A new book by the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi lays bare a history of political bribes being paid through the Vatican’s central bank
Philip Willan - 3 June 2009
The Vatican appears to have an enduring vocation for Italian political and financial scandal. Secrecy and intrigue were the order of the day when American archbishop Paul Marcinkus held sway in the Bastion of Nicholas V, the medieval tower housing the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), the Vatican’s central bank.
The requirements of a clandestine global struggle against atheist communism may explain the choice of business partners such as Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, whose mafia links and ruinous bankruptcies brought lasting discredit on the Catholic church three decades ago.
The Vatican hoped that a goodwill payment of $240m to the creditors of Calvi’s Banco Ambrosiano’s would salve its conscience and erase the memory of Marcinkus’s inept and dishonest banking practices. We were led to believe that a new broom, wielded by the lay banker Angelo Caloia, had since swept the premises of the IOR.
The process of reform has been slower and more painful than previously thought, however, to judge by a new book, Vaticano Spa (”Vatican Ltd”), by the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. According to Nuzzi, despite the best efforts of Caloia, a cavalier attitude to financial ethics appears to have continued well into the 1990s, with huge political bribes being laundered through the IOR and funds donated for charitable purposes or to pay for masses for the souls of the dead being casually misappropriated by the bank’s administrators.