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The Catholic Church & Money

Date: 06-11-11
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Jason Berry

Author Jason Berry joined Ian Punnett for a discussion on his research into the financial infrastructure and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Berry described the church as financially disorganized, noting in particular how there is no standard procedure for securing funds dropped into the parish collection baskets, and even resistance within the Vatican ranks for establishing such a method. "There's no guarantee that how much is donated on Sunday is the same amount that gets put into the bank on Monday," he said. Priests traditionally take "a little walking around money" from the offering plate whenever they need it, Berry added. Vast amounts of cash go missing due to embezzlement as well, he revealed, estimating around $2.3 billion has been lost over the past 46 years.

Berry spoke about how the church dealt with financial fallout from the infamous clergy sex-abuse scandals. When a bishop needs assets, to pay legal bills and settlements for example, he can use the 'power of suppression' to shut down parishes, take their cash reserves, and sell off the property, Berry explained. This led to a wave of parish closings in Boston in 2004, as well as a devious financial scam architected in the highest office of the Vatican. According to Berry, the second most powerful man in the church, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, supported his nephew’s scheme to profit from these shuttered churches. Berry also talked about how the San Diego Diocese tried to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reduce their abuse settlement payouts, as well as the history of the Vatican Bank and how it was once used to launder money for a mobster.

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