Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 12, 2020 / 15:00 pm
On Saturday, the ongoing saga of Vatican financial scandal – or reform, if you prefer – continued with the approval of several new changes to Vatican City law on transparency and economic oversight.
It also included the announcement that Cardinal Pietro Parolin will no longer sit on the reconstituted oversight board of the Institute for Works of Religious (IOR), commonly called the Vatican bank – the first time that the Secretary of State will not have a seat. That announcement is one of several indications that the cardinal and his department, both at the center of Church governance for years, may be losing influence and trust with Pope Francis.
Cardinal Parolin has, so far, remained largely aloof from the financial storm surrounding the curial department he leads, while the ongoing investigation has claimed the jobs of at least six former senior officials, and seen a dramatic fall from grace for his former chief deputy, Cardinal Angelo Becciu.
Parolin himself has – so far – attracted little scrutiny for his role in overseeing the financial dealings of the curia’s most central and politically powerful department. But the circumstances have begun to suggest that he could soon face difficult questions about his work and oversight of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
Much of the coverage of Vatican finances has focused on the role of Cardinal Becciu during his time as sostituto at the Secretariat of State. Becciu is, indeed, at the center of many, if not all, of the financial transactions under scrutiny. But in a recent interview, Enrico Crasso, an Italian businessman charged with investing millions in Vatican funds, noted that Becciu’s authority to act was given to him by Parolin directly.
Over the weekend, the Financial Times reported that the Secretariat of State had sold nearly 250 million euros in charitable assets to pay down debts incurred by Becciu while he engaged in speculative investments like the infamous London property deal. Those loans were the subject of notable clashes between Becciu and the former head of Vatican finances, Cardinal George Pell.
“When Becciu asked for the financing for the London building, he presented a letter from Cardinal Pietro Parolin… saying that Becciu had the full powers to leverage the entire assets,” Crasso told Corriere della Sera earlier this month.
It is not the first time Parolin has taken personal responsibility for Becciu’s controversial projects.