Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu.ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP
The Vatican sits on the bench for the economic excesses of a decade
The macro-trial started on Tuesday in the Vatican against a dozen defendants for alleged diversion of funds and corruption has a great relevance for three reasons: the scandal that they suppose, not only for the Vatican as a State but for the Church as an institution, the accusations that they judge themselves; the fact that it is the Holy See that has assumed the public realization of the process, and, thirdly, that one of the people tried, the former substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, has occupied until recently one of the most powerful positions in the Church.
The court, chaired by the former Italian anti-mafia judge Giuseppe Pignatone, will try to clarify the role of the accused in what the investigating prosecutor has called a "rotten and predatory system" that consisted of making investments of dubious procedure and purpose with money from the so-called Obolo de San Pedro, the instrument that channels the donations of all the churches of the world to the Vatican and that, theoretically, are destined to charity. Apparently this was not the case, and for at least a decade a parallel financial system was created with practices that included fraud and money laundering. A great scandal for the Vatican, whose financial policy has for years been in the crosshairs of international organizations and institutions that have demanded transparency.And despite numerous declarations of commitment, episodes such as the court show that much remains to be done.
Pope Francis has decided that the Vatican justice is in charge of the trial instead of putting the process in the hands of the Italian judicial system - it could have done so - as a sign of its willingness to stop and publicly condemn these practices. As a gesture it is positive, but it is likely that the Vatican judicial system is not prepared. Already the first session of the hearings - the second is scheduled for the autumn - has raised reasonable doubts about the appropriateness of the decision by staging important dissonances of terminology and procedure between Italian legislation, to which many of the interveners, including the president of the court, and the Vatican. Although the Vatican now wants to act as a rule of law,It is not possible to ignore that it functions as an absolute monarchy where the Pope has the last word in all matters, including judicial ones.
Francisco's decision to order shedding light on a scandal in which one of his closest collaborators is directly involved, until recently, is positive, and that it be done with a certain professionalism. But it remains to be seen whether it is the beginning of a sustained policy or an exceptional situation.