Monday, 17 September 2018

Discord in the Vatican as Sistine Choir is Investigated

Don Perosi with his scuola di canto (singschool) c. 1905.
Source: Wikipedia
Sistine Chapel Choir under investigation for money laundering | World news | The Guardian

"When sorrows come they come not single spies but in battalions." (Hamlet Act IV, Scene V)

"To be or not to be? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them." (Hamlet Act III, Scene I)

"Get thee to a nunnery; why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" (Hamlet Act III, Scene I)

As poor Pope Francis contemplates the advancing battalions of sorrows and tries to work out whether and how to take up arms against then or suffer yet more slings and arrows, taking himself off to a nunnery must seem like a tempting option.

This time, it's not yet another few hundred of his priests, bishops and cardinals exposed for routine abuse of another thousand or two children and concealing crimes from the law enforcement and child protection authorities; it's something much closer to home involving choir boys - in the Sistine Chapel Choir.

Pope Francis has been forced to launch an investigation into the choir after claims that managers may have been involved in fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering, or, as the Vatican calls it, 'financial irregularities'. Announcement of the investigation came shortly after the Italian newspaper, La stampa revealed that a Vatican magistrate was investigating the choir's manager (a layman) and its director (a priest) on suspicion of financial crimes.

And now the code of omerta has come into play. Neither Reuters not La Stampa can get a comment from the Vatican other than to confirm that the Pope had ordered the investigation, and the two men concerned are unreachable for comment.

Previously, this sort of thing would have come under the Vatican's financial controller, appointed to sort out it's finances and get control of the Vatican Bank's money-laundering activities on behalf of organised crime and drug syndicates, Cardinal Pell. Unfortunately, he is currently otherwise engaged in his native Australia where he is awaiting trial for his (alleged) part in concealing paedophile abuses and currently protected by so many court injunctions that comment on him and the impending trial are virtually impossible in the Australian press.

It is not clear whether this latest financial scandal to hit the Vatican is connected to the sudden, unexplained cancellation last July of a concert tour of the United States, following the choir's performance at the opening of an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York called “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination“ last May. The choir has a recording contract with a major label.

The Sistine Chapel Choir claims to be the oldest choir in the world, being founded in 1471 and tracing its origins back to Pope Gregory the Great's Schola Cantorum, instituted in around 600 CE. It normally comprises twenty men (tenors and basses) and thirty boys (sopranos and altos). The Vatican stopped routinely castrating pre-pubescent boys placed in it's care by poor families, to provide 'female' castrati voices for the choir, in 1905, females being prohibited from speaking in church.

The scale and nature of the alleged fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering are unknown.


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