Catholic charity in turmoil over a huge grant to dodgy hospital
The US-based Papal Foundation exists to ‘to build the Church, educate and prepare leaders, and care for the most vulnerable people, young and old, around the world’ – but a grant it made, ‘without due diligence’ to a corrupt Church-owned hospital in Rome has left the organisation reeling.
According to this LifeSite report, Pope Francis himself requested a $25-m grant for the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), which stands accused accused of money laundering, and $13-m of that amount was handed over. Records from the financial police indicate the hospital has liabilities over one billion USD – an amount larger than the national debt of some 20 nations.
Lay members of the Papal Foundation are reportedly “up in arms”, with some tendering resignations over the grant.
According to leaked documents, the Pope made the request for the massive grant, which was 100 times larger than its normal grants, through Papal Foundation board Chairman Cardinal Donald Wuerl, above, in the summer of 2017.
Despite opposition from the lay stewards, the bishops on the board voted in December to send the $8 million payment to the Holy See. In January, the documents reveal, lay members raised alarm about what they consider a gross misuse of their funds, but despite their protests another $5-m was sent with Cardinal Wuerl brooking no dissent.
On January 6, the steward who until then served as chairman of the Foundation’s audit committee submitted his resignation along with a report of the committee’s grave objections to the grant. He said:
As head of the Audit Committee and a Trustee of the Foundation, I found this grant to be negligent in character, flawed in its diligence, and contrary to the spirit of the Foundation. Instead of helping the poor in a third-world country, the Board approved an unprecedented huge grant to a hospital that has a history of mismanagement, criminal indictments, and bankruptcy.
Had we allowed such recklessness in our personal careers we would never have met the requirements to join The Papal Foundation in the first place.
The audit committee chairman’s report noted that the Foundation’s initial $8 million was sent without any supporting documentation.
He said the board eventually received a “2-1/2 inch thick binder of information (mostly in Italian)” but it lacked essential details. The report noted:
There was no balance sheet. There was no clear explanation as to how the $25 million would be used. Normal grant requests are fairly specific about how our money will be used. Buried in the thick binder was only a one-page financial projection labelled “Draft for Discussion” showing:
2017 1.6 million Euro PROFIT
2018 2.4 million Euro PROFIT
2019 4.4 million Euro PROFIT
The Chairman said:
And on this data, our Board of Directors voted to grant this failing hospital $25 million of our hard-earned dollars. To put this in perspective, rarely have we given above $200,000 to a grant request. I pointed out that there was NO PROFESSIONAL DUE DILIGENCE, just a lot of fluff.
If the numbers presented were accurate, then this commercial enterprise should go to a bank. They don’t need our money. If the numbers were not accurate, then a decision could not be made.
The hospital has been plagued with corruption and financial scandal for years. On May 15, 2013, ANSA, the leading news wire in Italy, reported:
Police confiscated over six million euros worth of property and bank accounts as part of investigations into alleged corruption at the Italian hospital group Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI).
The news of Vatican financial corruption connected to the IDI hit international headlines in 2015 with a June 20 Reuters article showing the Italian magistrates suspected that Vatican Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi diverted 30 million euros earmarked for a Church-owned children’s hospital to the IDI.
Another ANSA piece from 2016 reported:
Finance police discovered IDI was 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.
In May 2017, La Repubblica reported on court rulings revolving around the IDI detailing twenty-four indictments, leading to a dozen convictions, some of which carried over three years in prison. The court recognised the evidence from the financial police including:
About 845 million euros in balance sheet liabilities and over 82 million in diverted funds, plus the undue use of another 6 million public funds.
Wuerl, in a “PF Stewards Report”, explained to unhappy stewards that the $25 million the Pope wanted for the hospital was made:
In the larger context of the Holy Father’s commitment to confront and eliminate corruption and financial mismanagement both within the Vatican itself and in outside projects with which it was involved or sponsored.
On January 19, after numerous calls and emails among lay members supporting the audit committee’s position, the Foundation’s executive committee sent a letter that tried to placate donors.
The document, sent by Foundation President Bishop Michael Bransfield, and signed by Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, as well as several stewards on the executive, said the request for the donation came directly from Pope Francis. They wrote:
We have worked in conjunction with the Pope from the very beginning. We don’t approve every request he makes, but he is the Pope, and we listen to him, and we listen intently.