When we examine all this, it becomes clear that the Vatican today is mainly, if not entirely, a secular organization concerned about its economic and political viability. As Baigent and Leigh observe;
16 There has been a noticeable change for the worse in the Church's image in India. Indian Bishops have recently launched a campaign to have the majority of their members recognized as a 'backward caste' and even as untouchables to qualify for special government help. Mother Teresa too joined the campaign, but later claimed the opposite leading to a serious loss of credibility and dissensions within the community.
The Church today, after all, is less a religious than a social, cultural, political and economic institution. Its stability and security rest on factors quite remote from the creed, the doctrine and the dogma it promulgates. (p.234)
The doctrine is important only because it is the product sold by the institution which the British writer David Yallop has called Vatican Incorporated. Its 'religion' -under the name of 'Judeo-Christian values' is now little more than a political slogan -just as 'secularism' has become in India and some other former colonies.17 The Vatican today is essentially a multinational business enterprise, a holding company with investments in many corporations, possibly including those that make firearms and missiles, and, surprise of surprises - birth control pills. But for those employed by Vatican Inc., it is often a very comfortable life indeed. Its one redeeming feature is that it can provide employment to people who might otherwise be unemployable.
As a 'religious' organization the Vatican also enjoys tax and other benefits in countries around the world that bona fide companies do not. And because of the enormous political clout that it commands in several governments, especially in Italy and some Latin American countries, it is also guaranteed a degree of immunity from official and even legal scrutiny which allows its officials to engage in activities and methods for which lesser mortals would be jailed or hanged. Put bluntly, the main concern of the Vatican today is amassing wealth and enhancing its political influence by methods fair or foul.
Most students of history know that Medieval and Renaissance Popes like the notorious Alexander VI were incredibly corrupt. Writing anonymously, the great humanist writer Petrarch (1304-74) described the papal court of Clement VI in the following words:
...the shame of mankind, a sin of vice, a sewer where is gathered all the filth in the world. There the God is held in contempt, money alone is worshipped and the laws of God and men are trampled under foot. Everything there breathes a lie...18 (de Rosa, p. 117)
In the centuries following, things actually have not changed all that much. It will no doubt come as a surprise to many - especially to people living outside Europe - to learn that most of what Petrarch wrote of the papacy six hundred years ago applies to the Vatican even today. This is especially true of his observation about worship of money and contempt for the law as this chapter will make clear. A brief look at the financial and other operations leading to the death of Pope John Paul I (who occupied the seat for barely a month), helps obtain a picture of the Vatican today as it really is.
It is a tale of Cardinals, Archbishops, nimble-fingered accountants, drug dealers,
17 This is especially true in American politics. It is the practice of some right-wing politicians like the columnist and perennial presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan to speak of their pluralistic society to be founded on 'Judeo-Christian' values. Setting aside the historical fact that until the end of the Second World
War, Christianity had been violently opposed to Judaism. It is worth noting that neither democracy nor pluralism is a Biblical heritage. They derive from the heritage of pagan Greece, a small part of which the
Europeans managed to regain as a result of the Renaissance. That such a claim could be made at all by a political candidate is eloquent testimony to the fact that Christianiry today is entirely a secular entity. In a similar vein, it is interesting also to note that many scholars of the 'Christian' West take credit for the achievements of the Greek civilization, which was destroyed by Christian vandals like 'Saint' Cyril of Alexandria.
18 Pope Clement had to endure some indignity when his body was dug up and the Huguenots used his head as a football. His skull ended up as a drinking cup on the table of Marquis de Courton.
blackmailers, cold-blooded poisoners and trigger happy contract killers - often working together, and to the same end. The driving forces have been money and power - exactly as they were at the time when Petrarch lived and wrote. And this economic and political position is what the Vatican is trying to protect; everything else is public relations. Ultimately it all comes down to power and money - entirely secular in scope and substance. No one knows exactly how much the Vatican is worth financially.
One person who came close was Robeno Calvi, a prominent member of the Italian Mafia and banker to the Vatican. He was the chairman of Banco Ambrosiano of Milan of which the Vatican was the largest shareholder. He and his bank had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy - thanks to the shady dealings of the Vatican banker Archbishop Marcinkus; the good Archbishop had proven more than a match for the Mafiosi of Milan. The Mafiosi were experts at money laundering, but Archbishop Marcinkus was, as he described himself, 'God's Banker' (and swindler). With both he and his Banco
Ambrosiano reduced to dire financial straits, Calvi, who knew whereof he spoke said:
The Vatican should honour its commitments by selling part of the wealth controlled by the I.O.R. It is an enormous patrimony. I estimate it to be 10 billion dollars. To help the Ambrosiano the I.O.R. could start to sell in chunks of a billion a time. (Yallop, p. 295)
Even this figure given by Calvi in 1982, is in all probability a great underestimate and represented only what he knew at the time. In 1975, a newspaper in Switzerland stated that Swiss banks had put the figure at not less than 50 billion Swiss francs or 15 billion dollars; at today's values that would be worth more than 30 billion dollars exclusive of accumulated interest and other incomes. And this figure does not include its buildings and palaces, priceless paintings and other art treasures. Calvi was speaking strictly of its liquid assets like stocks.
The I.O.R. that Calvi was referring to - Istituto per le Opera di Religione - the Institute for Religious Works is the Vatican Bank which has no function beyond making money. It has served as a religious front for Calvi's Banco Ambrosiano in its drug-related money laundering operations. Shortly after revealing these details about the Vatican, Calvi himself was to lose his life, done to death in London on June 17, 1982 - his death made to look like suicide. His secretary Graziella Corrocher had also been 'suicided' a few hours before. It was obviously the work of professional hit men. His widow Clara Calvi charged: "The Vatican had my husband killed to hide the bankruptcy of the Vatican Bank." (Yallop, p. 306) This is a complex tale that I shall again touch upon a little later.
Calvi had another connection with the Vatican via a sinister organization known as Opus Dei ('Work of God'). It is a secret organization founded in 1928 by the Spanish priest Monsignor Jose Maria Escriva. It seeks to attract the best and the brightest into the fold - from universities, the professional class and especially the media. Dr John Roche of Oxford, a former member of Opus Dei called it 'sinister, secretive and Orwellian'. The organization has as its aim nothing less than the total take-over of the Roman Catholic Church. Three of its members held cabinet positions under the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Jose Mateos, who had to flee Spain to escape prosecution for bank fraud, was a patron of the Opus Dei. Much of its money came from Calvi who funded it through Mateos.19 (See Yallop, pp. 263 - 4)
19 0ne of its members is (or was) the Indian-Spanish theologian Raimundo Panikkar, the author of the book The Unknown Christ of Hinduism. Orwellian is a good way of describing it. We shall be meeting
The financial affairs of the Church spread like a tangled web that leads from the Vatican to international terrorist organizations to Mussolini and Hitler - a story that I will get to a little later.20 But the Vatican practice of hiding purely secular activities like political control (a la Opus Dei), banking, stock and currency speculation and even money laundering operations under a religious cover is a constantly occurring theme in all its dealings. As Yallop observes:
Various other Vatican departments with high-sounding names such as The Fabric of St Peter's, The Pontifical Society for St Peter Apostle, the Administration of the Holy See Patrimony, and the Propaganda Fide were revealed as players of the stock market. (p. 103)
It was more than stock market speculation. Their activities included currency speculation, fraud, money laundering and even blackmail. But first, how did the Vatican acquire the financial wherewithal to indulge in these high-flying activities? To understand this, we need to go back to 1929, to the Concordat signed between the Vatican and the Italian dictator Mussolini. Benefits to the Vatican from this treaty were manifold, beginning with a windfall of 750 million lire in cash, and Italian State Bonds worth a billion lire - all told worth at least a billion dollars in today's values.
To manage this enormous influx of capital and its investment, Pope Pius XI created an office called the Special Administration and hired a financial genius named Bernardino Nogara to run it. Nogara was not a priest and he laid down two conditions before accepting the job. The first was that he was to be free from any religious or doctrinal considerations or scruples in his choice of investments; and second, he should be free to invest anywhere in the world. Pope Pius XI agreed to both conditions. Nogara put this freedom to use at every opportunity including his financing of Mussolini's military adventures.
This of course was a highly profitable venture. He had even acquired armament plants for the Vatican anticipating that Europe was heading towards war.
In 1935, when Mussolini needed armaments for the invasion of Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia), the Vatican reaped a huge profit via shipments of arms by a munitions plant that Nogara had acquired for it. (More than fifty years later, during the Falkland Islands war, Argentina acquired the deadly Exocet missiles through the good offices of the Vatican agent Licio Gelli. We shall be meeting Signor Gelli again.)
In the succeeding years, until he died in 1958, Nogara proved himself one of the most successful investors of all time. He had of course the advantage of operating under the cloak of religion and freedom from Italian tax, and sometimes, even criminal laws. Nonetheless, by any standards his was a virtuoso performance. Cardinal Spellman of New York exulted: "Next to Jesus Christ, the greatest thing that has happened to the Catholic Church is Bernardino Nogara. "
When he said this, Spellman probably had in mind what Pope Leo X had said of Jesus more than four hundred years earlier: "It has served us well - this myth of Christ. "
To return to the Vatican's fortunes, in 1933, its Concordat with Fascist Italy was supplemented by another windfall - this time a highly lucrative treaty with Hitler's
Panikkar and his Unknown Christ later on in the book. The Opus Dei and its goals are probably rooted in the ancient rivalries between Italy and Spain for control of the Church and its institutions.
20 My account is based on David Vallap's brilliant investigative study In God's Name. op. cit. Yallap is probably the foremost British investigative reporter. His study leading to the book had been undertaken at the specific request of Italians who suspected foul play in the death of Pope John I. The result of Yallop's investigation is a comprehensive look at the activities of the Vatican of which this chapter provides only some highlights. Subsequent investigations by authorities in Italy, America, England and Switzerland have confirmed all of Yallop's findings.
Germany. Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State under Pope Pius XI played a leading role in concluding the treaty with the Nazis. Pacelli was later to attain fame - or notoriety - as Pope Pius XII, who, in the years following the Second World War helped many Nazi criminals escape to South America; these included such luminaries as Klaus Barbie and Martin Bormann. Yallop writes:
Hitler saw many potential benefits in the treaty, not the least that Pacelli [future Pope Pius XII], a man already showing marked pro-Nazi attitudes, might prove an useful ally in the approaching World War. History was to prove that Hitler's assessment was accurate. (p. 98)
And yet the Encyclopaedia Britannica of all things describes Pius XII as a 'deeply spiritual man'! The word 'spiritual' must hold a different meaning for its learned editors. In 1936, Hitler had a long meeting with the Catholic Bishop Berning of Osnabruch. At that meeting, Hitler, a Catholic himself, told the Bishop that he saw no essential difference between the Church and his own Nazism. "I am only doing," the Fuhrer assured the good Bishop, "what the Church has done for fifteen hundred years, only more effectively." (de Rosa, pp. 6-7) And he was not far off the mark.
The advantage to the Vatican professing official neutrality in the War was more money in the form of 'Kirchensteuer' - or state tax on the churches in Germany. This is a tax which was (and still is) deducted from the payroll of workers in support of religious institutions - a practice going back to the Middle Ages. The Vatican received a substantial share of this as part of the treaty with Hitler's Reich. In 1943 alone, the Vatican's largesse amounted to more than 100 million dollars (1.3 billion in today's values), and the inflow continued throughout the war.
A striking feature of these negotiations is that all the parties concerned - the Vatican, Hitler and Mussolini - treated it as strictly business and politics. There was no sentimental nonsense about the Church being 'holy' or of 'His Holiness' being anything but a political operative out to cut a deal in return for money, and his Secretary of State a shrewd chiseller. Only in countries like India do soft-headed people, spineless journalists and pompous priests make much of the Pope's holiness. Europeans have seen his holiness without his robe.
So the Catholic Church, which had been continually losing its hold over the flock was granted a lease of life through the generosity of Mussolini and Hitler. One can only speculate as to what the Vatican's position would have been today without this windfall, and without a Nogara to run it. Cardinal Hinsley of Westminster was being no more than truthful when he observed in 1935, "If Fascism goes under, then God's cause goes under with it." But the Church has managed to outlive both Hitler and Mussolini - thanks to its image as a religious institution.
It would be extremely unjust, however, to conclude from this that Cardinal Hensley was in any way party to all this or anti-Semitic; he was neither. Later, to his lasting credil, Cardinal Hinsley was among the first to condemn Nazi atrocities against the Jews. In 1942, he announced on BBC Radio that the Nazis had exterminated 700,000 Jews in Poland and said: "This innocent blood cries out for vengeance." His superior in the Vatican, Pius XII - that 'deeply spiritual' man - on the other hand maintained a stony silence - a silence more terrible than the numerous anti-Semitic decrees of the various Popes that came before him. After the war, Pius and the Vatican helped many high Nazi criminals escape to South America. In his book Death in Rome Robert Katz wrote: "There was one man who could have, should have, and must be held to account for not having acted to at least delay the German slaughter. He is Pope Pius XII."
Among the real victims of the often predatory financial activities of the Vatican have been the people of ltaly and the hapless countries of South and Central
America. Various ltalian governments have tried to get the Vatican to pay its share of the taxes, but with little success. The Vatican - not accountable to any electorate -has been absolutely ruthless in dealing with successive ltalian governments; Latin American countries have generally been little more than feudatories of the Vatican. The following episode should help illustrate the methods and the power of the Church.
In December 1962, the cash-strapped ltalian government passed a law levying a 15 percent tax on share dividends; and this rate was soon doubled. The Vatican insisted that as a 'religious' organization, the Holy See should be exempt from all taxes. In particular this meant that its financial institutions - the I.O.R. and the Special Administration - should be free to buy and sell stock in the ltalian stock markets but not be taxed on the profits. Italian governments came and went, and the negotiations between ltaly and the Vatican dragged on. Finally, in 1964, when Aldo Moro was prime minisler, the Vatican used brute force to have its own way. As Yallop tells us:
In 1964, with Aldo Moro yet again in power, the Church of the poor [Vatican] threatened to bring down the entire ltalian economy. During negotiations Vatican officials told the Italian Government that if they did not get their way they would throw on the market every single share held in Italy. They picked their moment well, The ltalian Stock Market was going through a particularly bad period, with shares dropping almost daily. Suddenly to place on the market the enormous share-holdings of the Valican would have destroyed the entire ltalian economy. (pp. 102-3)
This was blackmail pure and simple, and it worked. The government caved in and agreed to give the Vatican special tax benefits even though they were illegal under Italian law. If this was the fate of a fairly rich and powerful European country like Italy, one can readily imagine how vulnerable and weak Latin American countries must be to such tactics. We shall see later that the Vatican has enormous financial and political clout in Latin America where it has financed wars and revolutions to protect and enhance its own interests. (It seems also to be involved in the wars among the various drug cartels - a story that I shall get to later. Aldo Moro himself was to lose his life, killed by terrorists belonging to an organization known as the Red Brigade.)
But the Vatican has not been content to play the stock and currency markets; with the help of unscrupulous and even criminal operators, it has often manipulated whole economies and governments to serve its own needs. This, however, was not without a price. While it may have been successful in blackmailing successive Italian governments, stories of its heavy-handed methods soon made their way into the newspapers. Its tactics no doubt gained it short term financial benefits, but earned long term hostility of the Italian people. The Italian public increasingly saw the Vatican as a predator that was enriching itself at the cost of the poor taxpayer, hard pressed to pay his bills.
More seriously from the Vatican point of view, with the public solidly behind them, successive Italian governments were beginning to show signs of more backbone; it was only a matter of time before the Vatican would be hit with huge tax bills. Faced with this possibility, the Vatican authorities decided that the best course was to get out of the Italian market altogether. But this was to be done as quietly as possible so that the stockholdings could be disposed off without attracting undue notice - no easy task considering its huge holdings. To this end, Pope Paul VI turned to two men - Michele Sindona and Paul Marcinkus, better known as The Shark and The Gorilla.
The Gorilla - or Bishop Paul Marcinkus was an American known for his rough and ready methods. He was made the head of the Vatican Bank. The Shark, Michele Sindona, a personal friend of Pope Paul VI, was a distinguished member of the
Sicilian Mafia with underworld connections all over the western hemisphere. An illustrious member of this underworld network was the Gambino family of New York, one of the world's largest heroin traders. As Yallop tells us:
The Gambino family made Sindona an offer he accepted with enthusiasm. They wanted him to manage the family's re-investment of the huge profits just beginning to accrue from the sales of heroin. They needed a laundry man. Sindona, with his proven abilities at moving money in and out of Italy without disturbing the tranquillity of the Government's taxation departments, was an ideal choice. (p. 109)
He was an ideal choice for the Vatican also beset with similar problems. This was the man to whom Pope Paul VI turned to move the Vatican's investments out of Italy. And with the help of his friend Bishop Marcinkus - 'God's Banker' - Sindona was able to use the Vatican Bank as a front in his money laundering operations. His close friendship with Marcinkus, and the Pope himself, allowed him to use the Vatican bank as practically an extension of his Mafia money laundering business. With such influential friends no one was asking any questions until American authorities arrested him in New York after several spectacular bank failures.
Sindona The Shark was once kind enough to enlighten his friends about his philosophy: "My operating philosophy is based on my personality which is unique in the world, on well-told lies and on the efficient weapon of blackmail." (Yallop, p. 129) It was not an idle boast; his blackmail victims included no less a person than Dr Luigi Mennini who was Marcinkus' assistant in the Vatican Bank. I'll get to that story a little later.
The amazing thing is that through its association with men like Sindona and Calvi, the Vatican had become practically an extension of their crime syndicate. The advantage to them was that the Vatican Bank, located in the independent enclave of Vatican City, lay outside the jurisdiction of Italian authorities. Calvi made full use of this immunity. The fact is, by the early 1970s, the Vatican Bank and Calvi's money laundering Banco Ambrosiano of Milan had virtually become one. The nature of this nexus becomes evident when we look at the sale of the Banca Cattolica del Veneto arranged by Calvi - a transaction from which the Vatican reaped a huge profit, thanks to the artificially high values for its shares engineered by Sindona and Calvi. Calvi himself described the sale of Banca Cattolica del Veneto as follows:
Marcinkus, who is a rough type, born in a suburb of Chicago of poor parents, wanted to carry out the operation without even telling the boss. That is the Pope. I had three meetings with Marcinkus regarding Banca Cattolica del Veneto. He wanted to sell it to me. I asked him: 'Are you sure? Is it available to you? Is the boss in agreement with it?' ... Later Marcinkus told me, yes, he had spoken with Paul VI and had his assent. Some time later Marcinkus got me an audience with Paul VI, who thanked me because in the meantime I had sorted out some problems with the Ambrosiano Library. In reality I understood he was thanking me for buying Banca Cauolica del Veneto. (Yallop, p. 142)
Worth noting is Calvi's attitude towards the Pope: not a hint of any reverence for the august figure. He is simply the 'boss' and Paul VI. Through this transaction Calvi had helped the Vatican get rid of a very large Italian investment. In effect, the Vatican traded its immunity in return for money from men like Sindona and Calvi. It was a lucrative arrangement for all concerned. As Yallop observes: "With regard to the Sindona/Calvi/Marcinkus scheme concerning Banca Cattolica del Veneto all the available evidence suggests a criminal conspiracy involving all three men." (ibid.)
Pope Paul VI too had been party to it even if indirectly.
Sindona was even more audacious. His high-flying operations had led him to buy banks all over Europe as well as in North and South America. Taking advantage of new technologies like EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer), The Shark moved money in and out of his banks at lightning speed, with the result the same capital was often shown as being deposited in several of his banks at the same time. This in turn allowed him to borrow huge sums from these banks - many times more than what was legally permissible. As it happens sometimes with financially successful men, he seems to have developed megalomania, causing him to lose touch with reality. It was not long before banks began collapsing, including the very large Franklin National Bank of Philadelphia; it went under on October 8, 1974 for two billion dollars - the biggest bank crash in American history until that date.
And this was only the beginning. Over the next three months banks were crashing all over Europe - Baokhaus Wolff of Hamburg, Bankhaus Hersatt of Cologne, Amincor of Zurich and Finabank of Geneva being only a few of the more notable victims. Even the Swiss, the most astute bankers in the world, had been taken in by Sindona, apparently impressed by his Vatican connection.
Now several countries had warrants out for Sindona's arrest. It transpired that The Shark, in addition to bank fraud, had issued forged stock certificates for about a billion dollars. Many poor people had lost their life savings - thanks to The Shark and his 'II Crack Sindona' as the Italians called it. The Vatican expressed itself 'distressed'; in truth it was more than distressed, it had suffered heavy losses. Swiss bank sources estimate Vatican losses at 240 million dollars, or more than half a billion in today's values. Influential men who had been extolling the financial brilliance of Michele Sindona were now claiming that they had never known the man. And one man who had reason to be rather more concerned than anyone else was Bishop Paul Marcinkos - the head of the Vatican Bank.
In 1973, the good Bishop had warmly told American investigators: "Michele and I are very good friends... He is well ahead of his time as far as financial matters are concerned." Less than two years later the same Marcinkus was saying: "The truth is that I don't even know Sindona. How can I have lost money because of him? The Vatican has not lost a cent, the rest is fantasy." (Yallop, p. 136)
The truth of the matter is: God's Banker had a good deal to conceal. To take just one example, in 1973, in the transaction previously described, Sindona had helped Marcinkus sell Banca Cattolica del Veneto - one of the Vatican's Italian holdings - to Roberto Calvi of Banco Ambrosiano for 46.5 million dollars. To facilitate the deal, Sindona had paid Calvi and Marcinkus an illegal kickback of 6.5 million dollars -worth over 15 million in today's values. In addition, Marcinkus sat on the board of several Sindona controlled banks in Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean. Then there was also the problem of Sindona's blackmail of Vatican officials, including Marcinkus' own assistant Mennini.
Dr Luigi MeMini, who was considered a brilliant banker, worked directly under Marcinkus. Sindona's colleague Carlo Bordoni had helped MeMini speculate in currency markets on behalf of the Vatican Bank. And Bordoni, who was in a position to know, called MeMini a 'seasoned gambler' and a 'slave to Sindona's blackmail'. This suggests that MeMini had pocketed some of the profits leaving himself open to blackmail by Sindona and Bordoni. Through the good offices of MeMini, Bordoni the blackmailer's assistant had received a personal letter from Pope Paul VI that included a benediction.
MeMini was arrested by the Italian police following the great bank crash, but Marcinkus managed to evade arrest by staying within the Vatican walls where he still remains. And yet, Bishop Marcinkus was later elevated to Archbishop by the present Pope (John Paul II). This bears eloquent testimony to the rot within the Church.
Sindona The Shark, serving a sentence in an Italian prison, about to be transported to a New York jail was himself to lose his life in 1986, poisoned by unknown hands. As he choked over a cup of coffee, he screamed bloody murder and pointed an accusing finger at the Vatican. It should be noted that the Church's involvement in drug running and money laundering operations did not cease with the death of Sindona and Calvi. There is now compelling evidence suggesting that the Church is deeply involved in the drug wars among the various cartels in Mexico and other Latin American countries. It is a complex subject shrouded in secrecy, but one recent episode should suffice to give an idea of the Vatican's involvement.
In Mexico and other Latin American countries, the drug cartels practically run parallel governments in which members of the clergy have been implicated at all levels. At least half the law enforcement officials in Mexico are known to be in the pay of drug cartels who are often at war with one another. One of the more illustrious casualties of the drug rivalries was the Mexican Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo who was murdered in May 1993. The official line put out by both the Vatican and the Mexican government was that the cardinal had been caught in the crossfire. The facts of the case, however, do not bear this out. Charles Bowden recently wrote:21
On May 24, 1993, in Guadalajara airport, Juan Jesus Cardinal Posadas Ocampo is chauffeured in his fine car to the parking lot in the terminal. He is there to meet the papal nuncio [ambassador]. Some people open his car and put at least a dozen rounds into the cardinal. The details and lies are too many to explicate...
His body was riddled with fourteen bullets fired at point blank range. This was no crossfire - but a planned assassination. It was later claimed that it was a case of mistaken identity. For whom Posadas Ocampo in his priest's habit, cardinal's cap and wearing a large and ostentatious silver cross on his chest could be mistaken was left unexplained. One Ramon Salazar Salazar, a small-time drug dealer from Sonora was accused of the crime. This was patently absurd. It was the work of several professional hit men, not a petty peddler like Salazar. The case was declared 'solved' when Salazar himself was abducted and executed Mafia style by officers belonging to the Mexican Federal Police. He had been unarmed and buying beer at the time. I previously noted that the majority of the Mexican police are in the pay of drug lords.
Though the official cause of the cardinal's death was crossfire, the American magazine Fortune (September 4, 1995) thought otherwise. It reported that at the time of his murder, Cardinal Posadas Ocampo had been on an intelligence-gathering mission. Details of who the Cardinal was working for and what business he had spying on drug lords remain murky. It is interesting though that Mexican authorities allowed the real assassins to escape while declaring the case 'solved' when the petty drug peddler Salazar was killed by the Federal Police. This suggests that Posadas Ocampo was working against the interests of the Mexican government. This was indirectly confirmed by Mexican Church officials.
Recent investigative reports suggest that Posadas Ocampo was heavily involved in the Latin American drug wars. Mexican Church officials point out that Posadas Ocampo was not only prelate of Guadalajara and Tijuana - both major drug
21 'Laughter, Gunfire and Forgetting: An elusive tale of the Mexican drug war" by Charles Bowden. Harper's Magazine. September 1995, p. 43.
trafficking centres - but also Vice President of the Latin American Episcopal Conference based in Bogota, Colombia. Bogota is of course the capital of the drug cartel with its kingpin Pablo Escobar. According to a story in the New Yorker, Posadas Ocampo was acting on behalf of the notorious Pablo Escobar himself, trying to arrange safe asylum for him in Mexico in exchange for undisclosed favours. Escobar was himself later gunned down in a battle with the Colombian armed forces supported by American drug enforcement agents. He had every reason therefore to seek safe haven in Mexico, which is what Posadas Ocampo was trying to arrange for him. This does not either show the cardinal or his institution in particularly good light.22
Such activities are not by any means limited to the Catholic Church. Edir Macedo, a religious entrepreneur in the style of Pat Robertson runs an evangelical movement in South America called the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The American weekly Time reported (January 22, 1996) that the Universal Church is under investigation by the Brazilian Federal Police for possible involvement in "currency violations, links with drug traffickers and tax evasion." A video aired on Brazilian television showed Edir Macedo instructing his pastors to solicit donations by "threatening holdouts with damnation" as Time put it.
Even this year (1995-6), missionaries have been caught smuggling arms into India and Sri Lanka in efforts to help local insurgencies. The present Pope therefore is being hypocritical in going around apologizing for the Church's 'sins of the past'; he should do something about its sins of the present.
We may soon be able to learn more about these activities - the Vatican-Mafia connection in particular. In the so-called 'Trial of the Century' of Mafia figures currently in progress in Italy, several important government officials including former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti have been charged with criminal activities. As the case progresses we should be able to learn more about these affairs. Andreotti was and is a strange man, the ultimate amoral politician. Speaking of him, Francesco Cassiga, former president of Italy said: "Andreotti believes in God - the problem is he believes only in God". We shall be meeting Signor Andreotti again.
And yet, Michele Sindona, master criminal though he was, was far from being the most unsavoury character to be associated with the Vatican in recent years. That dubious honour belongs to Licio Gelli, better known to the Italian authorities as 'Il Burallinaio' - the Puppet-master.
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