On Sunday, The Vatican revealed that it had been forced to dismiss its former auditor general — who resigned without an explanation in June — because he had been spying on senior officials.
In the newest scandal to entangle the centuries-old institution, Libero Milone had accused the Vatican of getting rid of him because of his investigations into a possibility of illegal activity had hit too close to home.
Only hours after the story broke, the Vatican published an enraged response.
“Milone’s office illegally appointed an external company to carry out investigations into the private lives of members of the Holy See,” said the Vatican in a statement.
It is very uncommon for the secretive seat of the Roman Catholic Church to comment in public regarding internal affairs.
Milone had an interview published earlier Sunday to four media outlets including the Corriere della Sera of Italy daily in which he stated: “I did not voluntarily resign. I was threatened with arrest”.
The auditing wizard, who spent most of his career with Deloitte & Touche, an auditing firm, and was hired in 2015, said that high-ranking figures in the Vatican wanted to scupper the financial reform efforts of Pope Francis.
“I feel very sorry for the pope. I had a splendid, indescribable relationship with him, but over the last 18 months, they stopped me seeing him. Obviously, they didn’t want me telling him about some of the things I’d seen,” said Milone.
While he revealed that a non-disclosure agreement hindered him from providing information regarding the irregularities he discovered, his troubles started when he hired an outside firm to check if the computers of his team had been bugged.
That was the company that the Vatican believes was spying for him.
“They accused me of having improperly looked for information on Vatican members. I found out they had been investigating me for seven months,” added Milone.
“I was only doing my job”.
– ‘Trust broken’ –
When Milone was hired, Vatican officials said that he would be “completely independent” and would have the authority to look through the books of every department in the tiny city-state, reporting only to the pope.
However, on Sunday, the Vatican said that not only had Milone broken an agreement for both parties to remain quiet regarding his dismissal, but he had also been acting like a secret agent in the city-state.
“The job of the auditor general is to analyse the balance sheets and accounts of the Holy See and connected bodies.
“It turns out unfortunately that the office led by Milone, going outside its jurisdiction, illegally appointed an external company to carry out investigations into the private lives of members of the Holy See.
“As well as being a crime, this irreparably damaged the trust placed in Milone who, when confronted with his responsibilities, accepted freely to hand in his resignation,” it said.
In 2013, Pope Francis was elected on a mandate to clean up the Vatican, including its financial house.
Expediting moves which begun under Benedict XVI, his predecessor, he streamlined the Vatican bureaucracy and brought 21st-century auditing to the tainted banking system of the Holy See.
However, it has found it hard to shake off the whiff of scandal.
The bank of the Vatican, known as the Institute of Religious Works (IOR), became famous after the 1death of Italian banker Roberto Calvi in 1982, whose corpse was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.
Prosecutors believe it was a mafia killing connected to money laundering via the Vatican bank.