Saturday, July 6, 2013


I don't think anyone should underestimate what Pope Francis and Pope Benedict did yesterday to consecrate the Vatican to St. Michael the Archangel. Pope Francis once again spoke of the devil, too numerous now to count how many times he has done so in his short papacy.

Every corruption in the Church from the Vatican to our local parishes is placed at the foot of the devil by this pope. There are powers and principalities working against the Church and perhaps the final battle has begun in time. But in heaven where there is no time the battle is complete, all who are redeemed are there, even you and me, if we have participated in the saving ministry of Jesus and His Church, the Bridegroom and His Bride. Of course the gifts of Love, Hope and Faith, the Light of Faith are necessary and God gives us these graces.

But this article is from the German newspaper, Der Spiegel
By Hans-J├╝rgen Schlamp in Rome, SPIEGEL
July 6, 2013

Pope's Reform Path: Francis Shakes Up Church Establishment

It appears Pope Francis truly wants to change the Catholic Church. He's reforming the Vatican Bank first, but he's also circumventing the old guard wherever he can. The establishment is up in arms.

A cardinal in Rome earns about ?3,000 ($3,888) a month, even less than a pastor in Germany. But a cardinal's life in Rome is a lot more expensive -- with visits to restaurants and shopping at boutiques for the upscale clothing men of the church are expected to wear, not to mention their jewelry and the antiques they display in their apartments. So it's good to have friends who can treat you or otherwise provide support now and then.

Friends are also happy to give a cardinal a hand -- and not just out of religious considerations. A cardinal can be helpful in both political and business terms. So it's not surprising that a symbiotic relationship between parts of the Curia and the upper class around the world has formed -- one that brings together the establishment, luxury and power. It's a nice little tradition that new Pope Francis would like to put an end to. For the Catholic establishment, though, it is nothing less than a catastrophe.

Even before his enthronement as pope, when he was still a cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had spoken clearly about this. During his speech to the cardinal conclave, he warned that, "When the church does not emerge from itself to evangalize, it becomes self-referential and therefore becomes sick." He warned of "self-referentiality" and "theological narcissism." He also criticized a "mundane church that lives within itself, of itself and for itself." And it appears the Argentinian pope meant this criticism seriously. In fact, he demonstrates that every day.

Instead of wearing a gold cross, he has one of steel. And he lives in a sparsely furnished apartment in the Santa Marta guest house rather than in the Apostolic Palace. Instead of taking his seat in the Vatican concert hall to listen to classical music, he recently remained at his desk working on the final version of his decree for the church-state's own Institute for Religious Works (IOR) bank. With his signature, he created a powerful special papal commission to review the bank's activities. He also said the new commission must change everything at the Vatican Bank, as it is also known. He said the Vatican certainly needed a bank, but its areas of business should only reach a "certain point."

A Papal Bank with Mafia Contacts

For decades now, the IOR has been in the headlines for one scandal after the other. At the beginning of the 1980s, it was at the center of one of the darkest crime thrillers in postwar Italian history. The scandal surrounded billions in business with the mafia, and a Vatican banker was hanged from a London bridge by a killer commando.

But the chain of scandals never let up. When, in autumn 2010, fresh suspicions of money laundering to the tune of triple-digit millions emerged, then Pope Benedict XVI promised stricter rules for his financial managers. In fact, though, nothing changed. In the so-called Vatileaks scandal, secret documents that had been smuggled out of the Vatican shed light on bizarre intrigues inside the papal state. Often, the Vatican Bank played a role in those intrigues. Benedict XVI was appalled, but also overwhelmed. He failed to prevail over the powerful cardinals who backed the IOR. His resignation was the logical outcome.

German Baron Takes Helm of Bank

His successor is taking more decisive action. First, he fired Nunzio Scarano, the top accountant in the Vatican office that oversees Vatican property and investments, after he was accused of money laundering and corruption and arrested. Then, practically overnight, he forced out IOR Director Paulo Cipriani and his deputy. Now the bank will be led by Ernst von Freyberg, a German baron and former consultant, member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the president of the IOR supervisory board since mid-February.

Between now and October, Pope Francis wants to ensure clarity and also determine how the financial institute will handle its duties in harmony with the "church's mission" in the future. A that point, a new structure will be created for the bank and a new boss will be appointed.

"Did we actually vote for someone who really believes in what he preaches?" some within the Curia are now whispering. Once again, Francis has taken them fully by surprise. In an almost demonstrative manner, he has been excluding the Vatican apparatus in every way he can. Most recently, this happened with the trip the pope announced he would take on Monday to the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, first learned of the planned trip through a papal press release. And instead of the kind of months of advance-team work used by heads of the Catholic Church for trips in the past, Francis has dispensed with that. Instead, the eccentric Argentinian pope ordered his staff to prepare a plane so that he could fly there in the morning and be back by midday.

Thousands of refugees have arrived at Lamedusa each year in desperation after making the journey across the Mediterranean from North Africa in small, dangerous boats. Francis wants to pray together with them and also throw a wreath into the sea to commemorate those who have lost their lives trying to make it to Europe. The pope has announced that he doesn't want to meet with the mayor or other authorities. He also also ordered church officials to stay away.


rcg said...

That is music to my ears. I hope it is true.

Hammer of Fascists said...

The article didn't strike me as cynical. Maybe it's my Protestant/puritanical streak showing, but the type of corruption it recounts is one reason Luther was so successful, and it's impossible to justify. Catholics need to recognize that there is a problem and deal with it decisively, or Catholicism will suffer. I agree with rcg.

Anonymous said...

I really like this article!

Gene said...

Anon 5, I was going to mention Luther...his descriptions, and denouncements of Papal corruption are eloquent and, in the vernacular, amusingly ribald.

The question I would again ask with regard to all this literal pontificating is: Where are the Liturgical reforms that will signal a serious return to true Catholic identity? As long as we have an NO that is random, inconsistent, desultory, humanistic, and pedestrian it is impossible to take seriously all the talk about the Devil, corruption, and reform. There is nothing in all of Christendom that signifies true Catholicism, indeed true Christianity, as the Mass does. All dogma, theology, and doctrine derive from and point to the Mass. If we are not going to have the TLM exclusively, then let's at least turn the NO ad orientum, clean it up, and teach a generation of Priests how to celebrate it properly. Otherwise, the world will greet all the talk with a huge "ho hum."

Rood Screen said...

Anonymous 5,
"Catholics need to recognize that there is a problem and deal with it decisively..." I suggest that 99% of Catholics are unaffected by Mafia ties to the Vatican City bank. At any rate, there is nothing 99% of Catholics can do about this relatively minor problem, decisively or otherwise. I would, however, agree that the pope needs to recognize that there is a problem and deal with it decisively.

rcg said...

Gene, you are right, but...

The problem was that what was a novelty became the norm. I seems that Vat II allowed for variations to allow greater access and thus evangelization. But what happened was a dilution of the refined Liturgy forged over nearly 2000 years. Whether that was on purpose or not is clearly water under the bridge, because the instigators are either dead or knocking on the door.

So back to your point, I think The Pope, both Popes, intend for the Church to be more accessible but in order to convert, not be converted, by those who enter. I think the answer is to continue the revolution through networks of 'stable groups' that support each other and help to found, nurture and grow, new ones. We have to do that while not running off everyone who does not yet see the Liturgy the way we do.

Hammer of Fascists said...


Point well-taken, but there's always the wise reallocation of the tithe to get the attention of the hierarchy.

rcg: as someone mentioned to me just yesterday, while the Church is out seeking to evangelize the lost sheep, it has taken its eye off of the fold already in the Church and the wolves have run rampant within.

Gene said...

Yeah, Anon 5, the Church is sort of like Aesop's dog on the bridge holding a steak in his mouth. The reflection of the steak in the water is (fill in the blank)...........
1. protestantism
2. modernism
3. "the poor"
4. the Democratic Party
5. collectivism
6. all of the above

Anonymous said...

First, I highly doubt that changing the liturgy will change the culture. Traditionalist type priests are as guilty as modernist priests of corruption. Those old-timey vestments cost money.

Second, the whole culture of the Vatican reminds me a lot of the culture of corruption in IL. Blago wanted to get rich as a governor and the Curia officials expect to live like princes. What the Cardinals receive in compensation isn't that much, but I'm also assuming that it is tax free and they aren't getting deducted for benefits. Also, it is my understanding they don't pay for most of their living expenses. I believe that the Vatican provides them with an apartment, etc. So basically you are looking at a bunch of greedy men who think that they are "Renaissance Princes."

I wonder how a blue collar guy who has a large Catholic family and is trying to raise them on about $50K per year thinks about the article. It just seems really hypocritical for the Church to demand large families and stay at home moms while the "princes of the church" cannot live on the same salaries that they expect the laity with multiple children to live on.

Henry said...

Gene: Where are the Liturgical reforms that will signal a serious return to true Catholic identity? As long as we have an NO that is random, inconsistent, desultory, humanistic, and pedestrian it is impossible to take seriously all the talk about the Devil, corruption, and reform."

I cannot recall having seen truer words in any post or comment here.

Of course the Vatican stables should be cleaned out, but anyone who--like the immediately preceding Anonymous--thinks reverent worship of God is about money and externals (rather than internal prayer and sacrifice) illustrates the problem rather than the solution to the current crisis in the Church.

John Nolan said...

3000 euros a month is well above the European average, and if a German priest (with no wife and children to support and his accommodation found) earns even more than this, I am surprised there is a shortage of vocations.

Anonymous, old-timey vestments, as you rather inelegantly put it, are rarely bought new and were paid for years ago. New Roman-style vestments are actually made in India and can be bought on-line for less than the average American spends on a pair of trainers. And they are only needed because some trendy former parish priest threw out the traditional ones in the 1960 and invested in a set of polyester ponchos (you can have any colour as long as it's NOT black).

Recently a woman confronted one of the Fathers of the London Oratory after Solemn Mass in high dudgeon - she had noticed the flower arrangements on the Lady Altar, the vestments and the gold plate in the sanctuary and wanted to know why the funds for these had not been given to the poor. It was explained to her that the flowers had been left over from a wedding the day before, the silver-gilt chalice and ciborium had been bought for a song in 1850 when Swabian rococo was not in vogue, and after 150 years of wear the vestments were too threadbare to fetch much at auction. She left somewhat placated and drove away in a brand-new car which a Google search revealed would have cost her £90,000.

Marc said...

If only someone with authority and omniscience would answered the question of whether there will always be poor people...