Denver Newsroom, Oct 5, 2020 / 11:29 am
When an allegation against a high-ranking churchman makes its way from Vatican-watchers to Italian newspapers to American headlines in just a matter of days, it’s a safe bet the story will have something to do with sex.
And if it’s an allegation that pertains to both sex and money, and includes the possibility of a criminal conspiracy pitting cardinal against cardinal, well, you’ve got a recipe for a best-selling potboiler, to say nothing of a story sure to circle the globe fast, and attract a lot of attention.
So it’s no surprise to see the attention paid to a set of allegations and theories that stemmed from Italian newspaper reports last week: That Cardinal Angelo Becciu sent 700,000 euros of Vatican funds to Australia during Cardinal George Pell’s sexual abuse trial, and that Becciu might have sent the money as a payment for Pell's accusers.
But it should be noted that while the story is now the topic of discussion among Catholics everywhere, the allegations are heavy on innuendo and light on facts, to say the least. At least so far.
The story began with highly speculative media reports suggesting that Becciu transferred funds to Australia, and suggesting that the information may have come from Becciu’s longtime aide, Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, who is said to be cooperating with investigators in a multi-year investigation of numerous charges of financial misconduct and corruption surrounding the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, at which Becciu worked for years.
From there, the story picked up steam enough to include the charge that the money was transferred as a payoff from Becciu to those accusing Pell of sexually abusing them. That story has now garnered so much attention that Pope Francis reportedly met this morning with Australia’s apostolic nuncio, reportedly to ask him about any transfers of Vatican funds to the Land Down Under.
Again, it must be noted that there are no documents, no direct quotes, no proofs or confirmations of any aspects of the story. There are, therefore, a few possibilities:
It is possible that the Italian newspapers claiming to have spoken with first-hand sources have been misled, by someone with an agenda, or someone exaggerating rumors to gain stature or establish a narrative. This should not be considered outside the realm of possibility by anyone familiar with some outlets in the Italian press.