Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, suspect-turned-star-witness for the prosecution in the recent “Sloane Ave” financial maxi-trial at the Vatican, is once again an adjunct promotor of Justice (i.e. prosecutor) of the Apostolic Signatura. The Vatican has yet to confirm the news, which first appeared as an indiscretion on the Italian gossip site, Dagospia. Reporters have confirmed the news, though, and the Vatican has said nothing to deny the reports.
If you check the Annuario Pontificio – the Who’s who? Of the Vatican — Perlasca’s name appears in the index. There is no reference to him, however, on any page or position.Given that the Yearbook closed on December 31, 2023, it is evident that the decision to reinstate him came later than that, i.e. in 2024.

Not to put too fine a point on it: Who cares?

Well, Perlasca was first investigated and then became the super witness in the Vatican trial on managing the funds of the Secretariat of State, which involved, among others, Cardinal Angelo Becciu. He was not on trial, nor had he been convicted, but he had been suspended; he had even returned to his diocese of origin before living again in the Vatican, in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis also lives.

Perlasca’s testimony was the key to the charges in the trial. That’s important, because it turned out that Perlasca’s testimony was somehow guided by his friend, Genoveffa Ciferri, olim Italian security consultant (and secular Franciscan) who has been Perlasca’s friend for many years. Ciferri, in turn, received advice from a “senior magistrate,” who later revealed herself to be Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, (of VatiLeaks 2.0 notoriety).
During the trial, Perlasca offered contradictory testimony. So much so, that some of his statements even came to be considered perjury. During the investigations, he was interrogated in a manner considered by many to be unorthodox. It is not clear how his statements could have been considered credible.

In the indictment, Vatican City prosecutor Alessandro Diddi – the “Promotor of Justice” in Vatican nomenclature – carefully described Perlasca’s role in the operation and downplayed the impact of Perlasca’s testimony on his office’s case against the accused. By doing so, Diddi somehow saved the promoter’s office from a certain embarrassment, given that he had to admit that he had also received several messages from Genoveffa Ciferri herself during the trial.

The first instance of the trial ended on December 16, with various sentences still to be deciphered. In order to do that, we need to see the full judicial motivations, which – hopefully – will shed light on how the judges have made some strange opposites to hang together. We’ll also need to see the declarations of appeal by all those involved, including the same Promoter of Justice, who is not happy with the sentences as they stand. In fact, no one is happy except perhaps the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Even though the sentences are not yet final, some actors in the trial, such as Fabrizio Tirabassi, are already out of the pontifical Yearbook (as if the sentence had already been finalized and applied). This is not the case for Monsignor Perlasca, who is not under investigation and is not convicted.

So, Perlasca’s reinstatement, which occurred confidentially and without official communications, remains to be deciphered.

It may mean, for example, that Pope Francis decided to take the Vatican City prosecutor’s view of the business and therefore to bring things back to the status quo, with Perlasca in roughly the position he’d held before all this business kicked off and even before he was appointed as an administrator in the Secretariat of State. It may also mean that the Pope does not want to involve those not formally under investigation in the trial. It can also mean that the Pope wants to show a merciful face.

As always, this cannot be known because, as usual, there are no official communications, but only rumors and informal confirmation of the rumors. It would not be the first time the Vatican reinstates some monsignors with a complicated past. However, it would be the first time that a reinstatement takes place during a trial involving the Holy See, of a monsignor who has changed his position and attacked his erstwhile office, in the presence of accusations against the same monsignor that still need plenty of sorting.

Those accusations, it bears mention, were not criminal charges but internal procedural charges. In particular, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, sostituto of the Secretariat of State, had highlighted in his memorial for the trial an accurate “Perlasca method,” a sort of pressure or moral suasion exerted on superiors to accept the proposed financial operations, putting them at risk of being faced with a fait accompli.

During the trial, it was discovered that Perlasca signed contracts without the authorization of his superior and even managed the negotiation of the transfer of the management of famous London building from one broker to another without a lawyer from the Holy See.

In light of all this, doubts increase about the Pope’s actions and the process. The Pope, among other things, changed the rules of the trial while the trial was underway, decided on remuneration for promoters of Justice and the tribunal a few days before the sentence, and intervened in the affairs of the London building even though he said he knew nothing about it. All these contradictions make Pope Francis’ decisions challenging to decipher.

The trial is just one particularly egregious example of a very convoluted general situation.
From the reopening of the abuse case involving the Vatican’s minor seminary to the reopening of the case of the abusive priest Mario Inzoli, from the change of direction on the Chile case to the defense of Archbishop Zanchetta, who remained in Rome as APSA assessor while he was accused in Argentina and was sent back to his homeland only when the accusations against him could no longer be stopped, just to name a few.

This leads to a broader question about Pope Francis’s whole approach to ecclesiastical government. If everything centers on the Pope’s moods and ideas, then how can the Pope’s choices be considered balanced, impartial, and made for the good of the Church and not in the name of the Pope’s personal opinion?

The case of Monsignor Perlasca only reopens these questions, unfortunately, with the knowledge that there will be no answer.

You can bet that someone will want to read it at some point as a gesture of mercy. The invitation to Cardinal Becciu to participate in consistories and Masses while he was under investigation and on trial was also read as a gesture of mercy, despite his being a cardinal forced to resign at the Pope’s request and stripped of his privileges.

Even the possible decision to appoint Archbishop Georg Gäsnswein, Benedict XVI’s historical secretary, as apostolic nuncio has been described as a gesture of mercy. Indiscretions, among other things, came out after the Pope had described Archbishop Gäsnwein and his decisions in less-than-kind terms in the previews of a book interview with Pope Francis.

But is it true mercy when the people involved and in disgrace are not rehabilitated anyway? Is it true mercy when the Pope, after having been very harsh and having publicly destroyed a fellow’s credibility, restores the same fellow to some peripheral position?

These, too, are burning questions.

Ultimately, the financial maxi trial proceedings conducted in the Vatican were of a piece with Francis’s style of personal rule. The government must be carried forward despite everything and everyone – and personal choices must always be defended. This is what the Pope does.

Pope Francis is said to be a Peronist. There has been vast debate on the issue. Some folks – Pope Francis included – say “Peronist” and think of an ideology. Peronism, however, is rather a modus gubernandi. We see it at work.


One Response to Pope Francis, a government yet to be decrypted

  1. James Scott scrive:

    The wide variety of topics, judicial locations and of legal systems leading to the trial(s) discussed in this article, not to mention the enormous cast of characters involved, would require an encyclopedia to do them justice.

    No such diligent treatment is required, however, whilst we are in the current situation. Where the Pope refuses point blank to allow the word Rupnik to pass his lips and where the majority of tame ‘journalists’ (whether evidently tied at the hip to the Vatican or from allegedly independent sources such as CBS) refuse to challenge him about his unacceptable, insulting code of Omertà.

    A posture, incidentally, far more reminiscent of the mentality and the trappings of the pontificate of Pius XII than of John XIII to whom so many Francis-groupies wish to compare him.

    Pope Francis’s obstinate hard line arrogance in refusing even to mention Rupnik’s years long abuse of nuns, which blows a gaping hole below the water-line of his oft-repeated policy of zero-tolerance for clerical sexual abuse and coming as it does after a slew of similar cases of apparent complacent indifference on Francis’s part towards the likes of Grassi, McCarrick, Zanchetta, Inzoli, Borras effectively precludes any positive rating of his personal judgement no matter the issue; be it secular-financial, political or even Catholic!

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