Vatican Bank’s Gay ‘Scandal’ Highlights Holy See’s Sexuality Problems

Monsignor Battista Ricca

Monsignor Battista Ricca

A controversy has emerged concerning Pope Francis’ appointment of Monsignor Battista Ricca as the overseer of the Vatican Bank and its history of scandal.  The Italian magazine, L’Espresso, has printed an article which alleges that Ricca was involved in a somewhat well-known gay relationship while he was serving as acting papal nuncio to Uruguay from 1999 to 2000.

The story illustrates how the Vatican’s failure to deal with homosexuality in a healthy manner can allow for all sorts of not only personal, but institutional problems.

L’Espresso’s Vatican reporter Sandro Magister wrote [official English translation from the magazine’s website]:

“Ricca arrived at this nunciature in 1999, when the mandate of the nuncio Francesco De Nittis was coming to an end. Previously he had served at the diplomatic missions of Congo, Algeria, Colombia, and finally Switzerland.

“Here, in Bern, he had met and become friends with a captain of the Swiss army, Patrick Haari. The two arrived in Uruguay together. And Ricca asked that his friend be given a role and a residence in the nunciature.

“The nuncio rejected the request. But a few months later he retired and Ricca, having become the chargé d’affaires ‘ad interim’ until the appointment of the new nuncio, assigned Haari a residence in the nunciature, with a regular position and salary.”

Magister’s account also details various other incident, such as discovering  a firearm, condoms, and pornography in a suitcase Ricca owned, and, on one occasion, being beaten in an area known to be a meeting place for gay men.

Magister claims that these incidents are well known:

“In Uruguay, the facts reported above are known to dozens of persons: bishops, priests, sisters, laypeople. Without counting the civil authorities, from security forces to fire protection. Many of these persons have had direct experience of these facts, at various moments. “

Ricca eventually returned to the Vatican, where he served in various positions until recently being appointed by Pope Francis to oversee the Vatican Bank, known as the Institute for the Work of Religion (IOR).

According to The Tablet:

“Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi described the claims as ‘not trustworthy.’ “

London’s Guardian newspaper enumerates some of the important questions that surround this case:

“That points to the key questions in the affair: whether Pope Francis knew of the claims against Ricca before he handed him one of the most sensitive jobs in the Vatican. And if not, why not? After he was recalled to Rome, Ricca served in the Vatican’s secretariat of state before being given charge of first one, and eventually three, of the guest houses that the Holy See uses to accommodate church dignitaries on visits to Rome. . . .

“It would have been standard procedure for him to call in Ricca’s personal file before making the appointment and – whatever the truth or otherwise of the claims against him – it is inconceivable that he would have gone ahead had he known about them. It is hard to imagine a more dangerous official for the pope than one charged with shaking up the IOR, yet acutely vulnerable to blackmail.”

I don’t know what is true or not true in this story.  While Magister’s account is certainly plausible, there is little corroborating evidence, not even testimony of witnesses, that would provide backing for the validity of his claims.  His full article reads more like a list of charges, but with very little support for them–more like gossip than news.

The saddest part of this story is that so much intrigue, scandal, and gossip could be avoided if the Vatican would deal with sexuality in a more healthy manner.  As long as homosexuality is considered something shameful, it will be easily used as a weapon of blackmail.  As long as the Vatican continues to ignore that many gay men serve in the priesthood, this fiction will allow some priests to live lives that do not reflect their best interests.

Rather than being an opportunity to point fingers at the possible hypocrisy this story might illustrate, let’s hope that it becomes an opportunity for Pope Francis to recognize that unless he starts to deal with both homosexuality and the sexuality of priests, he will never be able to execute the reforms that he seems intent on instituting.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

15 replies
  1. Lydia Lombardo
    Lydia Lombardo says:

    I hardly can write a comment, because, frankly, I am almost sick to my stomach after reading the above account. All the years of faithful belief many of us have given to the church just seem to fall by the wayside when I read about the intrigue and lies and sexual denial, These are the men who told the rest of us how to live our married lives. I have been ready to leave the church so many times, but I believe this is the last proverbial straw. I continue my faith journey and my relationship with a God I know exists but it will just be between “us” with no Catholic church as partner. I cry for my church.

    • edmcmanus
      edmcmanus says:

      Lydia: I can appreciate your dismay. It is something that we all share at one time or another. However, I don’t believe any of these horror stories are “new.” This sort of behavior has been going on for centuries, but was kept hidden from us through secrecy, threats, and denials. We just know more today. I think that gives us a chance to fix it. The Church, particularly the Hierarchy, desperately needs reform. My prayers are with Pope Francis who seems to be trying to do just that.

  2. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    I am saddened by the contents of this story, especially as a gay Catholic man in relationship. My partner of 32 years has left the RCC, which I also find sad, but understandable. I still remain because of the rich spirituality that is a major undercurrent of the Church and, of course, the Eucharist. The hierarchy needs to listen to the lives of all of us before making pronouncements that affect our lives. Some of the reasons I stay are in my recently published book: Hounded by God: A Gay Man’s Journey To Self-Acceptance, Love, and Relationship. It can be purchased at, Dog Ear Publishing Company, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

    Joe Gentilini

  3. jesse pruzak
    jesse pruzak says:

    I am saddened that you are dignifying the shocking behaviour of Sandro Magister. Please do not use this horrible situation where a fellow christian is publicly lynched by an italian journalist who is well known as some one who is is paid to destroy ideological enemies. Francis is a merciful pastor not a policeman or worse a money hungryItalian journalist

  4. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    I find it interesting that people are more concerned about sexuality than about the statement that he tried and eventually suceeded in setting his friend up in a good job under his patronage!

  5. bjmonda
    bjmonda says:

    Very well said Frank! If there is going to be any kind of honest dealing with the Laity the Pope must declare protection of any priest, bishop, cardinal who comes out as Gay. Then begin to separate what is living an authentic priestly life aside from being Gay. He then needs to preach in public forms that homosexuality is a blessed, authentic state of being and those who are GLBT must be protected and assured of all human rights including those considered most precious by all humans, the right to love and form bonded, marriage relationships with the blessing of all authorities, civil and church.

    This misconception that homosexuality (as an authentic way of being) is lesser than heterosexuality has created so much evil and pain for too long! It is right up there with open, frequent and long standing genocide!

    GLBT people are the blonds and brunettes and red heads of God’s Flower children! AND No more in need of reprisals than those born with brown, white, yellow or red skin…

  6. Friends
    Friends says:

    It might be a good time to note that Pope John Paul I — the “Thirty Day” Pope — was in fact reading the very same reports of horrific corruption among the “Vatican Mafiosi” which Pope Francis has just been reading, when Pope JPI died under totally mysterious and never-explained circumstances. I don’t believe there’s anything at all random or accidental about Pope Francis’ prudent decision to reside permanently OUTSIDE OF the official Papal Apartments. He understands that there are…yes…Satanic elements in play at the highest levels of the Vatican bureaucracy, and that those diabolical players would kill him, just as they killed Pope JP1, if he showed any invention of busting up their criminal enterprises.

  7. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    Your mention of JP1 makes perfect sense. I once read a book about the possibility that he was murdered. Thanks for the reminder that the Catholic Church is full of corruption, even while having saints within it.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Joseph, please do a “Wikipedia” search on Pope John Paul I. You will find that the description of his personal character — in terms of his warmth, friendliness, charisma and lack of bureaucratic pretense — reveals an EXACT MATCH for the character we now see in Pope Francis. Pope JPI was in fact an early harbinger of Pope Francis. It’s absolutely amazing how similar they are, in terms of attitude and temperament. And so it’s no wonder that Pope Francis has “got the message”, and is staying far way from the Papal Apartments — where he might very well be murdered under similarly bizarre and mysterious circumstances, because of who he is, and what he stand for.

      • Will
        Will says:

        That is ridiculous, this pope is the other end of the political spectrum from John Paul I.

        This is one of the guys pj2 had lined up for his succession.

        He is a clever jesuit though, and that is refreshing, a break from the dull right to life gay bashery, but I would doubt from the basic neocon agenda that pj2 championed.


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