WHEN THE POPE ENDORSES A SWINDLE IS NOTHING SACRED

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A Dallas law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for ‘unlawful, deceptive and fraudulent practices’ in promoting and collecting funds for the papal charity Peter’s Pence.

The suit alleges the American bishops actively misled Catholics into believing their millions of dollars in donations to the collection would be used to help ‘victims of war, oppression, natural disaster, or disease,’ when in fact much of the money was funnelled into private investments, such as Hollywood’s sexually explicit Elton John biopic, luxury condominium developments and hefty, multi-million dollar commissions to fund managers.

Stanley Law Group filed the lawsuit January 22 in the United States District Court in Rhode Island on behalf of David O’Connell, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church in East Providence, who is seeking a jury trial, it stated in a press release.

‘The USCCB must come clean and give back the money it took from well-intentioned people who thought they were giving urgently-needed funds to help the destitute around the world,’ said lead attorney Mark Stanley. ‘It’s regrettable and tragic that such a trusted and well-respected organization has been taking advantage of the generosity of Catholic donors.’

The lawsuit alleges that the perpetrator is ‘liable for common law fraud, unjust enrichment, and breach of fiduciary duty’ for ‘misleadingly soliciting millions of dollars in charitable donations that were diverted into private investments,’ the press release states.

According to the 23-page complaint, Peter’s Pence is a ‘special collection taken from Catholics each June’. It is falsely described as a fund that ‘supports the Pope’s philanthropy by giving the Holy Father the means to provide emergency assistance to those in need because of natural disaster, war, oppression, and disease.’

But a bombshell report in the Italian newspaper L’Espresso in October 2019 exposed a very different story. L’Espresso reported that secret internal Vatican investigative reports showed most of Peter’s Pence funds had been ‘diverted into reckless speculative operations,’ with 77 per cent of the collections, roughly $560 million, channelled to the Swiss investment company Credit Suisse.

The newspaper also reported that a high-ranking Vatican official asked Italian financier Raffaele Mincione to invest $200 million of the collection, and that Mincione used the money to buy real estate in London ‘for a luxury apartment development’ through a fund he managed.

When the investment didn’t yield the expected returns, the Vatican pulled out of the fund and bought the property, but Minicone made $170 million on the deal, according to sources cited in the document.

Pope Francis responded in November, stating that the fact that the Vatican invests the money shouldn’t bother anyone, according to Catholic News Services (CNS), the complaint stated.

‘The sum of Peter’s Pence arrives and what do I do? Put it in a drawer? No, that’s bad administration. I try to make an investment,’ CNS quoted the Pope as saying.

That was followed by a further bombshell report in December when Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera broke the news that $1 million of Peter’s Pence donations had been invested in the Elton John biopic Rocketman, and more than $3.6 million in the movie Men in Black: International.

Moreover, Corriere della Sera reported that millions of dollars had been sunk into the Malta-based investment company Centurion Global Fund run by Italian financier Enrioco Crasso, alleged to have made millions of euros in commissions while losing 4.61 percent of the fund (approximately two million euros) by the end of 2018.

The complaint also cited a Wall Street Journal December 2019 report stating that for ‘at least the past five years, only about 10 percent of the money collected, more than €50 million was raised in 2018, has gone to the sort of charitable causes featured in advertising for the collection.’ Like this story? Share it with a friend.

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