The European Commission is expected this month to make a decision on whether the Vatican should make the ‘white list’ – a category of governments and financial institutions certified by the European Union as upholding utmost financial transparency.
The recipients of such certificates are elevated to the status of being beyond reproach and with the right to ride the moral high ground. But the bid to reclaim credibility comes at a time the Vatican (not the Catholic Church) is reeling under allegations of money-laundering, cultism (freemasonry), paedophilia, and homosexuality.
Against this backdrop, there is a mutiny of the monsignors at the Holy See, which they accuse of covering up massive layers of sins. The stampede for certification of the Vatican City on the white list is ironic as it presents the biggest questions of integrity for the EU given the Roman Catholic Church headquarters’ unceasing financial haemorrhage and money-laundering allegations it is now stuck with.
The ‘white list’ bid could not have come at a worse time for the Vatican, which at present is embroiled in multiple moral and financial scandals, with the Vatican Bank or Institute of Religious Affairs coming under severe criticism over money laundering and its apparent partiality to financial fiddling that hit alarming proportions under the watch of Pope John Paul II.
The United States has already placed the Vatican in the category of states under its radar for money laundering, what the State Department now perceives as proceeds of international drug trafficking and other crimes.
The decision will also have a significant impact on how the rest of the world perceives the EU, which tends to cut a ‘holier-than-thou’ image in its dealings with developing countries.
Titled International Narcotics Control Strategy, the report places the Vatican under “jurisdiction of concern” category along with countries like Albania, the Czech Republic, Egypt, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam and Yemen. The report places the Vatican alongside the league of governments that perpetuate serious international crimes.
As the Vatican rot was bared, Susan Pittman of the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement was quoted early this month saying: “To be considered a jurisdiction of concern merely indicates that there is a vulnerability to a financial system by money launderers.?With the large volumes of international currency that goes through the Holy See, it is a system that makes it vulnerable as a potential money-laundering centre.”
So will the EU bend its rules to accommodate the Vatican, whose clout pervades political capitals in Christendom? Good governance, transparency and economic liberalisation were the pillars on which the United States and the Vatican converged to influence democratic revolutions in developing countries and communist states.
Ironically, the very political and economic concepts that precipitated the collapse of communism and ousted tyrannical regimes in Third World countries have returned to haunt the Vatican.
After decades of burying its head in the sand, the same tenets threaten to lift the lid off the pile of corruption that characterises top leadership of the Catholic Church without questions being raised. The ‘mutiny of monsignors’, as the revolt by members of the Curiae (bureaucracy of the cardinals who run the Vatican) against Pope Benedict XVI’s partiality threatens to raise more questions about the cause of the death of Pope John Paul I after only about 33 days at the helm.