Corruption

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The Vatican has signed a new deal with international accountants, weeks after the unprecedented audit of the Holy See’s finances came to an abrupt halt.

PricewaterhouseCoopers will advise the city-state’s auditor general, the Vatican said on June 10.

the Web Editors 04-04-2016

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The leak is so big — 2.6 terabytes of data, the largest in history — that nearly 400 journalists in more than 80 countries spent the last year studying the 11.5 million documents from the firm Mossack Fonseca, provided to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source. The collaboration, which included the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Guardian, the BBC, and French outlet Le Monde, is also thought to be among the largest investigative teams in history.

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Canadian police are investigating Chaldean Catholic priest from London, Ont., after church officials reported more than $500,000 Canadian dollars ($380,000 U.S.) slated for refugee sponsorship was lost to gambling, according to The Toronto Star.

Father Amer Saka, a priest working at the St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in London, allegedly told his bishop, Emanuel Shaleta, that funds intended to help new Canadians had instead vanished in vice, Shaleta told the Star.

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A Spanish priest has confessed to leaking secret Vatican information to journalists, telling a Holy See court he felt trapped and in danger, especially from an Italian co-worker he had fallen for. Monsignor Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda told the court on March 14 that he passed information to two Italian journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who in November published books featuring the confidential documents on Vatican financial misfeasance and Pope Francis’ efforts to overhaul the system.

Image via REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/RNS

Pope Francis has approved new rules to tighten financial oversight of the canonization process after leaked documents revealed abuses and high costs in creating saints. The new measures focus on how the Holy See handles applications for sainthood, which can be a lengthy and expensive process that involves examining claims made by supporters of a would-be saint.

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Christian Ventisette was stopped at Madrid airport after an international arrest warrant was issued for the French-Italian businessman, Italy’s financial police said Feb. 24. Ventisette is accused of scamming more than 250 investors out of around 30 million euros ($33 million) in an international operation involving an Argentine priest. The retired cleric, the Rev. Patrizio Benvenuti, was put under house arrest in Italy earlier this month. He previously worked at a Vatican tribunal and currently has residency in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the west coast of Africa.

Rick Herron 02-17-2016

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Pope Francis conducted Mass in the Mexican state of Chiapas (home to more than 1 million indigenous people), with Bibles available in different indigenous languages in order to make the ceremony accessible to as many audience members as possible.

Pope Francis minced no words when it came to the environment: “The environmental challenge that we are experiencing and its human causes affects us all and demands our response ... we can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history.” 

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Led by charismatic preachers and self-proclaimed prophets, African churches are swelling with promises of miracle healings, signs, and wonders. But in recent months, governments across the continent are trying to rein in these churches.

Tim MacGabhann 02-11-2016

Image via REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/RNS

On a recent morning outside the Church of San Agustin in the middle-class neighborhood of Narvarte, two students sell bric-a-brac and blast the Beatles’ “Let It Be” through a smartphone hooked up to speakers. When asked what Pope Francis’ first visit to the country as pontiff on Feb. 12 means to them, they shrug. “It’s not like he’s going to come in and magically make all of our problems go away,” said Uriel Velazquez Tonantzin, 20, who dropped out of seminary a year ago to take a music composition program.

Stephen Mattson 01-21-2016

Only in America can you have a huge segment of society become obsessed with a cultural sensation that revolves around the themes of unjust incarceration, a biased legal system, corrupt law enforcement, and a judicial process that disproportionately targets the poor and underrepresented, and simultaneously have the majority of this exact same group not understand the reality of racial injustice.

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Pope Francis wrapped up his six-day trip to Africa in the war-torn Central Africa Republic on Nov. 30 by warning that religious conflicts are spawning civil war, terrorism, and suffering throughout the continent.

“Together we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, especially violence perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself,” the pope said in Bangui, the capital.

“Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, ‘salaam,’ ” the pope said, using the Arabic word for peace.

Abby Olcese 11-18-2015
The 33

Still from the movie 'The 33' / via The 33 Movie on Facebook

The 33, a dramatization of the 2010 San Jose mine collapse in Chile, has all the markings of a Hollywood tentpole film. Heartfelt, incredible true story: check. Touching human drama: check. Stirring score: check (it’s one of the last created by composer James Horner before his death in June, giving it extra poignancy). There are more lines about “not giving up” than there are tears in an Oscar acceptance speech. The 33 fits the end-of-year crowd-pleaser profile in every way.

The 33 tells the famous story of the collapse of the gold mine in Chile’s Atacama desert from three different perspectives. 

Emiliano Fittipaldi. Image via Rosie Scammell / RNS

An Italian investigative journalist on Nov. 17 spoke out against what he called a “medieval” Vatican law that might result in a jail sentence of up to eight years for publishing confidential Holy See documents.

Emiliano Fittipaldi, whose new book Avarice reveals the struggle for financial reform at the Vatican, is under investigation for publishing secret documents leaked from the Holy See. A fellow Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, is also being investigated for revelations made in his book, Merchants in the Temple.

While describing the investigation as “a terrible moment,” Fittipaldi remained defiant:

“From my point of view they are crazy charges, in the sense that in no democratic state, in no Western democracy, are there such restrictive laws on press freedom and expression.”

Image via Joe Penney / REUTERS / RNS 

Pope Francis’ visit to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi Nov. 25–27 will bring healing and reconciliation to the East African nation that has suffered key setbacks in the recent past, senior bishops here say.

Kenya, a country with 14 million Catholics, recently announced the theme of the papal visit: “Stand firm and be strong.” Organizers expect nearly 1.5 million people to attend the papal Mass on Nov. 26 in Nairobi; there are nearly 4 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Nairobi.

The pope’s Nov. 25-30 pilgrimage to Africa, also includes travel to Uganda and the Central African Republic. But in remarks Sunday to a crowd of faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Francis raised the possibility that security risks could cause the Central African Republic leg of his trip to change or even be scrapped.

Leocadie Lushombo 08-07-2015
Congo

giulio napolitano / Shutterstock

THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of Congo is one of the world’s poorest countries. In 2014, Congo ranked 186 out of 187 on the United Nations’ human development index—vying with Niger for the bottom of the list.

Yet Congo is extremely rich in soil, water, forests, and minerals. Diamonds, copper, gold, oil, uranium, and coltan are all mined, purchased, and traded from the DRC.    

Coltan is the ore used in electronic devices. The so call “war of coltan” in the mineral-rich eastern Congo has left millions dead and more than a million women raped. Transnational corporations are able to exert extreme pressure on Congo’s weak government and economy. As a result, the country’s natural resources have become an important factor in increasing poverty and violence rather than wealth and development.

The Catholic bishops in Congo (about half of the country’s population is Catholic) repeatedly have denounced three specific kinds of evil: a climate favoring genocide, outbreaks of religious fundamentalism, and a push toward Balkanization.

Sébastien Muyengo, author of In the Land of Gold and Blood, is the Catholic bishop of Uvira in eastern Congo. As a result of the mineral wars, he writes, the country’s poverty has become a mental, human, and structural poverty, rather than predominantly material. Yet Congo has resources the rest of the world wants.

REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay/ RNS

Photo via REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay/ RNS

A German Catholic diocese wants to take episcopal responsibility to a new level by making its disgraced former “bishop of bling” responsible for the 3.9 million euros ($4.9 million) in losses incurred during the luxury makeover of his residence and office.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst earned the “bling” label in 2013 when aides revealed he had spent 31 million euros ($34 million) — over six times the original estimate — on the stately complex opposite the Romanesque cathedral in Limburg, north of Frankfurt.

The Vatican banished him from the diocese several months later and, subsequently, quietly reassigned him to a low-profile post in the Roman Curia. He seemed to be going the way of other failed bishops, such as the few punished in the clerical sexual abuse scandals by being removed from their dioceses

Sepp Blatter & Dennis Hastert

Sepp Blatter in 2007 kojoku / Shutterstock.com; Dennis Hastert in 2005 by Doug Bowman via Flickr.com

My experience in the worlds of both religion and politics convinces me that one of three issues is at the heart of the catastrophic demise of any leader — money, sex, or power. Sometimes it’s a trifecta of all three together, like the case of John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate. But in virtually every case, a leader’s personal inability to exercise appropriate constraint and control over one or more of these three dimensions of life can lead to careers that crumble and reputations that become shattered.

That’s why, despite all the fascination on the external qualities, traits, and strategies of successful leaders, it’s their internal lives that can be far more decisive in their long-term ability to be transformative leaders — or not. But that requires attentiveness to the powerful but often hidden dynamics of one’s interior life, which “successful” leaders rarely have the time or courage to undertake.

the Web Editors 05-27-2015
Photo via AGIF / Shutterstock.com

The FIFA World Cup trophy is lifted after the 2014 final. Photo via AGIF / Shutterstock.com

Nine FIFA officials and five business executives were arrested early Wednesday morning by Swiss authorities for “racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with … a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

According to the statement, bribes and kickbacks to obtain media marketing rights could amount to well over $150 million. Because many of the charges relate to CONCACAF, the regional confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States, the officials will be extradited to the U.S. on federal corruption charges.

 

Nelson Mandela was one of the 20th century's greatest leaders, but the long walk to freedom in South Africa is far from over. 

Abby Olcese 01-28-2015
Screenshot from 'Leviathan' trailer.

Screenshot from 'Leviathan' trailer.

When we meet Kolya, the film’s protagonist, he’s in the midst of a long legal battle. He’s about to lose the house he built to the town’s mayor, a paranoid man obsessed with his own job security. Kolya’s already lost in court, but enlists the help of former army buddy Dimitri, a high-powered lawyer, to help him with an appeal. After the appeal’s failure, and some nasty bullying from local officials, Kolya is hit with a seemingly endless avalanche of humiliation and personal catastrophes.

The fishing village depicted in the film is a run-down hamlet characterized by an impressive amount of skeletal remains — and not just the kind that live in the closet. It’s strewn with ruined buildings, wrecked boats, and massive whale skeletons. In our world, the best architecture serves as a testament to man’s accomplishments, but the buildings and bones of Leviathan do exactly the opposite. They’re a constant reminder of decay and the temporary nature of what we mere mortals spend so much energy building and fighting over. Leviathan’s target is corruption in Russia, but its themes of pride, personal struggle, and frustration are universal.

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