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As if one huge, long-running, top-level scandal wasn’t enough for Catholics, they’ve now got a new one to contend with. And it’s exposed at the worst time possible for their leaders. Join me today for a look at Catholicism’s newer scandal, and how hardline Catholics are reacting to the news.

a huge swiss catholic church interior
(Gadiel Lazcano.)

Another Big Scandal.

The news broke recently: the Vatican has yet another scandal on its hands.

This time, it didn’t involve the rape of underage children or the murder of vulnerable infants and women, so that’s good, I suppose. Those scandals went on for many centuries before finally poking up from a sea of submerged fear.

YouTube video

The inevitable results of giving unlimited power and no ethical barriers to entry to any group. (NSFW  for, well, everything.)

Instead, this new scandal involves the discovery of troubling financial corruption at the highest levels of Catholicism.

I suspect most people–especially non-Catholics–know by now that this group regularly commits enormous financial shenanigans. The news constantly confirms this opinion. (See endnote for a truly hilarious example.)

YouTube video

The inevitable results of giving unlimited power and no oversight to anybody. (NSFW language.)

So yeah. This scandal goes considerably further than even the norm.

What Happened.

The news broke that for many years, the Catholic church has allegedly misused funds on the grandest scale imaginable.

Here are some highlights of the scandal:

  • In 2017, a bunch of senior Catholic officials, including then-cardinal Theodore McCarrick and current Cardinals Angelo Becciu and Giuseppe Versaldi, pressured a United States-based Catholic foundation to give them US$25M. They told American donors that the money would ease the financial collapse of a bankrupt dermatological hospital they’d bought. The Secretariat of State of the Vatican (characterized as the most powerful department in the whole dysfunctional organization) bought it in 2015.
  • In reality, the money went to help with a huge shortage in another subgroup’s accounting ledgers.
  • That hospital collapsed in the first place because of “large-scale acts of theft and money laundering.” The Vatican bought the hospital with a very iffy-sounding loan. However, the hospital couldn’t repay that debt. I saw figures of upwards of $USB1B in liabilities for this hospital.
  • Sweet ol’ Pope Francis, Darth Cuddlebug himself, appears to have been the guy who asked for that $25M donation. Oh, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl helped here as well.
  • Catholic laypeople showed anger about the proposed use of the funds–and the irregularity of the funding request itself. In response, the foundation’s leaders sent a letter to them demanding an end to dissent.
  • Also, some Italian journalists broke a story about a whole other wave of financial improprieties. This one involves $USD200M taken from Peter’s Pence, a fund supporting various Catholic charities.
  • Oh, and there’s this nutbar then-bishop who got caught seriously misusing charity funds. He resigned last year amid financial and sexual allegations.

There’s so much more involved, however. One detail emerges regarding a Catholic bishop accused of homosexual conduct back in 2009. It seems that the Vatican might have engineered those accusations to cover up more financial scandals. Whoopsie.

Also, the Secretariat of State stands accused of misusing some USD$725M in funds. Much of that money comes from Peter’s Pence. That fund sure gets around!

(Mr. Captain: (laughing uncontrollably in That’s Just Magical))

The “Wanted” Flyer.

The Pope’s own chief bodyguard resigned in mid-October over fresh leaks.

It turns out this chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, created a flyer on October 2 depicting five Vatican employees. One news outlet tells us that the police conducted “a raid” on their department, sparking their suspension. So Giani wanted to ensure that the Vatican police would know not to allow any of these suspended employees into restricted areas. Blah blah blah, right?

However, his flyer looked exactly like a “Wanted” poster.

Seriously, check it out:

wanted-looking poster of five employees suspended from service
DEAD OR ALIVE, amirite? From L’Espresso, 10/2/19.

Words simply fail me.

Never “Presumed Innocent” When It Comes to the Money Train.

If anything, the whole story over at L’Espresso is even weirder.

That first photo depicts a Catholic clergyman, Monsignor Mauro Carlino. That dude only just got promoted in July to the position of Justice to the Court of the Apostolic Signatura. He also held the position of documentation of the Secretariat of State.

Carlino and the other employees worked at the Financial Information Authority (AIF). The department’s director, Tommaso di Ruzza, appears on the flyer as well. AIF oversees all kinds of financial stuff passing through the Vatican.

(It appears that AIF oversees the use of Peter’s Pence money, too. Well, well. What could possibly go wrong in asking foxes to guard their own henhouse?)

Of course, Giani’s decision to create and release a flyer like this becomes all the more concerning when we realize that not one of those five people stood under any kind of official investigation. Nor had the Vatican charged any of them with anything formal.

An uproar emerged after the flyer’s release. And it really should have! Something like this could follow those employees around for the rest of their lives.

But they threatened the Catholic money train. That provokes the strongest responses possible.

Really Bad Timing.

All this scandalous news emerges at a critical time for the Catholic Church. Their donations have trended downward for years. Most of these decreases appear to represent Catholic rank-and-file members’ disapproval of Catholic sexual scandals.

In 2006, Catholics donated around €101 million to Peter’s Pence. By now, experts think that amount has plummeted to “less than €60 million.” Other signs indicate that Catholic tithing trends downward as well.

Along with donations, membership has fallen steadily for years. The big news this past summer in Catholic-land was that Germany looked set to lose about 200k Catholic laypeople–and that Catholics’ membership losses will only continue.

In fact, the church might be cruising straight toward default by 2023.

As with Protestantism, of course, every Catholic leaving “the Mother Church” also takes their wallet with them. Cover-ups, political maneuvering for temporal power, and unthinkably-massive slush funds don’t fund themselves.

Catholic leaders need those sheeps’ fleece!

Applies equally well to Catholic leaders. (Sheep image: Spixey, CC license.)

And the Surreal Response from TRUE CATHOLICS™.

For years now, hardline Catholics have expressed their absolute hatred of Pope Francis and every single thing he’s ever done in his entire life.

The way I mockingly characterize him, Darth Cuddlebug, represents the very real way these hardliners see him. To them, he’s way too nice, way too accommodating to their tribal enemies, and dammit, way too progressive.

Yes. Seriously.

I’m sure Francis’ wave of cost-cutting measures only enrages them more. But facts are facts: he’s doing it to help out with a massive debt in his organization. And much of this debt didn’t even originate during his reign. Dude’s desperate to keep his money train afloat, and the hardliners don’t even understand why that’s something they should support.

Similarly, Francis’ cuddly image represents a Hail Mary, a last-ditch end-run to try to recover Catholic membership numbers, credibility, and donations. Every single measure he tries to enact, from “hey, let’s try being nicer to divorcees” to “hey, atheists aren’t actually the devil” to “hey, maybe we shouldn’t bar entry to the clergy for people who’ve been married since we’re almost totally out of clergy here,” is just one more attempt to coax Catholics back to the fold–and yes, to counter all the scandals his organization keeps sprouting.

And Catholic hardliners think he’s hurting the Catholic Church here.

Suddenly, a Wild Catholic Appears.

I’m not kidding when I talk about hardliners in revolt. Way back in September, I spotted this editorial called “The Fool in the Vatican.” William Marshall, a rank-and-file Catholic, wrote it to express his sheer outrage over Pope Francis’ rejection of hardliners’ culture wars.

Marshall’s editorial represents a good summation of hardliners’ outrage:

While he [the Pope] ventures into waters in which he has no expertise, like “man-made climate change,” he is making fundamental changes to Catholic doctrine where he presumably does have some expertise, that is sowing confusion and turmoil among tradition-minded Catholics.

Gotta love the scare quotes and the Christianese “tradition-minded” as a subtweet for “culture warrior.” Oh, and one early line in the piece, too: “Dear God, give me strength.” Oh that poor dear.

Marshall actually calls the Catholic Church “the most powerful institution for the protection of humanity that the world has ever known.” The mind boggles at the sheer cognitive dissonance required to think that. And he and his sympathizers now openly discuss whether it’s allowable to remove Francis in favor of a hardliner who’ll listen to them.

Cuz seriously, y’all, waging culture wars will work to reverse Catholics’ losses. Totally it will work.

They just haven’t done it hard enough yet.

Killing Gods, Toppling Thrones. The Usual.

I can easily see American hardliners forcing a showdown between Catholic moderates and leaders and themselves.

But it’s hard to see them “winning” in a real sense.

A culture of authoritarianism, absolute control over others, denial of human rights, institutionalized secrecy, and divinely-signed permission slips does not create a happy Jesus world. It creates the Republic of Gilead and Tuam’s once-secret mass graves. It creates dystopia and cruelty, innocent people caught between the jaws of a compassionless, impossibly-evil, and utterly self-focused group intelligence, and yes, death.

No gods exist who look out for humanity. One of the surest signs we have of that reality is that the Catholic Church could operate exactly like I describe for so many centuries.

It sure wasn’t “Jesus” who stopped them, either. It was people and governments who peeled away Christians temporal power over others–and now refuse to hand any of that power back to those confirmed as abusers and predators.

The lessons of history remain quite clear. Without the power to force their victims to endure their abuses, Catholics’ losses will only continue.

If the Dog Caught the Car.

Bare naked facts time:

All the things these Catholic hardliners imagine wanting and all the stuff Francis’ regime has refused them is the exact stuff that actively contributed to the sexual and financial scandals we see today.

And if Francis granted American hardliners any of their demands, all it would do is hasten the end of their dominance worldwide.

If it wouldn’t also entail gruesome outcomes in very real people’s lives, I’d almost want hardliners to get exactly what they ask for. As it is, though, the mere fact that they want that stuff will likely be enough to drive away yet more people.

So… good news, I guess?

(Background: Allan Doyle, CC license.)

NEXT UP: News of Christianity’s decline is not actually exaggerated. But these Christians sure think so! See you soon.


This Was Amazing: Back in 2007, the San Diego Diocese tried to declare bankruptcy to avoid paying almost USD$200M to their sex-assault victims. Unfortunately, the judge they begged for this bankruptcy happened to be Catholic–and she had received one of their fundraising packets earlier, which contained assertions about the diocese being totally broke. However, because of the bankruptcy case she knew they held vast amounts of real estate around the city and were far from broke–which meant they were completely lying to their flocks. They just didn’t want to sell their real estate! What a corrupt and ghastly bunch of ghouls. (Back to the post!)

Just an interesting side note to history buffs: Way back when in the Renaissance, Domenico/Domenica was a name often given to children baptized on a Sunday as a means of giving them a bit of extra divine protection. In researching the era years ago, I noticed that orphans and children pressed into early Church service also seemed to get this name a lot. This information is probably only interesting to me, but all the same here it is. 🙂

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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