NEWS:  June 29, 2009

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

OTHER SCANDALS OF POPE WOJTYLA  -  After the Italian media announced an acceleration in the beatification process of Karol Wojtyla (La Stampa, Turin, March 21, 2009), a new round of obstacles came to light. Now the talk is that the process has entered into slow motion (La Stampa June 1, 2009).

Il Giornale of Milan (May 23, 2009) stressed that the process had not been serious enough since few documents had been analyzed, a number clearly disproportionate to the many papers issued during the long pontificate of John Paul II. Andrea Tornielli from Il Giornale also criticized the "weakness" of the official position paper being prepared by the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints about Karol Wojtyla and pointed out contradictions in the testimonies.

The well informed Rome weekly Adista reported other points not so easy to resolve, such as the Marcinkus banking scandal, the financial support of Poland's Solidarity movement, the nomination of morally weak Bishops, the kiss of the Koran, and the protection given to Fr. Marcial Maciel (Adista, June 6, 2009, pp. 3, 4). La Stampa adds another matter that could delay the beatification process: the religious relativism manifested at the ecumenical meetings of Assisi (June 1, 2009).

Marcinkus scandal: Fraud & cover-up

Let me offer some data on just one of these points to show how difficult it is to make JPII blessed or a saint. The reader may recall that John Paul II designated Archbishop Paul Marcinkus to be the head of the IOR (Italian acronym for Institute for the Religious Works). This organization provides for the safekeeping and management of the capital and resources of the Church's many religious orders, congregations and associations. Thus it operates as a bank, investing its capital to benefit from the fiscal advantages the Vatican gives as a sovereign State.

Marcinkus invested some of this money in the Ambrosian Bank, becoming a shareholder of this large Italian financial institution very close to the Vatican.

Roberto Calvi dead

Calvi, Marcinkus's partner, shortly after he was found hanging from a bridge in London
The Ambrosian Bank went into bankruptcy in the early 1980s, and its president Roberto Calvi was indicted and found guilty of corruption and money-laundering. More than one billion dollar was missing from its accounts, dispersed among shadowy financial organizations set up around the world. Calvi appealed the sentence. While this appeal was pending, he was found dead hanging from Black Friars Bridge over the Thames in London.

Archbishop Marcinkus was involved in the case as a co-defendant. He was indicted in Italy as an accessory to the bankruptcy and a warrant for his arrest was issued. He fled for safety, however, into the Vatican State, where Italian law has no jurisdiction. Clearly, John Paul II found it more prudent not to reveal the secret financial operations carried out by Marcinkus and Calvi, which obviously had Vatican approval.

Marcinkus remained in the Vatican for many years until an agreement was reached that he possessed diplomatic immunity and could not be judged by Italian courts. In 1990, with no risk of coming to trial, Marcinkus left the Vatican and returned first to Chicago and then to a quiet retirement in Sun City, Arizona until his death in 2006.

All this time Marcinkus as well as the Vatican claimed innocence. No one else, however, fell for such a fallacy. In short, John Paul II got personally involved in that scandal by covering up the financial wrongdoings of Archbishop Marcinkus and by protecting him from facing Italian justice. Such mafia-style complicity in crime is quite different from the behavior that a Catholic expects from a saint.

Opus Dei & simony

A byproduct of this scandal ocurred regarding the $1 billion of missing funds that the IOR had to account for. As a matter of fact, an international court of banks in Switzerland ruled that the Vatican should pay around $250 million as proof of good-will to the Ambrosian Bank creditors in order to be acquitted of its responsibility in the case. Since the Vatican did not have that amount, Opus Dei came to the rescue and "lent" the sum to get the Vatican off the hook.

Jose Maria Escriva

Escrivá: Sainthood in exchange for money
The Opus Dei check certainly "cleared" the Vatican before its creditors but involved it in another delicate affair. Indeed, to "pay" for that timely help, John Paul II gave the organization control over Vatican Radio, the L'Osservatore Romano, its own university in Rome, and granted one of its members the office of spokesman for the Pope. Financially speaking, Opus Dei henceforth reputedly acquired a decisive voice in the IOR and its futures investments.

Last but not the least, the organization "requested" the beatification/ canonization of its not-so-saintly founder, José Maria Escrivá. To attend to it John Paul II, set his "saint factory" to work, and soon some "miracles" were found: a Carmelite nun with alleged lung cancer was cured. Even though there was no indisputable evidence that the nun actually had cancer, it was considered a miracle. A child with high blood pressure was cured after taking drugs - this was also considered a miracle. A surgeon with cancerous lesions on his hands caused by taking X-rays without gloves was cured after he stopped doing so - another miracle. Thus, to please John Paul II, the three "miracles" were accepted and the Congregation declared Escrivá blessed and then a saint...

In short, JP II was involved in a process of "selling" these spiritual and material benefits. A morally dishonest transfer of honors and privileges for money, like the one described here, is what in ecclesiastical language is called simony. Thus, we have the saint-to-be Wojtyla suspicious of simony as well.

I may be mistaken in some detail of these cases (Marcinkus-Escrivá) since I am writing from memory without checking my files, but I believe this is the objective general overview. I stress that "the Marcinkus scandal" is just one in a whole string of problems that need to be swept under the rug before JPII will be considered a saint. In the meantime, the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints is doing its best to remove any evidence that may compromise JPII, the great.

The Poltawska affair: Romanticism & nepotism

As the poor members of that Congregation scurry to fulfill the command of Benedict XVI - Santo subito: He has to be saint now! - yet another set of problems has fallen on their heads.

Mrs. Wanda Poltawska, a Jewish-Polish psychiatrist friend of Woytyla for more than 55 years, published a book entitled The Beskidy Mountains Recollections. In it she reports overnight excursions with Karol Wojtyla in the Polish mountains and includes personal letters of spiritual guidance. Cardinal Saraiva Martins, from the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, is asking the lady to send the full correspondence to Rome to be reviewed. He does not specify the precise number of letters, but mentions "the immense documentation" of Dr. Poltawska (La Stampa, June 1, 2009).

Wanda Poltawska camping with cardinal Wojtyla

Wanda, second from the left, warming up as night approaches at a campsite with the Cardinal of Krakow - 1975
In the book, Wanda presents herself as an "intimate friend" of Wojtyla. His letters to her habitually start with a Carissima Dusia [Dearest Dusia], and the familiarity between the two friends is qualified as "most personal" by Msgr. Adam Boniecki, an old acquaintance of Wojtyla and editor of the Polish weekly edition of L'Osservatore Romano for 11 years. In one letter Wojtyla writes that it was Divine Providence who brought Wanda to him. Boniecki allows that "in the tone of the letters Wanda seems in love [innamorata]. In a certain way it is love; such love is a most beautiful thing" (La Stampa, June 2, 2009).

Trying to justify Wojtyla's non-canonical friendship with Wanda, Boniecki recalls that his familiarity was not confined to her, but was something he had with many other young ladies, and he names several. He ends by saying: "In the post-war a priest who would walk in the street close to a woman was suspended a divinis [from ministering the sacraments]. He [Wojtyla] was always free from that oppressive atmosphere" (La Stampa, June 2, 2009).

Poltawska also moved to Rome after he was elected Pope and was with him during many crucial moments of his pontificate. To please her, JPII made her a member of the Pontifical Lateran University, a consultant of the Pontifical Counsel for the Family, a member of the Pontifical Counsel for Sanitary Works, and an honorary member of the Pontifical Pro Life Academy (Adista, June 13, 2009, p. 4).

Perhaps these special favors given to an old friend - independent of any possible romanticism implied by the letters - could be called nepotism (from the Latin nepotis, nephews), a well-known moral vice of bishops and popes that consists in giving disproportionate privileges and advantages to their relatives or protégés.

We can only wait to see what acrobatic excuses the Vatican will make to prove that Wojtyla's wrongdoings were nothing but the manifestation of the greatest possible sanctity.



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