Fired top official sues Vatican
Libero Milone, the former chief auditor of the Vatican, has sued the Church’s Secretariat of State and current auditor general, claiming the Church has reopened a baseless criminal investigation against him in order to silence him after ignoring his reports of official malfeasance.
Milone and fellow auditor Ferruccio Panicco claim the Vatican unjustly ended their contracts, ruined their professional reputations, and rendered them persona non grata in Italy. They are demanding €9 million ($9.2 million) in damages.
The ex-auditor told the New York Times he was pressured into resigning in 2017 after he was accused of abusing Church resources to spy on top cardinals and threatened with jail. While he said he filed numerous reports of financial impropriety among cardinals and other Vatican officials, prosecutors “never, ever acted.” Pope Francis allegedly went from asking for personal presentations of the damning findings to shutting Milone out, even attacking him publicly.
“I was discovering things that somebody wanted to keep undercover,” Milone told reporters last week after filing his lawsuit, explaining that while he had not sought to “find cardinals putting money in their pockets,” he had found exactly that, all in the course of his official duties.
While Milone declined to name names outside of court, he described the upper echelons of the Church as a “viper’s nest,” with cardinals pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in Church finances, “accidentally” depositing massive sums into personal rather than Church accounts, and keeping shopping bags full of cash in their offices.
One official he did name, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, is currently on trial for embezzlement, abuse of office, and defrauding the Church. Milone told the Times he believes Becciu was behind his firing, accusing the official of planting evidence that was later used against him.
In 2018, the Vatican formally declared there was no criminal investigation or judgment pending against Milone, though he claimed he was told in 2019 that Pope Francis had sealed his case. When he officially requested to see the evidence from the probe, he was reportedly told he had no right to it. Earlier this year, the seal was finally lifted and the Vatican reopened the probe. A spokesman confirmed to the New York Times on Thursday that there was an open file on Milone for embezzlement, unsealed since the spring.
Milone has insisted he is innocent of all charges, claiming “we never spied, we have been honest, we did what we had to do, but unfortunately what we had to do was very embarrassing.”