Pope Francis with Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal McCarrick (now ex-cardinal) at a reception for a US foundation called The Papal Foundation. Image: Reception for the Foundation in April 2017 - the last one.
(Rome / New York) More and more revelations give the influence of a "Church mafia on the levers," according to Riposte Catholique, clear outlines. It's also about The Papal Foundation, a foundation largely unknown in Europe, based in the United States.
The purpose of this charitable institution is to raise funds among US Catholics for the financial support of papal projects. Specifically, the ruling Pope will be provided with the means to help the poorest of the poor, to finance the construction and maintenance of schools on a papal request, and to provide scholarships to pupils and students. One of the applicants for the foundation is the pope himself.
The Papal Foundation
Members can be physical or juridical persons, whether companies, foundations or organizations. Anyone who becomes a member undertakes to donate at least one million dollars over the next ten years, with each member making at least $100,000 available annually. With their money, donors can do corporal works of mercy, not by doing it directly, but by letting the Pope choose the people they want to sponsor.
The foundation's assets were estimated at $206 million last spring. In 1990, the first payment was made to Rome. At first it was a million dollars a year, by 2000 three million a year and in 2015 a total of even 15 million.
Meanwhile, the "Papal Foundation" has been drawn into the conflict that has befallen the Catholic Church in the United States. A conflict was fueled by Pope Francis in Rome but recently it takes an unexpected turn.
The reason for this is the sexual abuse scandal that is poaching the Church in the US. In addition, there is the accusation in the air that foundation funds have been misused. It could still have a legal sequel.
It's not just about control over the funds. US Catholics are growing increasingly displeased with the abuse scandals on the one hand, and the papal administration on the other, and the associated attacks on faithful Church circles in the United States. In other words, believing US Catholics, less and less able to support Pope Francis' course, are increasingly tired of being abused by Rome but having to pay money to Rome.
And now in turn.
The foundation was for McCarrick "a lever in Rome"
Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who lost his cardinal status last July for gross sexual abuse charges against him, was one of the founders of The Papal Foundation in 1988. This is not surprising, since all cardinals residing in the US are automatically members of the board of trustees. Although the foundation is not a McCarrick project, his name is linked to the Foundation like no other US prelate. Therefore, the question is whether McCarrick also used his position on the money for self-serving purposes. After all, he was Foundation Chairman for many years.
Since McCarrick's loss of the hat, the board consists of nine cardinals. There are also six archbishops and bishops and nine laymen appointed by the cardinals.
Last July, as the McCarrick scandal broke out, the Washington Post quoted Steve Schneck, longtime director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America (CUA), as saying:
"The Papal Foundation was for him [McCarrick] a great lever in Rome".
Schneck himself often collaborated with McCarrick:
"There is no Catholic organization in the US for which he did not raise any money."
Whoever brings money is usually welcome. McCarrick was a capable fundraiser, as the industry term for "social marketing" is also in the German-speaking world today.
The bankrupt hospital and the Congo royalties
Last spring, the discreetly-based foundation was hit by a controversy in the public headlines. LifeSiteNews published internal documents on an exceptional grant that the Foundation should grant to the Vatican.
The IDI Rome, mismanagement, money laundering, embezzlement
In June 2017, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin informed the presiding Cardinal of the Foundation, Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, of a special request from Pope Francis. The foundation will provide $25 million to restart the Dermatology Hospital, including the Cancer Research Center in Rome. He is referring to the Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata (IDI), a highly specialized Order hospital of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception (Congregatio Filiorum Immaculatae Conceptionis, CFIC). The Order was founded in 1857 by lay brother Luigi Maria Monti to assist sick and dying people in Rome. In 1865 they received papal recognition, while the Brotherhood was converted in 1904 into a religious order, which also includes priests. In 1925, the foundation stone was laid for the hospital, during which a large number of Jews were hidden during the German occupation in the Eternal City. The hospital quickly enjoyed a great reputation.
The Order is active on four continents today. The IDI was the prize of the Order’s Italian Province, but fell into the wrong hands. The flagship project became the "scandal hospital", as the Italian media called it. That did not refer to the medical supply, but also a scandalous management. In December 2011, the 250-bed hospital was bankrupt. The whole extent of the scandal became known only over the next few years. Five years was “enough" for the responsible person to drive the renowned clinic financially on the wall. As the Italian prosecutor wrote, the management had accumulated a debt of almost one billion euros. "More debt than 20 countries in the world have," says LifeSiteNews.
In 2013, the three main leaders were arrested, including a priest. The allegation was bankruptcy fraud, money laundering and embezzlement. The arrested priest, Fr. Franco Decaminada, was accused, among other things, of diverting a part of 14 misappropriated millions of euros for himself. Not from the coffers of the hospital, but the Order's province. In addition, he had "withdrawn without any reason" two million in cash from the coffers of the hospital, according to the examining magistrate, who confirmed the arrest warrant. The prosecution seized a villa in Tuscany belonging to a real estate company owned by Father Decaminada. For reconstruction work in the villa, more than 900,000 euros had been diverted from the hospital, according to the Roman prosecutor Michele Nardi.
Bloated costs, incorrect bills and the shadow of 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, who is said to have sucked in at the flow of money. In the Congo, the Order received royalties from the oil industry in exchange for medical services from the state. They were managed by a company registered in Luxembourg. However, 50 percent of them had hiked directly into the pockets of "P. Decaminada and his people," according to prosecutor Nardi.
A controversial "wish" by Pope Francis
The grant Pope Francis wanted for the hospital was a hundred times higher than the usual individual grants usually granted by the Pope's Foundation in the United States.
Pope Francis with Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal McCarrick (center)
Cardinal Wuerl brought the wish of the Pope in June 2017 to the Board of Trustees and surprised his members. He was actively supported by Cardinal McCarrick. In August 2017, the Foundation actually paid eight million to the Vatican. Already at that time, some members of the foundation council had stomach aches, but they did not yet know about the background of the cash flow.
It was the laity in the foundation who wanted to drill and get information, and the more in Italy that it became known, the more indignant the mood became. How could the "Pope of the Poor" use funds destined for charity to clean up corrupt mismanagement? Then donors quit their membership and withdrew from the foundation.
Although the laity opposed it, the Cardinals and Bishops voted in December for another $5 million payment. The money was transferred in January 2018. This was fire on the roof.
An appointed examination board of the foundation criticized the decision. It was "irresponsible, unjustified and ruthless". It would be difficult to find donors in the future, if the money is used in such a way.
The donors are "not milking cows"
In the Catholic Herald, James Longon, a member of the Audit Committee, wrote in March 2018 about the laity like him, the actual funders: "They are business people of great acumen, with years of experience and exceptional achievements." His reproach: how to demand serious business people who make their money decently and hard, use their money to clean up mismanagement, corruption and embezzlement. That was "gross abuse.” The donors are "stewards" and not "milking cows," said Longon, who left the foundation in protest. "I'm 73 years old and I'm getting closer to the judge," because he could not support something like that.
In the spring of 2018, the dispute in the foundation in the headlinesIn the spring of 2018, the dispute in the foundation in the headlines
It was an outrage that Cardinal Wuerl, because of the resistance in the foundation, resorted to means that had hitherto been uncommon. The bishops voted with one exception in the block for the transfer to Rome. There was strong group pressure. None of the prelates wanted to stand as "opponents of the pope."
The Cardinals Wuerl and McCarrick tried because of the mismatch even to bring the payment of the remaining 12 million as quickly as possible on the stage. They argued with an "emergency" in which the hospital is located, which is why urgent action is urgently needed. When the lay people learned that the Vatican had not even passed the eight million in August 2017 to the hospital, the displeasure was complete. Other donors threatened to retreat. The matter became so serious that Cardinal Wuerl finally had to ask Pope Francis to renounce the remittance of the remainder.
Pope Francis reacted angrily and canceled the annual reception for the foundation in March. No money, no audience.
"That's clericalism," wrote the Catholic Herald.
The Pope of the Poor closed the door to be shut in front of the donors when he did not get what he wanted. And what he wanted was not for the poor, but for the settlement of a culpable, corrupt mismanagement.
This explains why a layman is considered one of the founding members of The Better Church Governance Group. This group gathered at the Catholic University in Washington on October 1 and decided to spend more than $ 1.2 million to screen all cardinals eligible to vote. This should prevent another McCarrick case. Not so clearly said, but obviously meant that another case Bergoglio should be avoided, namely the election of a pope, of which hardly anyone knew anything [I’m disagreeing with this. Bergoglio was a known entity when he was elected.] neither what he thinks nor for what understanding he had of the Cchurch.
McCarrick's conflict of interest
The presence McCarrick in the Board of Trustees could still have a big sequel. McCarrick, then a cardinal, attended all four meetings of the Board of Trustees between June 2017 and April 2018, which involved Pope Francis' $25 million grant.
McCarrick strongly supported the papal desire, as various sources confirmed. With the exception of the June meeting, he was under investigation during the other three meetings. The impetus came a few weeks before the June meeting. At least since October 2017, McCarrick knew, according to First Things, that there was an investigation against him. He voted for each of the money transfers to the Vatican. His cardinal dignity, and thus his seat on the Foundation Council, he lost only on July 28, 2018.
This raises the question of whether and what role the cash flows played in his position in the Vatican. First Thingsspeaks of a "serious conflict of interest". Against McCarrick was the position he took for which he decided for cash grants. In return could he hope for leniency? [He made a friend of the mamon of iniquity.] Was that also true in the years before, since he founded the foundation in 1988 and since 1990 had been flowing money to Rome?
According to First Things, he might also be in conflict with the state of Pennsylvania's legal system. To be exempt, charitable organizations must comply with certain requirements, including a check on whether the purpose of the funds granted is respected. In addition, according to the opinion of lawyers, McCarrick due to the conflict of interests, would have to make dormant his seat on the Foundation Board or at least not be allowed to participate in the votes. He could have violated applicable law. This could also challenge the decisions and cause the Vatican to repay the 13 million dollars already transferred.
Cardinal Pell’s departure from Rome
In terms of time, Cardinal Wuerl, who’s departure was announced in June 2017 by the Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin, coincided with Cardinal George Pell's departure from Rome. Pell left the Vatican the same month and returned to Australia to defend himself against allegations of sexual abuse. At the Roman Curia he was Prefect of the newly established Economic Secretariat. Formally, he is still out of service. Pell has not only the reputation of being a serious champion of zero tolerance, but also a good steward. As a result, the former archbishop of Sydney quickly came into conflict with old Vatican cliques who tolerated no interference in their finances.
The name of Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, Prefect of the Apostolic Property Administration (APSA), was particularly frequent. Pope Francis was more concerned with these circles, who made no secret of having chosen him, than with Cardinal Pell, who is not been counted among the Bergoglians. The responsibilities of the Economic Secretariat were severely curtailed by Francis before they could even be applied. US Vaticanist Pentin wrote this upon Pell’s departure from Rome:
"The longer Cardinal Pell is away from Rome, the more likely it is that the financial misconduct of the 'old guard' will continue and the financial reforms that Pell has been working on will continue to falter."
McCarrick and his circle
It is not just the membership and role of McCarrick on the Board of The Papal Foundation that seems problematic from today's perspective. This is true of at least two other Church leaders who held leading positions in the Foundation, some of them until a few days ago.
McCarrick, whose aberrosexual double life was described as "perverted and diabolical" by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former nuncio to the US, was founding president of the foundation and remained there for many years until his cardinal census of 2001.
Bransfield, who was recently appointed Foundation President
Until 18 September 2018, Msgr. Michael Bransfield, Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, was President of the Foundation. His life is closely linked to McCarrick's. His Protégé Bransfield, became Rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Bransfield held this prestigious position until his episcopal appointment, which took place in December 2004 during the last months of life of Pope John Paul II. As president of the foundation, McCarrick was his predecessor. In the context of the McCarrick case, the Pennsylvania Report also raised charges against him. On 18 September 2018, Pope Francis accepted his resignation, officially for reasons of age, unofficially because of the allegations. With his resignation, the Vatican announced that investigations into sexual misconduct and abuse were initiated.
The foundation immediately deleted his name from its website.
The third name is that of Thomas Benestad, who was the first managing director of the Papal Foundation from 1988-2001. He is also accused of sexual abuse in the Pennsylvania Report. The Vatican has suspended him from the priesthood. In 2014, however, he was reinstated in his priestly rights because of a statute of limitations in the United States. Today he lives in Florida, in a diocese, but refuses to practice the priestly ministry.
The shadow of McCarrick and his homosexuals lays over the foundation. It is also about the suspicion that he made his position in the foundation selfishly serviceable.
All sides are aware of the importance and influence of the foundation. But there is no doubt that those Catholic circles in the United States are currently rehearsing the uprising, who are tired of being discredited and disparaged from Rome as "religious rightists", while they are watching the pontificate of Francis with increasing displeasure, how the reputation of the whole Church is soiled with filth, of persons especially close to Francis. This simmering conflict is also about The Papal Foundation.
It is also unknown who would convince Pope Francis to apply to the US Foundation for the 25 million grant.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Riposte Catholique / The Papal Foundation / IDI (Screenshots)
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org