Saturday, December 23, 2017

The wealth of Cardinals

I am glad Cardinal Maradiaga has responded to his critics.

I asked a friend who is involved with the Curia, why some Cardinals seem to be so wealthy, some still seem to have palaces, some occupy whole floors of prestigious buildings or have huge appartments within the Vatican. Some like Ratzinger rather shockingly for others took no fees whatsoever, except the money which came in through his writings and his official salary, I am told Cardinal Burke acts similarly, others like Cardinal Marx and the Germans receive what is in effect a government salary and have their often large expenses paid by their dioceses. Some are immensely wealthy in their own right or like Cardinal Count von Schönborn are from still wealthy princely or aristocratic families.

I asked my friend, who is away from Rome and therefore felt able to speak without being overheard, why a Cardinal might need such great wealth.  His answer, "Nephews were alway expensive". He meant not necessarily gay friends or even real nephews, (though a former Secretaty of State's nehew got huge sums for restoring buildings and erecting the crip in St Peter's Square) but that in Italy there is a lot of nepotism and Cardinals are still expected to act as patron and ease the way of families or individuals dependant on them.

He went on to say. "Papal elections cost; pre-election parties cost; fulfilling pre-election promises cost!" He wasn't quite alluding to the mule trains of Cardinal Borgia being so long and laden with so much silver that his election inevitable.

Things are less blatant now but there are lots of costs such as visiting fellow Cardinals, entertaining in Rome or abroad, after an Election a Cardinal's main role is to look for the next Pope, this means travel and comparing notes with the brethren. I don't know if US Cardinals and Bishops still stay in London's Dorchester or the Savoy or if they still travel 1st Class everywhere, I know they and others still eat in Rome more exclusive restaurants but many are elderly and have health needs.

In the frenetic time after a Papal death or resignation there are formal meetings, the Congrgations, but then there are informal meetings, receptions and dinners to sound people out or for the more politically minded to encourage votes for one's favourite, these tend to be more than a glass of wine and rubber chicken.

All is done within the rules, I am sure, but Rome is founded on promises and obligations, so it is not unlikely for a more politically astute Cardinal to say to a brother, if you can  help get X elected Pope then I will be Prefect of the Congregation for ... or President for the Commission for ... and we will be able to help with your project for a seminary, university, hospital, school, cathedral, clergy pensions or even your favourite charity.

I don't know many details but many of those around Pope John Paul II and various Cardinals welcomed the visits of Marcel Maciel, not because he distributed wads of cash but on at least one occassion there was a van that unloaded a consignment of  laptops with the Papal stemma on them which were distributed Vatican employees, favourites and even favoured seminarians.

The merk of Rome isn't blatant corruption or suitcases of money changing hands, though it is there, as is money laundering, drug trafficking and prostitution, it is much more about, "I know a man who can do this for you, if you will do this for a friend of mine to whom I owe a favour because he has done that for me or my another friend's dear sick aunt". It is an open door to organised crime and other evils. Perhaps it is the vice of often men who want to good and yet easily get drawn into a world that is full of evil, churchmen are particularly easily drawn into its filth.

Unfortunately such corruption is not limited to Rome.

One of the few who remained friends with Cardinal Law said of him before his death. "He was a good and kindly man who really loved and cared for his priests and his diocese in an exemplary, even saintly way, the problem was he loved them more than he loved the victims of abuse".


vetusta ecclesia said...

What you describe is very much the Italian modus operandi. Perhaps the Roman Curia should be moved to a place with more integrity in administration.

Physiocrat said...

@ vetusta ecclesia

There is no such place on the planet.

Robert Snell said...

The northern countries of Europe operate a civic society/rule of law system whereas the
southern countries operate on a patronage/influence model.
There are points in favour of each system.
The two are incompatible although capable of co-operation if they are
allowed each to work in its own way.(I.e. NOT ever-closer-union.)

The boundary between the two systems runs through the middle of one of
the European countries: Belgium.

After 70 years of EU activity, to say nothing of vast sums of money
expended, how much better are the Flemings and the Walloons getting on?