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Money & the Vatican

Date Sunday - July 12, 2015
Host Richard Syrett
Guests Gerald PosnerPatrick Moore

Acclaimed journalist Gerald Posner joined host Richard Syrett for a discussion on the money and the cardinals-turned-financiers at the heart of the Vatican. In tracing the evolution of the relationship between the Catholic Church and money, Posner noted that during the era when the Church was a colonial empire, it was vehemently opposed to capitalism and raised money via traditional methods such as taxes on the denizens of the land it controlled. However, with the emergence of nation states, the physical size of the empire was shrunk to just Vatican City and it lost its status as an independent nation in 1870, which led to the reliance on old methods to generate funds such as indulgences and donations. When these tactics failed, he said, church leaders begrudgingly opted to embrace capitalism and began taking out loans as a way to survive.

Posner pointed to the rise of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as a key element which altered the financial future of the Catholic Church. He explained that, in 1929, Mussolini made Vatican City a sovereign country in exchange for their endorsement of him as the "rightful leader of Italy," which helped sway the vastly Catholic population of the country into supporting him. "By giving them back the sovereignty," Posner observed, "he gave the Vatican something that no other religion had and that is the ability to be both a religion and a country at the same time." Additionally, Mussolini paid the Church one billion dollars which was subsequently invested in various project around the world that allowed this huge sum of money to grow even larger, leading to the creation of the Vatican Bank in 1942.

In the ensuing years, Posner said, the Vatican Bank would become "probably the largest, private, secret offshore banking institution on the planet." He explained that this is because of the unique nature of the Vatican Bank where it does not make loans or report a profit and its only shareholder is the Pope. Moreover, since Vatican City is situated within Rome, the bank began being used by Italian politicians and criminals from around the world who wished to hide their money. Things began to change in 1999, when the Vatican was forced to adopt the Euro as its currency and, in turn, underwent a valuation by the European Union to determine if the bank was compliant with international regulations. As such, the Vatican Bank changed their rules to outlaw money laundering as well as financing terrorism and closed over 3,000 accounts which were being used for nefarious purposes.

Sensible Environmentalism

In the first hour, Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, addressed climate change, environmentalism, and why he left Greenpeace after 15 years to establish a more sensible, science-based approach to environmentalism. He detailed how he grew dissatisfied with Greenpeace after it transformed from an organization aimed at stopping the threat of nuclear war to a movement that saw humans as "the enemies of nature." Moore was critical of the widespread contention that CO2 emissions are harmful to the planet and argued that they are actually beneficial because the gas provides abundant food for all of the plants on Earth. He ultimately blamed the vilification of CO2 on "a powerful convergence of interests among key elites" who stand to benefit from programs aimed at ostensibly ending climate change.

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