Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2021. 11:47 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Observers of the Holy See complain that while Pope Francis answers to God, in the justice system of The Vatican, everyone else answers to him – and his decision-making has been described as erratic at best and totalitarian at worst, the Associated Press writes.
Papal adviser turned critic Marc Odendall complained that “the Holy See will no longer be able to integrate itself in the system of civilized countries and will return to a universe reserved to totalitarian states,” upon quitting his consulting role to protest what he considered grave human rights violations in the probe of the 350 million-euro London real estate investment
Others point out that while the Vatican has never been a democracy, the incongruity of claiming moral authority and even infallibility globally while maintaining close to an absolute monarchy at home has never been more evident.
For instance, in 2019 the Pope’s bodyguards raided, at his order, the Vatican secretariat of state — the offices of the central government of the Holy See — and the Vatican’s financial watchdog authority, known as AIF. Pope Francis personally authorized the raids after a trusted ally alerted Vatican prosecutors of suspicions about the investment.
Yet suspects in the case say the Pope himself was at least aware, and may even have approved of, payments made by Vatican officials to Italian middlemen in the tens of millions of Euros; the Vatican prosecutor’s office denied it but said he had participated in a meeting of people negotiating the final stages of the deal in which “he asked them to find a solution with the goodwill of all.”
The case has highlighted the limitations of the Vatican law, which is based on an 1889 Italian code no longer in use and greatly curbs the rights of defendants during the investigative phase compared to modern legal systems. The accused’s defense is severely limited and prosecutors are effectively given carte blanche to interrogate and conduct searches and seizures without oversight by an investigating judge.
The prosecutors insist the rights of the accused have been safeguarded, and that the pope had to order the “summary rite” because of a technicality owing to the old code in use.
Despite an increase of complaints, The Vatican has long defended its legal system as sound; but Odendall, the papal adviser who quit in protest over the raids, has repeatedly told top Vatican officials that the current probe is exposing the Holy See to institutional and reputational damage.
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