Pope cancels audience with Papal Foundation donors after objections to $25 million grant
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis has cancelled a regular meeting with donors to the Papal Foundation, a US-based charity that contributes to the works of the Pope. The cancellation comes just after the members objected strenuously to a personal request by the Pope for the Foundation to grant $25 million to a Rome hospital plagued with allegations of money laundering and financial corruption.
The cancelled meeting is being called “vindictive” by Papal Foundation members, who spoke to LifeSiteNews on condition of anonymity. News of the cancellation came to donor-members in a March 22 letter from Papal Foundation board chair Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Cardinal Wuerl’s letter attempts to characterize the cancellation of the meeting with the Pope in a positive light; a suggestion which the members found laughable.
“The Holy See…,” the letter says, “has offered its support to The Papal Foundation as it conducts its self-examination… by postponing a papal audience until all of the work of the Foundation is complete and its members and Stewards have agreed upon the Foundation’s mission, structure, processes, and relationship to the Holy See.” The letter adds, “While the postponement of the papal audience out of appreciation for our work might be a disappointment, at the same time, the wisdom of such a stop is evident.”
Last month LifeSiteNews broke the story on the Pope’s request for the $25 million, a grant 100 times the size of regular grants from the American foundation. When non-donating clerical members of the foundation voted to proceed with the grant over the vehement objections of the lay donor-members some members tendered resignations and demanded their donations be returned.
Lay membership or becoming a “steward” in the Papal Foundation involves the pledge “to give $1 million over the course of no more than ten years with a minimum donation of $100,000 per year.” The annual board meeting of the foundation is held in Rome and thus members are able to have an exclusive meeting with the Pope, a privilege granted to the organization, which contributes more than any other to the works of the Pope.
Half of the controversial $25 million grant requested by the Pope for the corruption-plagued hospital was sent to the Holy See before the ruckus in the Foundation reached a fever pitch. To appease the revolting Stewards, Cardinal Wuerl said he’d ask the Pope to refuse the rest of the grant even though it had been ‘approved’ – a request which the new letter claims was accepted.
Members of the Papal Foundation suggest that Wuerl’s narrative paints a misleading picture of the situation. One member told LifeSiteNews, “The pope did not ‘decline half the special grant that the Board approved,’ but instead after using his Cardinals to railroad through an absurd grant against 100% resistance of the laity; and after the ensuing resignations, protests, with threats of public exposure became overwhelming, the pope finally said he’d compromise by only taking half of what he earlier demanded.”
Both Papal Foundation members who spoke with LifeSiteNews commended Cardinal Wuerl on his heroic effort to positively spin the latest outrage in the $25 million scandal.
“The cancelation of the papal audience was surely not a result of wanting to have more Board meetings, but was obviously a fear about the pope facing a bunch of angry ripped-off donors. Do we really need to pretend otherwise?” said one donor.
Jim Longon, the Papal Foundation member who resigned as head of the Audit Committee of the board over the $25 million scandal, told LifeSiteNews that he decided to speak publicly to the media about the scandal after LifeSiteNews broke the story. He commended LifeSiteNews for an accurate portrayal and noted that the Papal Foundation has met with the Pope every year throughout it’s 30-year history (unless the Pope was ill).
Longon said, in pregnant jest, he would not be going to Rome this April for the Papal Foundation meeting because “I don’t have anyone to taste my food” before eating it.