Allow me to briefly bury the lede.
I’ve often said that I’m not a journalist, I’m a commentator, and as such, I don’t make an attempt to hide my bias in the interest of the expected, but in most cases fictitious, ideal of journalistic objectivity.
Today, I’m feeling the need to actually turn the bias up a few notches.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu was, as far as I could tell from my work covering the Vatican 6,000 miles away, one of the dirtiest political operatives in Bergoglian Rome — and unsurprisingly, this made him one of the Vatican’s most quickly rising stars. He was at the center of shady real estate deals, the ouster (and possibly the framing) of Cardinal Pell, the ouster (and possibly the framing) of Vatican auditor Libero Milone, the coup to take over the Knights of Malta, and, in Archbishop Vigano’s original testimony, it was alleged that he was one of those who “knew in every detail the situation regarding Cardinal McCarrick.”
And today, very unexpectedly, this newly-minted Cardinal and central player in the Francis regime, who appeared every bit the untouchable hatchet man of the Vatican Mafioso, resigned both from his office as the recently-appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, and from any rights appurtenant to members of the College of Cardinals.
And Francis accepted this resignation, apparently without comment. Which to my mind means — and I’m just spitballing here, so check my math — that whatever is coming for Becciu is something they can’t control, and they’re trying to get ahead of it. I’m guessing civil action of some kind, most likely related to financial malfeasance. It’s hard to guess for sure when you’re dealing with so many cretinous possibilities. I really just want to grab some popcorn and let the mystery unfold as I settle in for the show.
The usually reserved Ed Condon of CNA seems as pleased as I am at the announcement:
— Ed. Condon (@canonlawyered) September 24, 2020
CNA takes the time to outline some of the scandals associated with his name. Here’s a bit:
Becciu served as “sostituto,” or second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, from 2011 to 2018, when Pope Francis named him a cardinal and moved him to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. During his tenure in that position, he was linked to a number of financial scandals, most recently the Secretariat’s investment of hundreds of millions of euros with the Italian businessman Rafaelle Mincione and the controversial purchase of a London building.
CNA has previously reported that a substantial part of the $200 million used to finance the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a luxury development at 60 Sloane Avenue came through credit extended by BSI, a Swiss bank with a long track record of violating money-laundering and fraud safeguards in its dealings with sovereign wealth funds.
CNA has also reported that in 2015 Becciu seemed to have made an attempt to disguise the loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property purchased in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, an accounting maneuver prohibited by new financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.
The alleged attempt to hide the loans off-books was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Cardinal George Pell. Senior officials at the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that when Pell began to demand details of the loans, especially those involving BSI, then-Archbishop Becciu called the cardinal in to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand.”
Becciu has previously defended the London investment as “accepted practice,” despite Vatican prosecutors staging raids on the offices of several of Becciu’s closest collaborators in the Secretariat, and despite the arrest of one of the businessmen involved.
CNA has also reported that Becciu was involved in a complicated series of events and financial transactions around the purchase of the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), an Italian hospital that collapsed in 2013 under 800 million euros of debt through theft and fraud.
In 2016, Becciu was instrumental in bringing to a halt Vatican financial reforms initiated by Cardinal George Pell. Although Pope Francis had given the newly created Prefecture for the Economy autonomous oversight authority over Vatican finances, Becciu interfered when the prefecture planned an external audit of all Vatican departments, to be conducted by the firm PriceWaterhouseCooper.
CNA says that Becciu cancelled these reforms without the approval of his boss, the pope, but if you believe that I’ve got a hot tip on the Ponte Sant’Angelo being for sale — for you, special price!
It’s possible, of course, that we’ll never know what prompted Becciu’s rapid departure from his very promising career — after all, he was only made a cardinal in 2018 — but I suspect we will hear something soon enough. This isn’t the sort of about face one makes mid-soar unto the heights of ecclesial power for no particular reason.
All I know is that another crooked Francis henchman got taken to the woodshed, and that’s very happy news indeed. Another one bites the dust.
UPDATE – 9/24/2020 3:09PM MST: The inimitable Catholic Sat just tweeted the following, and as I thought, the Vatican was trying to get ahead of a story coming out about just how corrupt Becciu is.It’ll be interesting to see what we can learn once this story is translated into English:
It now becomes clear why the Pope moved tonight to remove Cardinal Becciu, ahead of L'Espresso publishing an expose of the how Becciu diverted Peter's Pence money to speculative funds managed by his brother, and to a company where another brother is a majority shareholder https://t.co/dvkhdgZ6VV
— Catholic Sat (@CatholicSat) September 24, 2020