January 26, 2012
By Philip Pullella
“Thou Shalt Not …” –KTRN
The Vatican was shaken by a corruption scandal Thursday after an Italian television investigation said a former top official had been transferred against his will after complaining about irregularities in awarding contracts.
The show “The Untouchables” on the respected private television network La 7 Wednesday night showed what it said were several letters that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was then deputy-governor of Vatican City, sent to superiors, including Pope Benedict, in 2011 about the corruption.
The Vatican issued a statement Thursday criticizing the “methods” used in the journalistic investigation. But it confirmed that the letters were authentic by expressing “sadness over the publication of reserved documents.”
As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state’s gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure.
Vigano, currently the Vatican’s ambassador in Washington, said in the letters that when he took the job in 2009 he discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.
In one letter, Vigano tells the pope of a smear campaign against him (Vigano) by other Vatican officials who wanted him transferred because they were upset that he had taken drastic steps to save the Vatican money by cleaning up its procedures.
“Holy Father, my transfer right now would provoke much disorientation and discouragement in those who have believed it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of power that have been rooted in the management of so many departments,” Vigano wrote to the pope on March 27, 2011.
In another letter to the pope on April 4, 2011, Vigano says he discovered the management of some Vatican City investments was entrusted to two funds managed by a committee of Italian bankers “who looked after their own interests more than ours.”
August 19, 2010
By: Alex Altman
Opponents of the planned Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan have public opinion firmly in their corner. According to a new TIME poll, 61% of respondents oppose the construction of the Park51/Cordoba House project, compared with 26% who support it. More than 70% concur with the premise that proceeding with the plan would be an insult to the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Opposition to the project appears to derive largely from the conviction that the proposed site of the project — just two blocks from Ground Zero, in a building that formerly housed a Burlington Coat Factory outlet — is so close to “hallowed ground,” as President Obama put it.
Yet the survey also revealed that many Americans harbor lingering animosity toward Muslims. Twenty-eight percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly one-third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President — a slightly higher percentage than the 24% who mistakenly believe the current occupant of the Oval Office is himself a Muslim. In all, just 47% of respondents believe Obama is a Christian; 24% declined to respond to the question or said they were unsure, and 5% believe he is neither Christian nor Muslim.
(See TIME’s photo-essay “Muslim in America.”)
And while more Americans are open to the idea of having a mosque built in their neighborhood rather than near Ground Zero, it’s still not an overwhelming majority; 55% of respondents say they would favor the construction of an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from their home, and an equal number say they believe most Muslims are “patriotic Americans.”
As he attempts to shepherd the U.S. through the sluggish economic recovery and galvanize Democratic voters ahead of a congressional election cycle in which the party is expected to sustain heavy losses, Obama’s approval rating has held relatively steady, at a near even split: 46% of respondents back his job performance, with 45% expressing disapproval. Voters are far less enthusiastic about the President’s policies, however, with 57% asserting that the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction.
That wasn’t the only grim news for Democrats. The GOP has snatched the lead in generic congressional balloting, with 43% of likely voters saying they would vote for a Republican candidate if the midterm elections were held today, compared with 37% for Democrats. (Last month, Democrats held a slight edge in generic balloting, 43%-42%.) While those figures augur well for the GOP, harping on the mosque issue — a tactic many Republicans appear to have embraced as the overheated debate nears a boiling point — seems unlikely to give the party’s fortunes a significant boost. Nearly three-quarters of voters told TIME the issue will not have any impact on their decision in the ballot box.
(See “Ground Zero: Exaggerating the Jihadist Threat.”)
While the poll revealed that prejudice toward Muslims is widespread, respect for other religious traditions remains sturdy. Respondents held the Jewish faith in the highest regard, with 75% professing to hold a favorable impression — just slightly higher than attitudes toward Protestants and Catholics. Fifty-seven percent say they have a favorable view of the Mormon faith, compared with 44% for Muslims. Despite (or perhaps because of) this widespread antipathy, 62% of respondents say they don’t personally know a Muslim American.
The poll, conducted by Abt SRBI, surveyed 1,002 adults — 89% of whom identified themselves as likely voters — on Aug. 16-17.
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July 7, 2009
by Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict on Tuesday called for a “world political authority” to manage the global economy and for more government regulation of national economies to pull the world out of the current crisis and avoid a repeat.
The pope’s call for a re-think of the way the world economy is run came in new encyclical which touched on a number of social issues but whose main connecting thread was how the current crisis has affected both rich and poor nations.
Called “Charity in Truth,” parts of the encyclical appeared bound to upset conservatives because of its underlying rejection of unbridled capitalism and unregulated market forces, which he said had led to “thoroughly destructive” abuse of the system.
The pope said every economic decision has a moral consequence and called for “forms of redistribution” of wealth overseen by governments to help those most affected by crises.
Benedict said “there is an urgent need of a true world political authority” whose task would be “to manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result.”
Such an authority would have to be “regulated by law” and “would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights.”
“Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the co-ordinated measures adopted in various international forums,” he said.
The United Nations, economic institutions and international finance all had to be reformed “even in the midst of a global recession,” he said in the encyclical, a booklet of 141 pages.
An encyclical is the highest form of papal writing and gives the clearest indication to the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics as well as non-Catholics of what the pope and the Vatican think about specific social and moral issues.
It was addressed to all Catholics as well as “all people of good will” and was released on the eve of the start of the G8 Summit in Italy and three days before the pope is due to discuss the global downturn with U.S. President Barack Obama.
In several sections of the encyclical, Benedict made it clear he had great reservations about a totally free market.
“The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way,” he said.
“In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise,” he added.
Profit was useful only if it served as a means to a brighter future for all humanity.
“Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty,” he said.
He said the current economic crisis was “clear proof” of what he branded as “pernicious effects of sin” in the economy.
“The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred,” he said.
“Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity . . . right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another,” he said.
The pope appeared to back government intervention “in correcting errors and malfunctions” in the economy, saying “one could foresee an increase in the new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally.”
“Today’s international economic scene, marked by grave deviations and failures, requires a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise,” he said.
In other sections of the encyclical, his first on social issues since his 2005 election, he addressed topics such as development, migration, union rights, terrorism, sexual tourism, population issues, the environment, bioethics, and energy.
The encyclical’s release was delayed by nearly a year so the pope could address aspects of the current economic crisis.