Murder, Banking, Strategy - The Vatican
by Conrad Goeringer
Early on the morning of Friday, June 18, 1982, a body was found dangling from an orange rope underneath Blackfriars Bridge in London, England. Police recovered the corpse of a middle age man, about sixty, paunchy, in a gray suit. Pieces of rocks and brick had been stuffed into the pockets, along with $15,000 in various currencies. A passport identified the victim as Gian Roberto Calvini, but soon it was learned that the dead man was really Roberto Calvi, chairman and managing director of Banco Ambrosiano in Milan, Italy. Calvi had mysteriously vanished from Rome on June 11, and his misfortune in London re-ignited media curiosity over a story which had already made headlines, and reverberated through the world’s major financial and political institutions.
Calvi was only one of a cast of characters in that story that included organized crime interests, political groups, secret societies, drug dealers, major financial institutions, and perhaps most stunning of all, a little-known entity identified as the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR, the official bank for the Vatican. The collapse of Calvi’s Banco Ambrosiano revealed that high officials within the Vatican and its bank had collaborated in building a network of offshore dummy corporations propped up under the Ambosirano Group’s line of credit, into which hundreds of millions of dollars disappeared. Some figures indicate that the Vatican’s participation in this scandal exceeded $1.25 billion dollars (and remember, this is the early 1980s).
It is a very complex story, so I want to divide this up into three sections. I want to begin by putting it in its historical context complete with a cast of actors; I want to try and tie this together and talk about the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano and the involvement of the Vatican; and finally, I want to briefly discuss the aftermath of the Calvi scandal, and touch upon some areas that I see, anyway, as related to this notion of the Vatican as a very worldly institution and political animal -- and perhaps the best place to start is by talking about the geographic and political entity known as the Vatican.
When you mention the Vatican, most people instinctively think of a religious institution, the Roman Catholic Church, when in fact the Vatican is really the latest incarnation of something known as the Papal States, Pontifical States or States of the Church. Less than six centuries after being constituted, the popes of the Church became the defacto political rulers of Rome and the surrounding regions; the Frankish king, Pepin the Short formally granted those lands to the church under Pope Stephen II, and by the 16th century, the papal holdings came to embrace nearly the whole of central Italy. . Napoleon seized much of this, but in 1815 the Congress of Vienna restored the bulk of earlier papal holdings. Uprisings were put down by the Austrians who acted as surrogate troops and neighborhood watch for the papacy, but in 1870, the Vatican again lost control in the united Italy under Victor Emanuel II. Papal authority was confined to a small area in Rome, and in protest a series of popes designated themselves as “voluntary prisoners.” .....a long article but well worth the effort