VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis' pontificate, already tainted by scandal, is now beset with charges of financial mishandling.
LifeSiteNews reported Tuesday that a number of lay members of the Papal Foundation, a U.S.-based charity whose aim is to aid the poor around the world, quit in disgust in December after the organization took the unprecedented step of approving a $25 million grant to the Holy Father. The grant was meant to go to Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata (IDI), a hospital in Rome marred by corruption.
In 2017, the hospital was charged with 24 indictments involving financial misconduct, resulting in 12 convictions for the mishandling of nearly a billion euros. Before that, in 2016, Italian media reported "845 million euros in the red and 450 million euros in tax evasion while 82 million euros had been diverted and six million euros in public funds embezzled."
The $25 million grant is the largest in the Foundation's history, which last year gave a maximum of $200,000 to individual projects around the world. According to a leaked document obtained by LifeSiteNews, Cdl. Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. was the one to suggest that the enormous sum be given to the Holy Father outright as a grant instead of as a loan. The bishop-led board outvoted the lay members 15–8 to approve the grant, leading to a number of them resigning in protest.
"In many respects, the decision to grant $25 million to a dermatology hospital in Rome without proper due diligence is a disaster for the Papal Foundation," declared a letter authored by the former chairman of the Foundation's audit committee. "The IDI hospital had been a media and legal disgrace with embezzlement and fraud and bankruptcy."
"The Board met in December to discuss the IDI grant," the letter explained. "The Papal Foundation had already given $8 million in July to the failing hospital and wanted to give another $17 million over three years."
"In a carefully choreographed process the 15 bishops outvoted the 9 Stewards with a vote of 15 YES, 8 NO, 1 ABSTENTION," it continued. "It was a clear out-muscling of the Stewards. Political favor replaced sound stewardship of our resources."
After noting that the initial $8 million was sent to IDI "without any supporting documentation," the chairman said he had tried to delay the sending of a further $5 million "but was blocked from discussion by Cardinal Wuerl."
A January 19 letter signed by Cdl. Wuerl and New York's Cdl. Timothy Dolan make clear the request for the grant was made by the Holy Father himself: "We don't approve every request he makes, but he is the Pope, and we listen to him, and we listen intently."
The letter expresses regret over the discord produced by the grant. "Going forward, none of us want to experience this kind of division or disharmony again," it states, leading to two resolutions: (1) Cdl. Wuerl has asked that IDI not accept the remainder of the grant, and (2) a proposal that any grant over $1 million be approved by a majority of both the clerical and lay trustees.
According to the Associated Press, the Vatican has declined repeated requests for comment.
Pope Francis has been dogged by scandal in recent weeks, after a report contradicted his claim that no victim of abuse had stepped forward to offer evidence against his friend, Chilean bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, credibly accused of covering up sex abuse. The Associated Press reported on February 5 that a letter from victim Juan Carlos Cruz was given to Pope Francis in 2015.
The letter detailed Cruz's abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima, whom Cruz claims was Barros' lover, and who, according to allegations, was in the room and watched as Karadima abused Cruz and other boys. Boston's Cdl. Sean O'Malley, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, confirmed that he had placed Cruz's letter directly in the Holy Father's hands in 2015.
Pope Francis never directly responded to the explosive report. The day after the report, however, the Vatican envoy sent to interview Barros' victims, Abp. Charles Scicluna, called Cruz "on behalf of the pope" and asked to interview him in person rather than via skype, as originally planned.