VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The head of the increasingly dissident Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, is suing a Catholic news outlet after it accused him of diverting “hundreds of thousands” of euros away from missionary or charitable projects to other ends, including renovating his private apartment.
Paglia has hit back after Catholic news outlet The Pillar confidently reported last week that “Paglia used charity funds to renovate apartment.”
Citing “multiple independent sources with knowledge of the events,” The Pillar provided details of Paglia’s alleged financial re-routing – which is alleged to have happened while he was president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, between June 2012 and September 2016.
Background of allegations
According to the sources, Paglia had stated in a 2015 memo to officials at the Holy See that “hundreds of thousands of euros had been paid to an Italian construction contractor instead of going to missionary and charitable projects to support poor families and orphans.”
The Pillar wrote that “much” of the reportedly diverted money was used “to finance building projects in Rome, including the renovation of his personal apartment.”
The Pillar’s sources stated that contrary to Paglia’s claim he had repaid some of the diverted funds, he had done so with “other donations to the pontifical council, and not with money specifically provided for restitution.”
Citing officials at the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and the Office of the Auditor General, The Pillar wrote that Paglia had diverted “much” of €1 million away from charitable projects. The money had been approved for these projects by then Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and was to be directed through foundations aligned with the Pontifical Council for the Family.
But according to The Pillar’s Vatican sources, the money was transferred to other accounts and then to a contracting company called Edilizia Marconi, which reportedly handled renovation projects for the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Using these charitable funds, Edilizia Marconi reportedly conducted renovations at Paglia’s personal apartment at the Vatican, amounting to “several hundred thousand euros of renovations,” with the sources estimating the amount was close to half a million euros.
Paglia replaced funds?
When details of this came to light due to investigations conducted by the auditor general, Paglia reportedly stated in a 2015 note that he had replaced the money which had been diverted away from the charitable ends.
However, according to The Pillar’s sources, while €600,000 did make its way to the Family of Nazareth Foundation’s account in May 2015 – one of the original intended recipients of the money – that money was itself taken from different donations made to the Pontifical Council for the Family.
According to one source speaking to The Pillar, Paglia simply replaced the diverted money with new donations. “It was new money to replace the old. It was meant to be a repayment, but it was simply robbing Peter to pay Paul after the matter was discovered.”
Another source described Paglia’s reported diverting of funds as an “egregious example” of potential Vatican financial corruption, while adding that the situation was “not unique.”
Paglia responds with legal threat
The Pillar’s report depicted Paglia’s reported financial corruption in a very factual manner, as demonstrated in both the title and subtitle of the article: “Paglia used charity funds to renovate apartment.”
Following this report, Paglia responded indirectly, with his personal assistant informing The Pillar that the archbishop had decided to take legal action in response to the article. The assistant stated that Paglia “has instructed a lawyer based in the United States to initiate a lawsuit against your newspaper for the serious defamation represented by part of your writing.”
The assistant added that “[i]t is in fact gravely injurious to state that the bishop allegedly used Vatican funds for the expenses of his own private apartment, the renovation of which was instead entirely borne by him personally.”
LifeSiteNews also contacted the archbishop for a statement, and was also told that Paglia had “mandated” a lawyer to take legal action against The Pillar for “defamation.” The secretary added that “the same defamation lawsuit [would be] affecting every newspaper that will publish the same content.”
Paglia’s history in Vatican management roles
In light of the allegations made about Paglia, additional reports then surfaced suggesting financial misconduct on the part of the now-head of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Francis Maier – drawing on his experience as a long-time special assistant to Archbishop Charles Chaput – recounted Paglia’s involvement in the Eighth World Meeting of Families, held in Philadelphia in 2015.
Maier first noted how Paglia had already faced allegations of “embezzlement and price fixing, criminal conspiracy and fraud,” dating back to his time as Bishop of Terni, in Italy. Citing “difficulties” that the World Meeting of Families team had with Paglia during the 2015 event, Maier added this attitude was shared within the Vatican.
Recounting a meeting with a “ranking Vatican official” involved in the Vatican finance reforms, Maier stated that the official effectively called Paglia “a crook,” with a “record of provocative mischief and bumbling” continuing to this day in his roles in the Vatican.
Concurrently, in the murky world of Vatican finances, the Vatican’s former auditor general – Libero Milone – is suing the Holy See, arguing that he and his deputy were unlawfully fired after Cardinal Angelo Becciu (then the No. 2 in the Secretariat of State) unjustly accused them of spying and embezzlement in June of 2017, accusations which, they argue, stemmed from their audit which uncovered widespread corruption within the hierarchy of the Holy See.
That lawsuit is reportedly being stalled by the Vatican, with no reason given.
Meanwhile, Paglia’s Pontifical Academy for Life is pushing ahead in its promotion of contraception, with Paglia suggesting that either Pope Francis or his successor will issue an encyclical undermining the Catholic Church’s ban on contraception.