Vatican ‘perplexed and amazed’ as £19million money-laundering scandal is uncovered at its bank

Vatican ‘perplexed and amazed’ as £19million money-laundering scandal is uncovered at its bank

A £19million money laundering scandal rocked the Vatican today – just days after Pope Benedict XVI’s successful visit to Britain.

Police said the Vatican Bank’s chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who is known to the Pontiff, was under investigation for suspected failure to observe money-laundering laws.

The probe was launched after tax police in Rome were alerted to two suspicious transactions totaling £19million (23million euro).
Officers said another bank official – named by Italian media as director general Paolo Cipriani – was also being investigated.

A statement from the Vatican appeared to confirm this – it said it was ‘perplexed’ by the investigation but had ‘full faith in chairman and director general.’

A statement read: ‘The Holy See manifests puzzlement and amazement at the initiative by the Rome prosecutor’s office, given that the necessary information is already available at the relevant office of the Bank of Italy, and similar transactions commonly take place with other Italian banks.’

God’s Banker Roberto Calvi, 62, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in June 1982 with $15,000 in banknotes and bricks stuffed into his pockets.

At first his death was treated by City of London police as suicide but Italian counterparts were suspicious and the case was reopened with five people being charged with his murder.

They went on trial in 2007 and among them was jailed Godfather Pippo Calo, already serving life and who gave his evidence via a video link to the court – which was held in a bunker at Rome’s top security Rebibbia jail.

The court heard from a series of Mafia supergrasses that Calo ordered Calvi’s murder after he bungled a £150m money-laundering operation.

Calvi had fled to London to try and escape the Mafia but they tracked him down to a flat in Chelsea where he was hiding. He was duped by his killers into thinking they were taking him via the River Thames to a container ship bound for South America but instead he was murdered.

The five were all cleared of murder at the original trial and a later appeal but a fresh one has been launched by prosecutors in Rome against them and they remain convinced Calvi was murdered.

The £19million was impounded as a precautionary measure.

Rome prosecutors Nello Rossi and Stefano Rocco Fava opened their investigation earlier this year to see whether a 2007 law passed in Italy calling on transparency of accounts had been breached.

Alarm bells rang over two suspicious transactions involving a 20million euro transfer to the German bank J.P.Morgan Frankfurt and three million sent to a central-Italian bank, Banca del Fucino.

Prosecution sources said the investigation was to see if the bank had breached regulations for failing to reveal the identity of the person holding the accounts.

They are trying to discover the beneficiaries of cheques and bank drafts issued from the Vatican Bank accounts and who ordered them.
It is not the first time the bank, known as the Istituto per le Opere Religiose, has been implicated in money laundering – in 1982 it was linked to the £2billion collapse of another bank, Credito Ambrosiano.

Then governor Archbishop Paul Marcinkus escaped investigation by claiming Vatican immunity but in a twist worthy of a Dan Brown blockbuster, Ambrosiano’s president Roberto Calvi was found hanging under London’s Blackfriars Bridge.

Calvi was known as God’s Banker because of his connections to Marcinkus and the Vatican Bank.

His death was initially ruled as suicide but then became murder after further investigation.

He was found with bundles of cash and stones in his pockets. Italian police believe he was killed by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering scam.

American Archbishop Marcinkus died in 2006, taking the secret of what happened in 1982 to the grave and never fully explaining his involvement with Calvi. He famously once said: ‘You can’t run the Church on Hail Mary’s.’

Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says

Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says

If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.

Heresy? Perhaps. But a survey that measured Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term “blind faith.”

A majority of Protestants, for instance, couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, according to the survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Four in 10 Catholics misunderstood the meaning of their church’s central ritual, incorrectly saying that the bread and wine used in Holy Communion are intended to merely symbolize the body and blood of Christ, not actually become them.

Atheists and agnostics — those who believe there is no God or who aren’t sure — were more likely to answer the survey’s questions correctly. Jews and Mormons ranked just below them in the survey’s measurement of religious knowledge — so close as to be statistically tied.

So why would an atheist know more about religion than a Christian?

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

“These are people who thought a lot about religion,” he said. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”

Atheists and agnostics also tend to be relatively well educated, and the survey found, not surprisingly, that the most knowledgeable people were also the best educated. However, it said that atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.

The groups at the top of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey were followed, in order, by white evangelical Protestants, white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, people who were unaffiliated with any faith (but not atheist or agnostic), black Protestants and Latino Catholics.

Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists were included in the survey, but their numbers were too small to be broken out as statistically significant groups.

Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and author of “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t,” served as an advisor on the survey. “I think in general the survey confirms what I argued in the book, which is that we know almost nothing about our own religions and even less about the religions of other people,” he said.

He said he found it significant that Mormons, who are not considered Christians by many fundamentalists, showed greater knowledge of the Bible than evangelical Christians.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister from Leawood, Kan., and the author of “When Christians Get it Wrong,” said the survey’s results may reflect a reluctance by many people to dig deeply into their own beliefs and especially into those of others.

“I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it’s already accepted to be true, they don’t examine other people’s faiths. … That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith,” he said.

The Pew survey was not without its bright spots for the devout. Eight in 10 people surveyed knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic. Seven in 10 knew that, according to the Bible, Moses led the exodus from Egypt and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

The question that elicited the most correct responses concerned whether public school teachers are allowed to lead their classes in prayer. Eighty-nine percent of the respondents correctly said no. However, 67% also said that such teachers are not permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, something the law clearly allows.

For comparison purposes, the survey also asked some questions about general knowledge, which yielded the scariest finding: 4% of Americans believe that Stephen King, not Herman Melville, wrote “Moby Dick.”

Church sex scandal takes toll on victims’ lawyers

Church sex scandal takes toll on victims’ lawyers

BOSTON — Attorney Ray Boucher helped secure a record $660 million settlement from the Los Angeles Archdiocese on behalf of more than 500 people molested by priests. Five days after the settlement was announced, his wife left him.

Eric MacLeish, the hard-charging lawyer whose work for victims helped spur the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law in 2002, later suffered a breakdown, stopped practicing law and got divorced.

And Steve Rubino, once such an observant Catholic he couldn’t believe a priest would molest a child, lost his faith and eventually retired from the law.

“It moved me completely out of whatever religious context I was in — completely,” he said.

The sex scandal that rocked the nation’s Roman Catholic Church took a fearsome personal toll on some of the top lawyers who dared to challenge the institution.

While many of them ultimately reaped large fees for their services, the all-consuming workload, the pressure of battling the church and the stress of listening to graphic accounts of children’s suffering were debilitating.

“No one can handle these cases and come out of it the same,” said Sylvia Demarest, a lawyer who helped win a $119.6 million verdict against the Diocese of Dallas in 1997 and later built a national database on clergy sex abuse cases.

Demarest, now semiretired, said she grew frustrated with her inability to heal the wounds suffered by her clients. “What happens to kids when they’re abused and what happens to their brains when they are abused is something that we don’t know how to fix,” she said.

The crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, after internal church documents released publicly showed that church leaders for decades had shuffled sexually abusive priests from parish to parish. The scandal spread across the country as thousands of lawsuits were filed by people who claimed they had been victimized.

For MacLeish, the clergy cases reawakened memories of being sexually abused as a child.

MacLeish and other lawyers won an $85 million settlement in Boston in 2003 for more than 500 victims. But in the months after the landmark settlement was announced, MacLeish began to unravel. He developed insomnia and nausea, lost 40 pounds and couldn’t work.

He was rattled by the image of a 9-year-old boy who was repeatedly sodomized over nine hours by a priest. The boy buried his bloody underwear so his mother wouldn’t find out.

“The idea of him going off into the woods and burying his underwear, that really got to me,” MacLeish said.

MacLeish had been sexually abused by a family friend during a camping trip at 15. And he had memories of being molested at an English boarding school he attended as a boy.

“I began to realize why I had been doing this work and how much my own abuse had affected me,” he said. He said his pursuit of the church “was absolutely never about money.” He added: “The wealth I received was the knowledge that I had really helped my clients and helped to change the Catholic Church.”

Rubino, who retired last year after more than 20 years of representing clergy sex-abuse victims, was incredulous after a family friend came to him in 1987 and said a priest had sexually assaulted her 14-year-old son.

“I said, `Well, that’s impossible. Priests are celibate. What are you talking about?’” recalled Rubino, who grew up in a large Italian Catholic family.

Rubino, whose law office was in Margate City, N.J., spent the next 15 years becoming a canon law expert. He traveled all over the U.S and to Ireland, Canada and Australia to represent victims and help other lawyers. Story after story of abuse left Rubino disheartened about the Catholic Church.

“I was a true believer. I said my Hail Marys, my Act of Contrition, I learned Latin, I served Mass, I believed in God,” he said. “I don’t do any of that now.”

At the height of the scandal, Rubino was working 16- to 20-hour days and traveling constantly. His wife and three children resented it. “While I was (home), I was never there,” he said. “I was a second away from the next text, the next e-mail, the next phone call from a client.”

Rubino’s marriage survived, but Boucher’s did not. Boucher’s wife left him right after the 2007 settlement in Los Angeles.

“She just said, `Look, you’re on top of the world, the press is surrounding you, I haven’t accomplished what I want to accomplish in life, and I just don’t feel like I can stay with you,’” Boucher said. (Boucher’s ex-wife, Christine Roberts, declined to comment.)

Before that, Boucher had plowed through hundreds of cases in Los Angeles, and mostly managed to “box it up and store it away.” But, at times, the enormity of the pain caused by the abuse was overwhelming.

In 2004, Boucher was editing DVDs of victims describing how they were raped or otherwise molested by a priest. He saw a pile of about 150 DVDs ready to be mailed to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. Each DVD cover had a picture of the victim as a child, as they were when they were assaulted.

“I was stunned. I looked at them, and I’m sure I started to cry,” Boucher recalled. “I will never lose that image.”

MacLeish’s marriage also ended in divorce. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he began seeing a psychologist. Within two months, they were sleeping together and their affair led to his divorce, MacLeish said.

MacLeish, now a professor who teaches civil rights and criminal procedure at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, said he doesn’t regret the work he did, despite the toll it took on him and his family.

“There is not one case that I’ve heard of since 2004 where a known pedophile has been placed by the church into an organization where he would be able to do it again,” he said.

Rubino, 61, now spends time with his family and works as chief executive of a sports performance training center for kids. Rubino said it is a respite from the work he used to do.

“For the hundreds of damaged young lives I represented, the kids at (the center) are at the opposite end of the spectrum,” he said.

Boucher, 53, continues to represent victims.

“I can’t imagine walking away from people who are suffering from the isolation of sexual abuse,” he said. “I don’t know how — no matter what the personal, emotional toll might be — I don’t know how you walk away from that.”

God Dies

God Dies

God Dies

by Frances Farmer (1931)

No one ever came to me and said, “You’re a fool. There isn’t such a thing as God. Somebody’s been stuffing you.” It wasn’t a murder. I think God just died of old age. And when I realized that he wasn’t any more, it didn’t shock me. It seemed natural and right.

Maybe it was because I was never properly impressed with a religion. I went to Sunday school and liked the stories about Christ and the Christmas star. They were beautiful. They made you warm and happy to think about. But I didn’t believe them. The Sunday School teacher talked too much in the way our grade school teacher used to when she told us about George Washington. Pleasant, pretty stories, but not true.

Religion was too vague. God was different. He was something real, something I could feel. But there were only certain times when I could feel it. I used to lie between cool, clean sheets at night after I’d had a bath, after I had washed my hair and scrubbed my knuckles and finger nails and teeth. Then I could lie quite still in the dark with my face to the window with the trees in it, and talk to God. “I am clean, now. I’ve never been as clean. I’ll never be cleaner.” And somehow, it was God. I wasn’t sure that it was … just something cool and dark and clean.

That wasn’t religion, though. There was too much of the physical about it. I couldn’t get that same feeling during the day, with my hands in dirty dish water and the hard sun showing up the dirtiness on the roof-tops. And after a time, even at night, the feeling of God didn’t last. I began to wonder what the minister meant when he said, “God, the father, sees even the smallest sparrow fall. He watches over all his children.” That jumbled it all up for me. But I was sure of one thing. If God were a father, with children, that cleanliness I had been feeling wasn’t God. So at night, when I went to bed, I would think, “I am clean. I am sleepy.” And then I went to sleep. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the cleanness any less. I just knew that God wasn’t there. He was a man on a throne in Heaven, so he was easy to forget.

Sometimes I found he was useful to remember; especially when I lost things that were important. After slamming through the house, panicky and breathless from searching, I could stop in the middle of a room and shut my eyes. “Please God, let me find my red hat with the blue trimmings.” It usually worked. God became a super-father that couldn’t spank me. But if I wanted a thing badly enough, he arranged it.

That satisfied me until I began to figure that if God loved all his children equally, why did he bother about my red hat and let other people lose their fathers and mothers for always? I began to see that he didn’t have much to do about hats, people dying or anything. They happened whether he wanted them to or not, and he stayed in heaven and pretended not to notice. I wondered a little why God was such a useless thing. It seemed a waste of time to have him. After that he became less and less, until he was…nothingness.

I felt rather proud to think that I had found the truth myself, without help from any one. It puzzled me that other people hadn’t found out, too. God was gone. We were younger. We had reached past him. Why couldn’t they see it? It still puzzles me.

—-Frances Farmer (1931)

Papal Visit 2010: Pope’s Holyroodhouse speech – full text

This speech is so ironic, it’s crazy. The pope is such a lying sack of shit.

Papal Visit 2010: Pope’s Holyroodhouse speech – full text

Your Majesty,

Thank you for your gracious invitation to make an official visit to the United Kingdom and for your warm words of greeting on behalf of the British people. In thanking Your Majesty, allow me to extend my own greetings to all the people of the United Kingdom and to hold out a hand of friendship to each one.

It is a great pleasure for me to start my journey by saluting the members of the Royal Family, thanking in particular His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh for his kind welcome to me at Edinburgh Airport. I express my gratitude to Your Majesty’s present and previous Governments and to all those who worked with them to make this occasion possible, including Lord Patten and former Secretary of State Murphy. I would also like to acknowledge with deep appreciation the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See, which has contributed greatly to strengthening the friendly relations existing between the Holy See and the United Kingdom.

As I begin my visit to the United Kingdom in Scotland’s historic capital city, I greet in a special way First Minister Salmond and the representatives of the Scottish Parliament. Just like the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, may the Scottish Parliament grow to be an expression of the fine traditions and distinct culture of the Scots and strive to serve their best interests in a spirit of solidarity and concern for the common good.

The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the “Holy Cross” and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland. As you know, many of them consciously exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel, and in this way shaped the nation for good at the deepest level. As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years. Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike.

We find many examples of this force for good throughout Britain’s long history. Even in comparatively recent times, due to figures like William Wilberforce and David Livingstone, Britain intervened directly to stop the international slave trade. Inspired by faith, women like Florence Nightingale served the poor and the sick and set new standards in healthcare that were subsequently copied everywhere. John Henry Newman, whose beatification I will celebrate shortly, was one of many British Christians of his age whose goodness, eloquence and action were a credit to their countrymen and women. These, and many people like them, were inspired by a deep faith born and nurtured in these islands.

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

Sixty-five years ago, Britain played an essential role in forging the post-war international consensus which favoured the establishment of the United Nations and ushered in a hitherto unknown period of peace and prosperity in Europe. In more recent years, the international community has followed closely events in Northern Ireland which have led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the devolution of powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Your Majesty’s Government and the Government of Ireland, together with the political, religious and civil leaders of Northern Ireland, have helped give birth to a peaceful resolution of the conflict there. I encourage everyone involved to continue to walk courageously together on the path marked out for them towards a just and lasting peace.

Looking abroad, the United Kingdom remains a key figure politically and economically on the international stage. Your Government and people are the shapers of ideas that still have an impact far beyond the British Isles. This places upon them a particular duty to act wisely for the common good. Similarly, because their opinions reach such a wide audience, the British media have a graver responsibility than most and a greater opportunity to promote the peace of nations, the integral development of peoples and the spread of authentic human rights. May all Britons continue to live by the values of honesty, respect and fair-mindedness that have won them the esteem and admiration of many.

Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your Government and people set before the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world.

May God bless Your Majesty and all the people of your realm. Thank you.