NARRATOR: Hello, welcome to Money Trail with me, Amir Arfa. Today, inside the secret coffers of the Vatican. From Mussolini’s millions back in 1929, to the latest scandals today involving the Institute for the Works of Religion.
The director of the Vatican bank and his deputy have resigned over a financial scandal that has already seen one monsignor jailed. A preliminary inquiry by the Vatican bank after the arrest of a Vatican prelate on suspicion of trying to smuggle huge sums of money into Italy from Switzerland found “clear failings” at the institution. Two days before the arrests, Pope Francis set up a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank, which has been hit by a number of scandals in past decades.
The European anti-money laundering committee, Moneyval, said in a July report that the IOR, or the Vatican bank, still had to enact more reforms in order to meet international standards against money laundering.
The Vatican said in a statement that Paolo Cipriani and his deputy, Massimo Tulli, stepped down “in the best interest of the institute and the Holy See.”
Mr. Cipriani, along with the bank’s then-president, was placed under investigation by Rome prosecutors back in 2010 for alleged violations of Italy’s anti-money-laundering norms after financial police seized 23 million euro from a Vatican account at a Rome bank. Neither has been charged and the money was eventually ordered to be released.
But the bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works has remained under the spotlight amid concerns it has been used as an offshore tax haven.
STEPHEN SIZER: The decision by the Pope, Pope Francis, to order an investigation into the Vatican bank, is to be welcomed. This is a decision that has been long overdue for too long. The Vatican bank has insured that it remains immune to investigation by the usual bank legislation and investigative bodies, be it in Italy, or in Europe as a whole.
The new Pope, Pope Francis, has put this investigation at the top of his hit list. He recognizes that corruption and scandal destroys the credibility of the church, and therefor it is very important that this investigation is independent, and is seen to be independent by the general population. We know that the investigators have called upon a number of individuals, including an American lady, Elizabeth McCaul, who has been a former superintendent for the banks in New York. She gives a degree of credibility to this investigation. But, it is an investigation that has been long overdue.
DEAN HENDERSON: This is the same thing that John Paul the First did when he, know you, became Pope back in, when was it, ’77. He began investigating the Vatican bank, the IOR, and, you know, he died, you know, 34 days after he became Pope. He died, and there’s actually several books have been written, that he was assassinated.
WAYNE MADSEN: I think it’s interesting that Pope Francis won’t even live in the Papal apartment. He continues to live in the Vatican hotel on the grounds of Vatican City. I think it’s because of his own, fears for his own safety. He saw what happened to John Paul the First. So, there’s a lot of people that assume that John Paul the First was poisoned because of what he was going to do with this same group of criminals inside the Vatican.
NARRATOR: But accounts are known to have been opened for outsiders and the IOR has repeatedly been at the heart of financial scandals, often involving alleged money-laundering.
STEPHEN SIZER: The allegations are deeply regrettable. They suggest that the bank has been involved for decades in money laundering. That is, taking money that is from criminal sources, or illegal sources, such as the mafia, and, in a sense, cleaning the money so that its origin has disappeared through a range of transfers from various accounts to other accounts in order that that money can go to criminals, and others, who have benefited from that criminal activity without incurring investigation from the police, or other sources.
WAYNE MADSEN: One thing we have to realize is that the Vatican has been a nest of conspiracies for about the last 45 years. And, not “theories.” These are conspiracies. Because, we can go back. Let’s go back to the Vatican bank, which is really at the center of these scandals.
The Vatican bank, which is called the Institute for the Religious Works, was formed in 1942 by Pope Pius the Twelfth. That’s very key, because we do know that a lot of Vatican support went to spiriting Nazi war criminals of Europe. Now, where did the money come from? Many people have investigated the history of this bank, take that right back to the original Vatican bank formed by Pius the Twelfth. And, you know, Pius the Twelfth is a very controversial Pope because of his close links with Hitler, and Mussolini, and Franco of Spain, and Croatian war criminals, and what not.
Let’s take this forward to 1978 and Pope John Paul the First. Pope John Paul the First was going after the Vatican bank. He found out that there was a lot of fraud in the Vatican. The head of the Vatican bank at the time was the Cardinal from Chicago, Cardinal Paul Marcinkus. Marcinkus was a very dubious character, as one might expect from a guy from Chicago, because he was tied up with a lot of, seemingly, underworld activities in the Vatican. He was also know to be, kind of, a rough player in his home town of Chicago. So, he was heading the Vatican bank. Pope John Paul the First apparently was going to take action against these individuals, and he died after 33 days as Pope.
DEAN HENDERSON: There’s always been these factions in the Catholic Church. You know, in 1968 the progressive faction, you know, they did the Vatican Two in Medellin, Colombia, where basically launched Liberation Theology as a concept, and said that, look, we’re gonna to side with the poor people in Latin America instead of the rich land owners. And, on the other side of that you have the Knights of Malta, which is a Catholic equivalent of the, you know, Knights Templar secret society, you have the Opus Dei which is, for example Anton Scalia Supreme Court justice, is a member of that, very right-wing Catholic faction again. And so, as a result of Vatican Two back in ’68, they launched, they sort of joined forces with, well, the mafia in Italy. You know, the Vatican owned the biggest chunk of Banco Ambrosiano, which was, you know, Robert Calvi, Michelle Sedona, guys really close to the Gambino crime family and the CIA. They funneled money to Greece to overthrow the socialist government in Greece back in ’75. launching the November 17th underground left movement in Greece, which later was responsible for, you know, takin’ out some bankers and such. And, they funneled money to the Christian Democrats in Italy in 1972, this faction. David Kennedy, who was Nixon’s Treasury Secretary, was close to this bunch of people, this Continental Illinois Bank was involved with Ambrosiano, and later went bankrupt. The U.S. taxpayers had to pick up the pieces and pay for the bankruptcy, and Bank of America got the carcass for next to nothin’. And, you know, Paul Marcinkus, he’s a Bishop in Chicago, is close to this bunch, Bank of Cicero, which is a reincarnation of the BCCI, all these things came together. And, then the solidarity movement in Poland, Pope John Paul the Second, of course, came to power, and he worked with the Reagan administration and CIA to fund the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the same Solidarity Movement that was responsible for the Kennedy assassination, extremely right-wing, white Russian crowd, wealthy. Schlumberger Corporation is one of their big assets.
So, there’s been this tussle in the Catholic Church between the progressive faction, the leftists. For example, the priest who fought with the Sandanistas, even a Bishop, Camille Torres fought with the Brazilian leftist rebels against the Goulart government, which the CIA installed in ’64 on the one hand. On the other hand have Opus Dei, the Knights Templar, John Paul the Second, and Benedict, in this sort of the right-wing faction in the Catholic Church.
NARRATOR: And now a look at the Vatican’s financial history, all the way back to the 9th Century. In a star-studded resume, dealings with the Freemasons to the mafia, the Illuminati, and different crime families, the Gambinos, the drug trade, heroin, money laundering in different parts of the world. Quite a resume.
Feudalism arose in the 8th and 9th centuries in Western Europe. Wealth was obtained from the toil of the peasants working the land. When Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the pope in 800, he was named protector of the Church and granted the Church great power. He also gave the hierarchs ownership of large tracts of land. Another example: In 1066, William the Conqueror gave over a quarter of the land in England to the Church, binding the country to Rome as well as France.
When Western Europe divided into Protestant and Catholic states, the Church lost land. In the French Revolution and the succeeding movements for democracy and nationalism, the Church lost more land. By the mid-19th century, the pope owned only the Papal States, a wide swath of territory which transected the Italian peninsula which he ruled over as a feudal lord.
Italy was divided into various kingdoms and duchies. When Italians waged war to unite their country into a democracy, the pope mounted an army to fight along with other monarchists in holding his land.
The Church had other means of income besides landholdings. In 1509, Erasmus wrote The Praise of Folly expressing the popular discontent about corruption in the Church including the widespread practices of simony, which is charging fees for the performance of religious acts such as masses and sacraments, and the purchase of ecclesial offices and positions. As we all know, Martin Luther’s objections included many legitimate injustices, but the most onerous was the selling of indulgences. Indulgences were the Church-granted remission of time spent in purgatory as punishment for sin and could be obtained through penance, prayer and good works. When the pope decreed that indulgences could be purchased, even the usually docile and obedient laity understood that God’s justice shouldn’t be for sale.
Being dependent on the generosity of others did not sit well with the popes and their curia (the bureaucracy running the Vatican) during this period. So when Benito Mussolini’s offer of $1 billion (in 2006 dollars) and independent sovereignty for the Vatican City State in return for the Church’s support of his dictatorship was made in 1929, the deal was accepted. Besides, since there were no more European monarchies with power, communism was atheistic and the Vatican abhorred democracy as the form of government through which it had lost its land and as a bad influence on a subservient laity, Catholic officials supported fascism anyway, so much so that every European fascist country, save Germany, was Catholic.
Pope Pius the Eleventh hired a layman, financial genius Bernardino Nogara, to handle the windfall. Historian, John Pollard quotes author, Gollin, stating that Nogara agreed to take the position on two conditions:
1. That he not be restricted by religious or doctrinal considerations in his investment-making.
2. That he be free to invest funds anywhere in the world.
“The papacy was now financially secure. It would never be poor again,” is the oft-quoted statement by Pollard. “From June 1929 onwards, the investments of the Vatican, following the strategy of Bernardino Nogara, moved into the financial markets of the world. ”The Vatican was now also allied with the 1%, men with no allegiance to any nation, cause, or group save themselves.
STEPHEN SIZER: The reality is that the Roman Catholic Church, over hundreds of years, has gained influence, and power, and wealth by interfering with political and judicial proceedings. It has, in a sense, become a state. An authority accountable to no one but itself. And, this has lead, sadly, to corruption. When we have power, power leads to corruption, and absolute power leads to absolute corruption. And so, it’s not surprising, perhaps, that when there has been a refusal to comply with judicial authorities and government authorities, we have seen these lamentable actions.
I do honestly believe that the new Pope, Pope Francis, given his history, and his commitment to the poor, to justice, and to transparency in the operations for the Church, is bringing the equivalent of an Arab Spring. He is bringing a spring, a new lease of life, a new direction for the Church of Rome.
WAYNE MADSEN: Well, we’re lookin’ at an institution, the Roman Catholic Church, that has existed for over 2000 years. Pope Francis has his job cut out for him. He’s well aware, I believe, of what he’s up against. Probably, Pope Francis, who’s been priests, apparently, you know, stop with the expensive cars and the latest iPhone gadgetry, get back to your roots, and start helping the poor.
I think Pope Francis, being that he’s from Argentina, having worked with some of the very poorest people in Buenos Aires, where he served as Arch Bishop, and Bishop before that, and priest before that, understands that the Catholic Church has lost its roots.
I talk to a lot of lay Catholics who call themselves Sacramental Catholics, they don’t like this political stuff that the church has gotten involved with over the years. P2 lodges and Opus Dei, and all the rest of it. But, you know, changing the Vatican overnight, it’s like trying to stop a super-tanker. You know, you can go all reverse on the propellers on a super-tanker, it’s going to take a long time for the super-tanker to stop and start to and go in reverse. And, Pope Francis is much like the Captain of a super-tanker, it’s going to take time.
People say, well, what about these other issues, like priest celibacy, and divorce issues, and contraceptives. You know, he’ll probably get around to that, but he’s got a corrupt institution within the Vatican that he has to change first. So, I think he should be given time.
Pope Francis the First, who of course patterns himself after Saint Francis of Assisi, is probably the greatest breath of fresh air we’ve seen in the Vatican, probably since Pope John the Twenty-Third, who, like John Paul the Second, looks like he’s going to become a Saint very soon.
NARRATOR: Today, the Vatican’s global property and investments are hidden behind layer after layer of false fronts and holding companies. Currently, there are three basic components to Vatican finance. APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, that is the unit which holds the secret investment and property portfolios. There are about 80 departments, agencies, and foundations in the Vatican each having their own money and investments, but those funds are generally restricted to the purpose of the each department.
The Prefecture for Economic Affairs administers the Vatican City State. When the Vatican makes its annual non-detailed financial statement on the Holy See, as the Church’s government is called, and the Vatican City State and announces whether they made or lost money for that fiscal year, it is referring to the income from the museums, gift shops, donations from Peter’s Pence, the bishops and religious orders and expenses such as salaries and communications.
The IOR, or Institute for Religious Works, commonly referred to as the Vatican bank, was reorganized in its current form by Pope Pius the Twelfth in 1942. Since almost every mainstream media report about the IOR refers to the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, most are already aware that in the late 1970s and early 80s the IOR had a criminal partnership with the Ambrosiano and that its president, Roberto Calvi, was hanged from Blackfriar’s Bridge in London. Italian government tried several members of the Mafia for Calvi’s murder so the motive is generally understood that out of the 1.3 billion investor dollars which were lost, a lot of that was mob money.
DEAN HENDERSON: The connection there is Michelle Sedona and Robert Calvi. Robert Calvi was, you know, the leader of the Grand Orient Freemason Lodge. He was also head of Banco Ambrosiano. The Vatican bank, the IOR, owned the biggest chunk of the Banco Ambrosiano. Sedona was the guy who later headed Ambrosiano. Both those guys, you know, Calvi was found hanging from Blackfriar’s Bridge in London with $15,000 in his pocket and a brick, which is a Freemason symbol, you know, dead.
Sedona was poisoned in prison. He, you know, a couple days before he was found dead in his cell he said “they’re gonna kill me. They’re afraid I’m gonna talk too much.”
So, those two guys, Sedona and Calvi, were both tight with this Gambino crime family, and also tight with the Vatican bank, via Banco Ambrosiano.
Sedona later looted Franklin National Bank, which John Decamp wrote a book called The Franklin Cover-up, and the Franklin Bank was the center of this huge pedophile ring in the United States. So, it appears that this right-wing faction, along with these crime families, were, you know, involved with this pedophilia network as well.
Sedona’s secretary also, you know, thinks, she was the secretary for both Ambrosiano and the P2. Within the P2, of course, is the Italian Freemasons. And, this all came to light, really in 1981 when the Italian government launched an investigation and found these documents, basically, talked about this Strategy of Tension, which evolved from Operation Gladio, which was a NATO strategy. And, what it was, was they kidnapped and murdered Prime Minister Aldo Moro, the Italian Prime Minister in 1978, and they tried to pin it on the Red Brigades. And, that was the whole strategy, was to do these false flag operations, blamed it on the left-wing movements in Germany. They did similar things with Bader Minhoff in Germany, and with November 17 in Greece, and all these leftist movements in Europe that were underground. They tried to tag all these crimes on them, these murders, when in fact it was the P2 that was responsible for it. Banco Nacional, Lavoro was involved, B&L was involved. And, this all came to light with this huge investigation in Italy, and, you know, you follow the money and it just goes right up to the Vatican bank, the IOR.
WAYNE MADSEN: In 1982, Roberto Calvi, the head of Bank Ambrosiano, which was basically involved with the Vatican bank, it was a mid-sized-level Italian bank, he was found hanging from Blackfriar’s Bridge in London. They said suicide, his son, and many other investigators, said no, it was a ritualistic killing by the Masons. And, one thing that we see with Rome, and these days, there was a secret Masonic Lodge called Propaganda Due, P2 Lodge, that included many Vatican officials, many government officials in Italy, headed up by Licio Gelli, who was a CIA associate.
They would funnel money from the Vatican to right-wing death squads, for example, in Latin America. Later we discovered that the Vatican Secret Service was funneling money to Solidarity in Poland. And, of course, John Paul the Second replaced John Paul the First, the first Polish Pope, and he barely survived an assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca. Not a Turkish communist working for the KGB and the Bulgarians as we were told, but a Turkish right-winger with Grey Wolves. Again, we see it with these right-wing groups, called Gladio. Propaganda Due was associated with Gladio, a CIA operation in Europe, as was the Grey Wolves in Turkey.
So, we have a long history of intrigue in the Vatican. In 1998, the head of the Vatican Swiss Guards was murdered by one of his deputies. They murdered his wife too. It was assumed that he had information on some of this Vatican banking intrigue. So, we’ve got murders. We’ve got all kinds of things. We’ve got Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope who, does not, frankly, like Opus Dei, which is the right-wing group founded by Franco’s favorite priest, the Opus Dei and the Propaganda Due, all kind-of associated with these very right-wing elements in the Vatican.
So, we have got Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, really looking at some issues that have been boiling for forty years.
STEPHEN SIZER: I believe that this time we will see progress. First of all, the Italian authorities are investigating individuals. Monseigneur Nunzio Scarano has been arrested and others have stepped down or resigned…Know what’s coming. The Italian media have got their teeth into this subject, and we know that Pope Francis has had a long track record of commitment to the needs of the poor, to a very simple lifestyle, and expecting his priests and other clergy to follow the example of Jesus.
So, we’re dealing with a Pope who has a pedigree, a reputation for simplicity. He used to use the bus to go to work. He lives a very simple lifestyle. And, therefor, in our language, we would say he walks his talk. I believe he will ensure that this investigation is seen through to its end. And, I hope the outcome will be that the Papacy, the Vatican, will divest itself of this bank.