Corruption in the Vatican?

Posted: February 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm, Last Updated: September 7, 2012 at 1:54 am

Author: Andrew Guth,  PhD Candidate, George Mason University, School of Public Policy 

While corruption in secular governments and the private sector is commonplace and well-known by many, most are surprised when corruption appears in religious organizations.  However, it appears that a corruption scandal has been unfolding within the Catholic Church over the past year.  Just recently, the scandal broke out of the confines of the, normally strongly sealed, Vatican and into the public’s view.

In 2009, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano was appointed deputy-governor of Vatican City – the number two position in the governorate.  Soon after, he was overwhelmed by the realization of corruption, nepotism, and cronyism.  Vigano claims corruption plays a major role in the awarding of contracts to outside companies, specifically in the areas of gardening, cleaning, and construction.  Additionally, he claims many Vatican-employed maintenance workers have been dispirited because “work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican.”

From 2009-2011, Vigano transformed the governorate by imposing strict rules for transparency, accountability, and competition.  Within one year he turned a Vatican budget deficit of $10.5 million in 2009, to a surplus of $45 million in 2010.  However, on March 22, 2011, Vigano was removed from office by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.  His removal was based on an unsigned newspaper article in the IL Giornale that accused Vigano of being inefficient.  His removal came three years before his tenure was to end.

In a letter to Pope Benedict XVI on March 27, 2011, Vigano expressed concern of a smear campaign performed by fellow Vatican officials.  He tells Pope Benedict that those officials want him transferred as a way to stop his campaign to clean up Vatican procedures in awarding contracts and to increase transparency.  He writes “”Holy Father, my transfer right now would provoke much disorientation and discouragement in those who have believed it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of power that have been rooted in the management of so many departments.”

In another letter to Pope Benedict on April 4, 2011, Vigano asserts that funds are being mismanaged by the Vatican financial committee – a committee that includes the head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi – that is entrusted with the Vatican finances.  He describes the bankers as individuals “who looked after their own interests more than ours,” and backs his claim by showing Pope Benedict how the committee lost the Vatican $2.5 million in one transaction.  Additionally, an Italian investigative television show interviewed a man from the committee who (concealing his identity) stated that, due to Vigano insistence on transparency and competition in awarding contracts to outside companies, Vigano was considered a “ballbreaker.”

The letters also suggested that he had worked hard to “eliminate corruption, private interests and dysfunction that are widespread in various departments” and that, due to the opponents he has made while trying to reduce corruption, “no-one should be surprised about the press campaign against me.”  He even requested a face-to-face meeting with his distractors and claimed that other cardinals in the Vatican knew the situation of corruption and of the smear campaign well.  Although Vigano had already been removed from office, he still pleaded with Pope Benedict to not transfer him, stating that it “would be a defeat difficult for me to accept.”  However, in October 2011, Pope Benedict transferred Vigano to the United States.  Vigano was “promoted” and now acts as the ambassador of the Vatican to Washington D.C.

The Vatican claims that the journalistic investigations have been “partial” and unsuccessful in handling complex subjects.  And that the Vatican continues to use the “correct and transparent management that inspired Monsignor Vigano.”  It also states that, because of the claims by Vigano, the Vatican was pressured to remove him from office and transfer him to D.C.  It suggests that the transfer is in fact a promotion and not a punishment.  Moreover, the Vatican suggests it will explore legal action against any broadcasts which suggests senior officials or financial advisors of the Vatican are mismanaging funds.  Interestingly, one response that is lacking from the Vatican is explicit denial of Vigano’s claims.



1)      AFP:


3)      Catholic Herald:

4)      Catholic News Agency:

5)      National Catholic Reporter:

6)      Reuters:

7)      Reuters:

8)      Rome Reports:–regrets-the-serious-accusations-made-by-an–italian-tv-show-english-5928.html

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