Book Review: Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church

Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church

(Jason Berry, Crown – Hardback £15.29 from Amazon)

Jason Berry is a Catholic investigative journalist whose previous claim to fame was his powerful exposé on child abuse in the church, Vows of Silence.

Now he has turned his forensic eye on to the way the Catholic Church handles the almost unbelievable amounts of money that pass through its hands. Inevitably he finds corruption and graft on an epic scale.

He compares many of the Catholic dioceses to medieval fiefdoms where the vast amounts of cash they generate are mostly unaccounted for. Safeguards on Sunday collections are so lax that in the USA, he estimates something like $2 billion has been lost since 1965 to embezzlement by priests and parish workers.

But that fades into insignificance besides the $2 billion paid in the USA alone to victims of child abuse and the methods being used to cover that. Bishops are selling off church property at a rate of knots. Seldom does anyone beyond the bishop’s office know what these deals involve or how decisions about them are made. Berry’s investigations indicate that there is often a link between bishops and the Vatican when deciding property deals.

He then turns his attention to the notorious “Peter’s Pence” collection. Every June, Catholic parishes take a special collection which is represented as being for the exclusive use of the pope and his charities (or however he sees fit). In 2009, in the USA alone this raised $82.5 million but the Vatican has only accounted for 11% of it. It is clear that Peter’s Pence — which everyone thinks is to help suffering in the developing world — is actually used to plug the Vatican’s deficit.

The Catholic Church in America is undergoing the largest downsizing in its history. Since 1995 it has closed 1,373 churches, on average one per week for the past fifteen years. Sometimes it is demographic changes, but in many places it is as a result of needing to raise money to pay for the wickedness of its child-abusing priests.

Berry accuses a named top Vatican official of helping his nephew target closed churches that he could buy at low prices and sell at a huge profit. The profiteering scheme used information from the Congregation of Clergy in Rome, the Vatican office that must approve the sale or liquidation of church assets above a certain value.

The Holy See’s financial statement values St Peter’s Basilica at one euro. The Vatican Bank – which was recently under investigation for money laundering is “off the books”, i.e. not listed on the financial statement.

The top official is accused of pressuring the-then Cardinal Ratzinger to halt a canon law prosecution of Legion of Christ founder Marciel Maciel, a priest with numerous paedophilia accusations hanging over him. Berry reports that the top official received at least $15,000 from Maciel in gifts that the Legion paid his nephew for building work despite internal disputes over its quality.

This carefully researched and meticulously referenced book leaves you with the impression that the Catholic Church in many respects is a criminal conspiracy aimed entirely at enriching itself. Some readers of Newsline will say that it was ever thus. The entire history of the Vatican is one of corruption and aggrandisement which seems to continue to this day.

How do they get away with it? Actually, the question is why are they allowed to get away with it? Berry has produced enough evidence to show that the Vatican needs to be brought to account it its many nefarious dealings.

This is a bombshell of a book that should shake the Vatican to its foundations. I fear, however, like all examinations of the Catholic hierarchy’s rottenness, it will rapidly be ignored into obscurity.

(If you are interested in purchasing this book, please do it by clicking on this link to Amazon. Doing it this way will benefit the NSS at no cost to you).

You might also be interested in Double Cross: Code of the Catholic Church, a similarly damning critique of the Vatican’s disgusting history. You can buy that directly from the NSS shop.