Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE

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The Vatican and a Sicilian Fraternal Organization

November 14th, 2013 · 9 Comments

While I was researching my book on sexual abuse in the Church, I saw many indications that the abuse was intertwined with organized crime: drug dealing, prostitution of male teenagers, and money laundering.

Decades ago I read in Time magazine of a monastery in southern Italy which had been completely taken over by the Mafia. Mafia members had joined quietly and eventually expelled all the legitimate religious. The monastery became a center for cigarette smuggling. The Vatican Bank has a profitable sideline in money laundering, and Pope Francis wants it to stop.

An assistant prosecutor for the province of Reggio Calabria has warned that Pope Francis is becoming the target of Mafia ire, according to RNS, the Guardian, and other papers.

Nicola Gratteri, 55, a state prosecutor in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where the ‘Ndrangheta is most active, said the pope’s effort to reform the church is making the ‘Ndrangheta “very nervous.”

The Vatican bank has been very useful in money laundering. Gratteri explains:

“Those who have up until now profited from the influence and wealth drawn from the church are getting very nervous,” he added. “For many years, the mafia has laundered money and made investments with the complicity of the church. But now the pope is dismantling the poles of economic power in the Vatican, and that is dangerous.”

When prosecutors asked the Orthodox Jews of Murder Incorporated how they could reconcile killing and the Torah, the mobsters explained that business is business. The Italians have a similar attitude:

Gratteri said mobsters did not consider themselves wrongdoers, and used the example of a mafioso putting pressure on a business owner to pay protection money, first by shooting up his premises, then by kneecapping him. “If the person still refuses, the mobster is ‘forced’ to kill him. If you have no choice, you are not committing a sin.”

The mobsters are uniformly pious (superstitious?)

“A gunman from the ‘Ndrangheta will pray and kiss his rosary before shooting someone,” said Gratteri.

Prelates cultivate their devout criminal contacts:

Gratteri attacked priests and bishops in southern Italy who legitimise mobsters. “Priests continuously visit the houses of bosses for coffee, which gives the bosses strength and popular legitimacy,” he said.

The Bank of Italy estimates the criminal activity (drug dealing, extortion, illegal disposal of toxic chemicals, corrupt public contracts) accounts for 10% of the Italian Gross Domestic Product. The criminal organizations have taken their profits and invested them in legitimate businesses, and therefore control perhaps 25% of the Italian economy.

Francis has a nice papacy; it would be a shame if anything happened to it. I am sure many Italians bishops are trying to explain this to the Argentine. Another papal election would be very inconvenient.

Remember Calvi?

Add (Thanks to comments)

And the case of Emanuela Orlandi

These criminal organizations are not nice people. They specialize in extortion. If someone balks at helping them, a child may disappear. Or it may become known which priests-bishops-cardinals  have have Mafia-supplied boys in the beds at night. Corruption is like cancer. It spreads, and is often fatal.

Tags: Pope Francis · crime

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 CM // Nov 14, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    I think the pope is in greater danger from all the multitudinous clerics who are part of the criminal ring. I am sure he knew this before he was elected too. Brave soul.

  • 2 Reprehensible // Nov 14, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Not to worry about the IOR. The “brave soul” has stationed his God Fearing friend, Monsignor Ricca there as his eyes and ears.
    “On July 18, Sandro Magister, a longtime, respected reporter on Vatican issues, published a piece in the weekly L’Espresso magazine, titled “The Prelate of the Gay Lobby.”
    In it, he claimed that 57-year-old Monsignor Battista Ricca, a veteran Vatican diplomat recently appointed by Pope Francis to serve as his representative, or “prelate,” at the Vatican bank, has long been living a not-very-secret double life.”

  • 3 cm // Nov 15, 2013 at 8:21 am

    One needs to keep one’s friends close and one’s enemies closer. It won’t be the pope who outs the ring, or the Vatican police, coopted also by the ring, but international agencies who, as we now know, have the capacity at any moment to track all its doing. So, the bigger question is, why isn’t the international law enforcement community pouncing? The same reason it turned its head here - the ring penetrates it as well. Boys will be boys.

  • 4 Reprehensible // Nov 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

    “Who am I to judge,” Pope Francis says of homosexuals.
    Well, he is pope. And even the lowliest parish priest has to deliver moral judgments in a confessional.
    “[S]ince he became pope,” writes Goodstein, Francis’ “approval numbers are skyrocketing. Even atheists are applauding.”
    Especially the atheists, one imagines.
    While Pope Francis has not altered any Catholic doctrines in his interviews and disquisitions, he is sowing seeds of confusion among the faithful, a high price to pay, even for “skyrocketing” poll numbers.
    If memory serves, the Lord said, “Feed my sheep,” not “get the smell of the sheep.” And he did not mean soup kitchens, but more importantly the spiritual food essential for eternal life.
    But then those were different Jesuits. And that was long ago.”

  • 5 cm // Nov 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Jesuits play 9-level chess. You underestimate his discernment and cunning.
    We don’t judge homosexuals as we don’t judge alcoholics, I think is what he was infering…
    The atheist interview has been taken out of context, was done by a 85+ year old who took no notes.
    The Good Samaritan seemed to be the model to emulate not the spiritual teachers of Jesus’ day, and I seem to remember being Jesus concerned about getting food for people to eat.
    Why do conservatives equate charity with the welfare state?
    Will the notorious heterodox Jesuits and Bernardinians seize power again? They already have. I don’t think he will give them a long tether though.
    What’s worse? The Neo Cats, Opus, and Legion taking over parishes or that?
    liberals I know also have a list of beefs with the pope too.
    The proof will be in the pudding. Until then, I think people need to chill out and let the man be pope. Remember, the last pope’s comments re Islam and violence led to the murder of a nun. I can think of a half dozen things he did that could be construed as seriously problematic, especially putting in place a liturgy with Reformation-influenced, dubiously orthodox rhetoric, allowing the pedophile crisis to fester for decades, and having a notorious gay cleric with a bishop ex-boyfriend in a key Vatican position. Benedict was as blind as a bat re the homophile cabal running the place.

  • 6 Mary // Nov 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    The disappearance of Emmanuela Orlandi, daughter of a Vatican employee, has been linked to the most dangerous mafia gang in Italy.
    Interestingly, the same Vatican Prelate who Promoted the Cause of Escriva also buried the gang leader in the Basilica crypt that was donated to Escriva’s Movement though his efforts.
    The latest outcry finally resulted in the body being disinterred and reburied somewhere else.


    “It’s likely that we will never know what happened to her. Perhaps the most we can hope to learn is what her disappearance says about those two complicated, sometimes conspiratorial states: the Vatican and Italy itself.”

  • 7 Reprehensible // Nov 17, 2013 at 6:52 am

    “Benedict was as blind as a bat re the homophile cabal running the place.”

    I do not believe for one instant that Benedict was blind. As head of the CDF , he knew exactly what the state of the clerical crisis was, as does Pope Francis.
    Why is it that Ratzinger has decided to stay in Vatican City?
    “(Reuters) - Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.”
    “We don’t judge homosexuals as we don’t judge alcoholics, I think is what he was infering…”

    He was answering the reporters regarding the well documented affairs of Mon. Ricca ,whom he chose to help run the IOR ( Vatican Bank).
    He said he vetted Ricca and found no evidence regarding these charges in direct response to the repoters questioning, when he said ,”I cannot judge…..”
    “The Italian weekly L’Espresso said prelate Battista Ricca had gay relationships during his time at the Vatican embassy of Montevideo in Uruguay as well as an affair with a Swiss guard which ultimately saw him sent back to Rome in disgrace.”
    It is hard to believe that S American Cardinal Borgoglio had no clue that the Uruguayan Papal Nuncio got rid of Ricca for these much publicized
    public scandals.
    The ,’I cannot judge” statement was followed by the clarifying addition which implied absolution in the Confessional when one is, “….seeking God.”
    Confession ( Penance) used to mean penitance and restitution not reward and advancement in clerical careerism.

  • 8 Tony de New York // Nov 17, 2013 at 9:22 am

    The pope MUST close the Banco Ambrosiano otherwise more scandals will surface one more time.

  • 9 Reprehensible // Nov 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    When a priest tells the truth

    Nothing has been done to responsible Prelates because they were just following orders.

    Seminarians speak up

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