A suicide. An hospital going to collapse. The “Vatican bank” that drives the the recovery plan. The Vatican. It seems to be a Da Vinci Code-like spy story. In fact, maybe there is a more complex game to be played, long beyond the wish of the Vatican State Secretariat to recover San Raffaele (Saint Raphael) hospital, a massive, cutting-edge medical center, founded and headed in Milan by a priest, Luigi Maria Verzé, which does not, however, have anything in its statutes binding it to the Church, nor much that is Catholic in what it does. Suffice it to say that artificial fertilization, which is condemned by the Church, is practiced there, and that in its highly modern laboratories experiments are conducted without any regard for the ethical criteria affirmed by the magisterium. On the other hand, the hospital exudes Christianity. The founder is a priest, sentences by the Bible are depicted on every wall of the central hospital in Milan, and the patients are considered – according to fr. Luigi Verzé teaching – «golden tabernacles».
The roots of the success of San Raffaele hospital date back to 80s, when the Italian health system was going to structure to a web of both public and private medical centers. This system was congenial for State subsidizations delivered to private medical centers. The San Raffaele gained the reputation of a Center of Scientific Research specialized in diabetes and metabolic illnesses. The pride of San Raffaele research center, the care strategy for the Ada-Scid.
San Raffaele is not just an hospital. It is also a university. And in the connected Università Vita-Salute, dedicated to humanistic studies, philosophy, theology and scientific subjects are taught by professors who are in glaring contrast with the Catholic vision, from Emanuele Severino to Massimo Cacciari, from Roberta De Monticelli to Vito Mancuso, from Edoardo Boncinelli to Luca Cavalli-Sforza.
And San Raffaele also affords a considerable spending, wanted by fr. Verzé and managed from the Sigilli (the Signets) – this is how fr. Verzé called its cooperators totally devoted to the hospital. The archangel in fiberglass and inox steel cost 2.5 million euro. The glass dome cost 50 million. Under the dome, the university and the molecular medicine laboratories. Built on the dome, the archangel.
The numbers give the idea of how San Raffaele could raise almost 1 billion euro debt, and was led to the brink of bankrupcy. In recent months various ideas on how to rescue it were advanced. But these were withdrawn with the proposal, at the end of June, from Bertone and the IOR, the Institute of Works of Religion, the Vatican bank.
The IOR said that it was ready to provide 200 million euros immediately, while one billion over 3-5 years would be guaranteed by an international “charity” still shrouded in mystery (the financier George Soros has denied being part of the deal).
In exchange, Cardinal Bertone has demanded seats on the administrative board of the Mount Tabor Foundation, which governs the entire complex, of four of his proteges: Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the IOR, Giuseppe Profiti, president of the Bambino Gesù hospital, Giovanni Maria Flick, an aspiring president of the Toniolo Institute, and the Genoese industrialist Vittorio Malacalza.
Bertone – rumors from the Curia say – did not want to say ‘no’ to the S.O.S. of a Catholic institution. Rumors out of the Curia malign that Bertone suddenly got the occasion to take the control of the San Raffaele in order to create in Italy a Catholic hub of excellence in the field of health. By uniting under the control and leadership of the Vatican three cutting-edge hospitals: the Bambino Gesù, the Gemelli, and the San Raffaele.
Until now, the Holy See did not pay out anything. The Holy See commitment for a capital depends on a test of accountings and balances of the societies linked to San Raffaele. There is the need to be on to the situation.
In this context, Mario Cal, the fr. Verzé number 2, committed suicide. No man of the new board of the administration met him the last 15th of July to formalize the hand over. It is told that Cal was just requested – via note – to leave the office. Cal was not going to be out of the scene: he had been already charged – for the next three years – to manage the foreign societies linked to fr. Verzé. Just before committing suicide, Cal left a letter to his wife. “I payback the mistakes I did not”. No reference to which mistakes he was talking about.
In fact, the idea of a Catholic hub of excellence in the health field seem still far from Bertone’s plans. The Secretary of State has a more urgent need: to be ahead of the earthquake began with his coming to Secretariat of State. Many, in the Roman Curia, fell that their influence was getting weaker, and their power was going to disappear. «Bertone still did not understand he cannot trust anybody», says an official of the Roman Curia. The secretary of State was twice betrayed: by card. Angelo Bagnasco – Bertone sponsored him to lead the Italian Episcopal Conference – that still want to keep his own relationships with the policy, without referring to the Secretariat of State; and by the Roman Curia, very attentive to show and underline Bertone’s mistakes. Bertone often clumsily react to the attacks. For example, it clumsily attempted to take the control of the Toniolo institute before the arrival in Milan of the new archbishop Angelo Scola.
Toniolo Institute is a key character of this story Taking the control of the Institute means to put the hands on the Catholic culture in Italy. It is not a case that – after the board of Toniolo Institute changed in 2002, and passed under the control of the Italian Episcopal Conference, headed at the time by cardinal Camillo Ruini – a number of defamatory statements against Cicchetti, Ornaghi, and Boffo were sent anonymously to cardinals, bishops, civil authorities, journalists. One of these statements brought, in September 2009, to the resignment of Dino Boffo, then director of Avvenire, the news daily of Italian Episcopal Conference.
In 2010, Bertone’s offensive against the Toniolo developed in three letters addressed to Cardinal Tettamanzi and leaked to the press, signed by Professor Alberto Crespi, former dean of the faculty of law at the Catholic University. The letter accused the Toniolo of “bad management,” and among other things complained that it had been co-opted by Boffo instead of Professor Giovanni Maria Flick, a former president of the constitutional court and one of Cardinal Bertone’s trusted man.
Last February 18, the secretary of state himself wrote to Cardinal Tettamanzi to reiterate his criticisms of him and ask him to resign from the presidency of the Toniolo, to let Flick take his place and to speed up the replacement of three other board members. All of this on the tightest of schedules, before the replacement of the archbishop of Milan, expected at the end of June.
Tettamanzi – president of Toniolo Institute – resists, rebuts the accusations of bad managements, is received from the Pope in an audience. He keeps is seat of number one of Toniolo Institute. But Bertone is not giving up, and is again asking Tettamanzi to step aside, in the name of a necessary and urgent “renewal” that would also include the rewriting of the statutes of the Toniolo and of the Catholic University itself, with the attribution to the Vatican of supervisory powers that it does not have today. Even this pressure led to no changes.
Yet, it seems that Tettamanzi management was not so transparent, and that Toniolo Institute get to break even with external capital increase. Money of suspect belonging.
As well as the money fr. Verzé managed. In the past, San Raffaele was investigated for a billing malpractice. Another suicide took place – the Giuseppe Poggi di Longostrevi one. And there had been other investigations for false billing, that involved the president of Puglia Raffaele Fitto and the Angelucci family, “king” of the clinics in Italy, once owner of a couple of newspapers (now he just own one news daily).
There are too many connections to be traced back. And many feel the need to give birth to a new Toniolo Institute, to reset the “dirty” connections and gets back to the Catholic inspiration. At the same time, many feel the need for a new wave of Catholic politicians.
San Raffaele hospital – not officially part of the Vatican, but at the same time also netowrked with the Vatican – could be the starting point of a wider project: to reset everything and get back to a truly Catholic education, looking for not-for-self-profit relationships.
If this is the aim, it is easy that many people are bothered from the will of change of the Secretary of State. A will of change directly inspired by Benedict XVI. The question now is: will Saint Raphael suffice to heal the Church?