The Roman Catholic Church is the world's oldest continuous political institution. It has often been surrounded by scandals and allegations.
The Italian media are now following a tangled controversy which also includes Australia's Cardinal George Pell. Pell is the most senior Catholic cleric charged with child sex offences. He has since been cleared and has returned to Rome.
The allegations in recent days do not involve child sex allegations but are about the more traditional financial scandals. Pell in this context is seen as more of a hero being treated badly by the Vatican's "deep state" covering up its financial misdeeds.
Italian media are currently reporting on Cardinal Giovanni Becciu's alleged financial misdeeds. Becciu was a rival to Pell, who apparently was investigating Vatican financial misdeeds before being summoned back to Melbourne in 2017 for the alleged sex offences hearings. With the legal proceedings out of the way, Pell is now back in Rome.
The Italian media are fascinated by alleged financial misdeeds committed by Becciu. Over a millennium ago in AD1031, Anglo-Saxon England began collecting money for the Pope's charitable projects: the Peter's Pence fund. It is alleged that in recent years, the fund has been used to help finance the Vatican's operating expenses (balancing the budget) rather than helping the needy.
Cardinal Becciu is alleged to have provided some funds to his three brothers and to have made unwise investments. Becciu lost money investing in luxury property in Chelsea, London (though property consultants did very well from the dud investment). He also helped finance the Elton John "Rocket Man" bio-pic movie which celebrated values that are contrary to traditional Catholic teaching.
Investigations in the last few days have now allegedly shown that a sum of 700,000 Euros (over A$1 million) went from the Vatican to Australia. Who received it? Pell's defence team (unlikely to have received any help from Becciu) said they didn't get it. The victim's solicitor has also denied receiving the money. Where did the money go? Did it go to some of the witnesses? For what purpose?
When Francis became Pope in 2013 he was well aware of various allegations concerning the Vatican's finances and the high living of some people. He has tried to set an example of humble living but most Vatican officials continue to live well in their princely mansions.
His predecessor Benedict began the work of sorting out the Vatican's finances. But he mysteriously suddenly quit office before that work (and other investigations) could be completed.
Pell was appointed to clean up the Vatican's finances. He soon ran up against Vatican officials – the "deep state" - who were allegedly mishandling funds, including Peter's Pence.
Cardinal Becciu was effectively sacked by the Pope last month. Becciu gets to keep his red hat and title but has no role now in administration. By retaining his cardinal status (albeit in reduced status) he cannot be called before an Italian criminal court. The investigations into his use of the money continues.
The Vatican has what police forces call "form". In other words the current allegations are similar to previous allegations.
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