Culture

High-Ranking Cardinal Accused of Bribing Witnesses in Sex Abuse Case

(AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking church official convicted in the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal, may have been the victim of witness tampering and bribery by another cardinal who worked at the Vatican in Rome.

Pell was convicted in an Australian court of sexually abusing two choirboys in 2018 and served 13 months in prison. But now it’s been revealed that Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the Vatican’s former secretariat of state, is alleged to have paid $800,000 to bribe witnesses in Pell’s trial.

New York Post:

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 72, the Holy See’s former secretariat of state who was forced to resign on Sept. 24, is accused in a dossier of evidence compiled by Vatican prosecutors of wiring more than $800,000 to help sway the testimony against Pell’s case, The Times of London reported, citing the Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica.

Becciu, according to leaked documents obtained by the newspapers, allegedly used the payments in a bid to secure a conviction and squander efforts by Pell — who served as finance minister at the Vatican — to probe Vatican funds, according to the report.

Pell was head of the secretariat of the economy in 2016 when he ordered an independent audit of the Vatican’s finances. Becciu was going to be called to account for millions of dollars in funds — some of which went to family members — he had squandered in bad investments.

Becciu, during his time as deputy secretariat of state, is suspected of funneling Vatican money to businesses and charities headed by his three brothers. He also oversaw a multimillion-dollar investment in luxury property in London that netted millions for consultants, but lost the Vatican money, according to the reports.

Prosecutors are still looking into that London real estate deal, which had some shady characters receiving millions of euros in fees. Pope Francis ended up firing Becciu on September 24 when it came to light that he gave $100,000 in Vatican money to a charity run by his brother.

Becciu denies any wrongdoing and one of Pell’s major accuser — a man known as “Witness J” — says he wasn’t bribed.

Associated Press:

“In relation to what has been published by some organs of information, I categorically deny any interference in the trial of Cardinal Pell,” Becciu said in a statement released by his lawyer, Fabio Viglione.

Vivian Waller, a lawyer for the prosecution’s key witness whose testimony led a jury to initially convict Pell in 2018, said Monday her client hadn’t been bribed.

“My client denies any knowledge or receipt of any payments,” Waller said in a statement. “He won’t be commenting further in response to these allegations.”

In the end, this might be the result of Pell partisans trying to smear Becciu or some of his other enemies looking to get him.

Pell’s efforts to bring more transparency to the Vatican’s finances met with limited success after Becciu denied his request for an independent audit. There was also resistance from within the church as the interlocking financial relationships of Vatican officials with the Vatican bank continues to resist scrutiny.

Pell was absolved of his sex-abuse crimes when he appealed to Australia’s Supreme Court and the guilty verdict was reversed to one of acquittal. The prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence, which would have placed doubt in the minds of the jury. The accusers insist the abuse happened and that Pell is guilty.

Only God and Pell know the truth of what happened.