Spy against spy in the Vatican
By Phil Lawler ( bio – articles – email ) | February 11, 2022
One Vatican office spying on another? It’s not uplifting. But read between the lines of the latest report from the Vatican’s financial lawsuitand you can begin to see the outlines of a larger scandal.
the Pillar site, which continues to set the tone for coverage of financial shenanigans, broke the story for American readers. A former Secretariat of State official testified that at the request of his superiors, he brought in Italian government intelligence agents to check electronic surveillance in the Vatican.
Pillar specifies that the Holy See has its own experts in electronic surveillance, at the Vatican Gendarmerie. So why would the Secretariat of State go outside the walls of the Vatican, seeking help in detecting illegal surveillance?
But perhaps I shouldn’t assume that the Secretariat of State was concerned about illegal monitoring. If it was done by agents of the Vatican Gendarmerie, investigating illegal financial activities, then it was not illegal. You may recall that in October 2019, the offices of the Secretariat of State were raided – by officers of the Vatican Gendarmerie. And now you can start connecting the dots.
Vincenzo Maurillo, the former employee responsible for this latest bomb, says he was asked to contact Italian intelligence agents in May or June 2019: just months before the raid. We now know that Vatican prosecutors were investigating reports of unauthorized financial dealings within the Secretariat of State. So officials there may have had very good reason to be concerned about wiretapping – and good reason. not talk to the Vatican Gendarmerie about their concerns.
Look further into this inglorious story and remember that in September 2017, the Vatican’s Auditor General resigned under heavy pressure, after then-Archbishop Angelo Becciu accused him of having “spied on the private life of his superior and his staff, including me”. Apparently the auditor general, Libero Milone, was too interested in the financial dealings of Bishop Becciu, who at the time was the sostistuto or Under-Secretary of State. Today, Cardinal Becciu is the most high-profile defendant in the financial lawsuit, which is the result of the investigation that prompted the October 2019 raid.
During his days in power as substitute, Archbishop Becciu was the main opponent of Cardinal George Pell’s efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances. (And we still don’t know why his office transferred large sums of money to Australia, at a time when shaky charges against Cardinal Pell were emerging.) He expelled Milone, the auditor general. Later, two other officials who were linked to the financial investigation – Rene Bruelhart, chairman of the Financial Information Authority; and Domenico Giani, the head of the gendarmerie, were also pushed out.
Curiously, however, it was not Cardinal Becciu who asked Vincenzo Maurillo to call on the Italian experts. It is his successor as substitute, Bishop Edgar Pena Parra. So if Maurillo’s story is true (and do you have reason to doubt it?), Cardinal Becciu wasn’t the only one who wanted to thwart an internal investigation into questionable financial dealings in this office. And while Cardinal Becciu has been relieved of his duties at the Vatican pending his trial, Archbishop Peña Parra remains the substitute: the 2nd official of the Secretariat of State, with an enormous influence on the Roman Curia.
Now consider the curious behavior of Vatican prosecutors in the finance case, who repeatedly failed to follow court orders to release information, making mysterious references to “reason of state.” Notice that some senior Vatican officials who have certainly appear involved in the dodgy financial deals (including Archbishop Peña Parra) have not been charged. Note also that Pope Francis intervened four times to change the rules of the trial.
Eventually, you realize, unfortunately, that some Vatican officials have good reason to be concerned about surveillance: they don’t want the truth to come out.
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