Steamy magazine exposés are rarely good news for the people or institutions featured in them. That’s probably especially true for the troubled Vatican bank, which over the years has been the church’s premier magnet for conspiracy theories and scandals of every imaginable sort.
On Friday, however, the bank finally caught a break.
There was yet another gossipy piece in an Italian newsmagazine, in this case l’Espresso, featuring ominous storm cloud art, which was full of unnamed sources describing an “earthquake” related to the bank. (The place is technically the “Institute for the Works of Religion,” often referred to by the Italian acronym IOR.)
Immediately after it appeared, the piece had phone lines buzzing inside the Vatican, in part because after last summer’s leaks scandal, the perception that insiders are spilling the beans to reporters usually means going to Defcon 1.
Yet despite the melodramatic flourishes in the piece, its overall effect is probably to burnish, rather than erode, the bank’s new image.
That’s because the “earthquake” to which the title refers is a growing sense of shock that bank officials aren’t just talking about transparency, but actually implementing it – beginning with insisting that Vatican personnel, including those at the very top of the food chain, explain where the money they have parked at the bank comes from and what they’re doing with it.
“In the Vatican, the unthinkable is happening,” the article reports. “A deadly tightening up has been imposed … in the name of legality and absolute transparency.”
For most outsiders, the application of tighter controls probably seems less unthinkable than long overdue. Aside from its checkered historical past, such as the celebrated scandals involving Roberto Calvi and the Banco Ambrosiano in the 1980s, the IOR has recently stumbled through a series of embarrassments:
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