally serve the Church.

The statement said that today’s administration was a continuation of the “correct and transparent management that inspired Monsignor Vigano”.

Complete Article HERE!