Board votes to fire Vatican Bank president

Story highlights

  • The "no confidence" vote is unanimous against Ettore Gotti Tedeschi
  • "The situation has deteriorated," the board says
  • Council looks forward to "finding a new and excellent President"
  • "He never took the job seriously," a Vatican analyst says
The president of the Vatican Bank is expected to lose his job when the Commission of Cardinals meets Friday, according to Vatican analyst John Allen.
The board that oversees the bank unanimously passed a vote of "no confidence" for Ettore Gotti Tedeschi on Thursday, setting the stage of the Italian economist's ouster.
A statement from the board said that "despite repeated notices" to Tedeschi, "the situation has deteriorated further" at the Vatican Bank. Replacing Tedeschi is "important to maintain the vitality" of the bank, the board said.
"The Council is now looking forward to the process of finding a new and excellent President," the statement said.
Allen, who covers the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter, said the cardinals have the final word, but all indications say they will ratify the decision to oust Tedeschi at their meeting Friday.
Tedeschi, who is a celebrity in Italy often seen on television, was hired in 2009 with the expectation that he would be a "white knight" to clean up the Vatican Bank's reputation. "But he never took the job seriously," Allen said.
"The expectation when he was named is that he would be hands on and right the ship and, in fact, he's been spending only about two days a week there and doing virtually nothing," Allen said. "There's great frustration that he seemed to be a do-nothing administrator popping into the office to pick up mail and publicize his lectures and books."
There has also be a "problem of chemistry" between Tedeschi and Paolo Cipriani, the director who runs the bank on a daily basis, Allen said.
The Vatican Bank has been under pressure for the past several years to adapt to meet international standards on money-laundering and other illegal activities, a goal that Pope Benedict XVI decreed it would meet.
But there has been growing frustration that the progress was too slow, Allen said. The changes were scheduled to be complete in June, but the bank is not now expected to meet the deadline, he said.
The Vatican Bank is "the most secret bank in the world," according to Jeffrey Robinson, who wrote "The Laundrymen," a book about money laundering worldwide. The Vatican's sources of income include its vast real estate holdings, and there is no way to find out how much money the bank controls, Robinson said.
The Vatican Bank was created by an order of the pope "to carry on activities that are for pious causes," according to expert testimony related to a lawsuit by Holocaust survivors against the bank in a U.S. court in 2009.
It accepts deposits only from top Catholic Church officials and entities, Settimio Caridi testified in U.S. District Court in 2006. It uses its funds "for designated pious purposes" and is "an autonomous pious foundation," he said.
Caridi, a top Italian legal scholar who was called to testify by Vatican lawyers, said the bank is an integral part of the Vatican, a "central entity under the oversight of the Holy See."
It is ultimately overseen by a commission of five cardinals -- the top position in the Vatican hierarchy below the pope -- which is headed by the Vatican secretary of state.
The Vatican Bank is subject to particularly stringent anti-money-laundering regulations because Italian law does not consider it to be operating within the European Union.
It must supply more detailed information about transactions than European Union banks have to give.