FaithWorld

from Breakingviews:

Vatican bank struggles to be cleansed of past sins

By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The failure of the Vatican bank to comply with the basic rule of the Sacrament of Penance is odd. The Holy See’s financial arm has been seeking absolution for past sins for two years, but remains reluctant to confess to what it did wrong. Of all institutions, it should understand that one cannot go without the other.

According to Italian newspapers, JPMorgan Chase is closing the account of the bank formerly known as Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) because of concerns about a lack of transparency. The move comes a few weeks after the U.S. State Department added the Vatican to the list of countries it considers vulnerable to money laundering.

JPMorgan’s move is no administrative tidying-up: some 1.5 billion euros is reported to have passed through the account in the past 18 months. Yet considering the reputational beating that investment banks have taken in recent years, it’s refreshing that one of them is concerned about being tainted by its association with the Vatican.

The latest stigma may look unfair on the Vatican bank’s new management team, installed two years ago with the explicit task of breaking with its shady past. After all, the lender has wrestled for thirty years with its involvement in the fraudulent collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, Italy’s largest private bank, in which it held a small stake.

New French law bars Scientology dissolution even if convicted

scientology (Photo: Scientology members demonstrate against a 1999 fraud trial in Marseille. Their banner says:”Scientology: 40 years in France. A new religion that will always be there.”)

A new French law means the Church of Scientology cannot be dissolved in France even if it is convicted of fraud, it has emerged during a trial of the organisation.  A prosecutor has recommended that a Paris court dissolve the church’s French branch, which has been charged with fraud after complaints by former members who say they gave huge sums to the church for spiritual classes and “purification packs”.

The Church of Scientology’s French arm denies fraud.

Whatever the ruling, under a legislative reform passed just before the start of the trial in May, it is no longer possible to punish a fraudulent organisation with dissolution.  The legal snag was discovered by the Inter-ministerial Unit to Monitor and Fight Cults. Georges Fenech, head of the unit, demanded on Monday that the legal power to dissolve an organisation be reinstated.

Even if the law is changed again, it cannot be applied retroactively to the Scientology trial, which was held in May and June, with the ruling expected in late October. Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France.