A senior Catholic cardinal has been accused of using €700,000 ($1.14m) of Vatican funds to bribe witnesses to secure a sex abuse conviction against a rival.
Italian media have reported that Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 72, is suspected of wiring the cash to recipients in Australia who helped to ensure hostile testimony in the abuse trial of Cardinal George Pell, who was accused of molesting choir boys in Melbourne in the 1990s.
While the article in The Australian says that Cardinal Becciu has issued a strongly worded denial of the reports, stating: “I categorically deny interfering in any way in the trial of Cardinal Pell” it sure doesn’t look good. As Miranda Devine writes in The New York Post:
Those who know Cardinal George Pell, the Pope’s honest former finance minister, always suspected he had been set up when he was jailed on historic child sex abuse charges in his native Australia, and then acquitted on appeal.
Last week, just after Pell returned to Rome, Italian newspapers alleged that his trials in Australia were linked to his work cleaning up vast corruption at the Vatican.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that Pell’s fiercest opponent at the Vatican, the recently fired Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, transferred 700,000 euros from Vatican accounts to an account in Australia during Pell’s trial in the state of Victoria.
Pell has not commented on the story, but he issued a statement from Sydney after Cardinal Becciu’s sacking, which hinted that the Vatican was involved in his malicious prosecution.
‘The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances. He plays a long game and is to be thanked and congratulated on recent developments. I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria.”
Not only is this a massive story, but it raises serious questions about the level of corruption within the Victorian political and judicial system. Significantly, Rod Dreher, wrote in The American Conservative back in June, 2019:
In 2014, Pell was given by Pope Francis responsibility for cleaning up the infamously corrupt Vatican Bank. When that news broke, I thought, “They’ll find some way to take him out. They won’t let him do it.” When the child abuse charges were brought against Pell in 2017, I thought, “So that’s how they did it.” But I didn’t go further, because how would I prove that Pell was set up? It was just a hunch.
When I was in Australia last month, I found myself in a conversation one evening with someone about all this. (I had a lot of Pell conversations, as you might imagine.) I shared with my interlocutor my suspicion that Pell was set up to take him off the Vatican Bank case. The man across the table said, “That’s interesting. You may not know it, but the ‘Ndrangheta is quite well established in Australia, especially in Victoria. That’s where the cardinal was charged.”
The ‘Ndrangheta is the Calabrian mafia, and yes, they are well established in Australia. They control organized crime on Australia’s East Coast, and are said to have infiltrated every part of the Australian establishment. With that in mind, here’s an interesting bit of news, from the Irish Times, Nov. 16, 2013:
…Cardinal George Pell was named by Francis to reform the IOR. In 2014, Pell said his team found nearly two billion euros hidden away in various Vatican accounts, off the balance sheets. In November 2015, with the Pope’s approval, Pell issued new guidelines for running all Vatican offices, to bring them up to international standards for financial transparency.
In April 2016, without consulting Pell, the Vatican Secretary of State suspends an external audit of Vatican finances. The National Catholic Register quotes an unnamed source as saying that officials are afraid of what the audit will find, and want to get rid of Pell. A year later, Pell was charged in Melbourne with sexual abuse. And that was the end of the Pell threat to the Vatican Bank insiders.
It seems like someone owes Cardinal Pell—and the Roman Catholic Church of Australia—an apology. For not only was an innocent man wrongly convicted but an entire religious institution has been falsely defamed and maligned. As such, what is really needed is a Royal Commission or an investigation by the Federal Police.
This is such a miscarriage of justice that it needs to be thoroughly explored. And really, the Prime Minister of Australia should take the lead on this, especially in the light of questions surrounding religious freedom. But sadly, the damage has already been done. At least now, though, we know the truth.
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Mark Powell is the pastor at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Strathfield (NSW), a multi-site church with five successful locations. His show, "Cultural Markisms", hosts discussions about culture with various guests. Mark has a comfortable ability to articulate Truth about contentious issues to a wider audience, and he is frequently published in various publications where his articles often appear in the most popular list.