mostlycloudy
Saturday July 22nd, 2017 4:33PM

Room with a view: 2 ex- Vatican hospital officials charged

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The scandal was remarkable even by Vatican standards: The president of the "pope's hospital" for sick children had taken nearly a half-million dollars in hospital donations and used them to spruce up the penthouse apartment of the Vatican cardinal who had appointed him.

On Thursday, the Vatican tribunal indicted Giuseppe Profiti and the hospital's former treasurer on charges they illegally diverted the money, and ordered them to stand trial. The case answers a key question raised by a recent Associated Press investigation that found that the hospital's mission under Profiti's leadership had been lost and was "more aimed at profit than caring for children."

So where did the money go?

According to the indictment, at least some 422,000 euros ($481,000) in donations to the fundraising foundation of the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital — popularly known as the "pope's hospital" — went instead to renovate the penthouse of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who retired in 2013 as the second most powerful man in the Catholic Church.

Profiti acknowledged the payment, but said it was an investment so the hospital could use Bertone's apartment, with its enormous rooftop terrace overlooking St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican gardens below, for fundraising events to benefit sick children.

Bertone, who had appointed Profiti as president of the hospital in 2008, denied knowledge of the payment and said he had paid some 300,000 euros for the renovations out of his own pocket. That suggested the construction company was either paid twice for the work or that Bertone paid for some of it, and the hospital foundation the rest.

Regardless, the total payout came to nearly three-quarters of a million euros (dollars) to renovate a retired cardinal's apartment and the leaky rooftop terrace above it, all in the shadow of the two-room hotel suite where Pope Francis lives and preaches his "church of the poor and for the poor" gospel.

Significantly, Bertone wasn't charged or even placed under investigation, even though he personally benefited from the diverted money. Nor were the Castelli Re construction company or its owner, Gianantonio Bandera, though Bandera was referenced as having received the "illegally" diverted funds. The trial of Profiti and Massimo Spina, the former hospital treasurer, is scheduled to open on Tuesday.

The apartment is owned by the Vatican, but was assigned to Bertone for his personal use after he retired as the Vatican's secretary of state under Pope Benedict XVI. Located on the edge of the Vatican gardens next to the Domus Santa Marta hotel where Pope Francis lives, the third-floor apartment has been the source of endless speculation ever since the diverted hospital funds were revealed in 2015.

Bertone has defended its relatively large size — some 3,230 square feet (300 square meters) — by saying other cardinals have even bigger apartments and that he lives there with a secretary and three nuns who help care for him, and that he needed the space for his archive and library.

While denying any wrongdoing, Bertone nevertheless made a 150,000-euro "donation" to the hospital, whose name in English means Baby Jesus, to make up for the reputational damage it incurred as a result of the scandal.

Profiti resigned suddenly as president of the hospital in January 2015, nine months into a new three-year term. According to the AP investigation, a secret Vatican-authorized task force had concluded in 2014 that under his administration, the hospital's mission had been "lost" and was "substituted by an attitude aimed almost exclusively at profit."

The AP inquiry found that children sometimes paid the price as the medical center expanded its specialized services, increased volume and tried to cut costs, with overcrowding and poor hygiene contributing to deadly infections. One extremely drug-resistant superbug outbreak that wore on for nearly two years killed eight children in the hospital's cancer ward.

The hospital has called the AP report a "hoax" and denied problems. The current Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has said some issues were "truly unfounded" but acknowledged there were past problems at the hospital that the current administration was working to fix.

Profiti, who now heads a small medical clinic in southern Campania, said in a May 29 interview that he told Vatican prosecutors that none of the money used for the renovations had been intended for the health care of children. He laughed when told of the results of the 2014 Vatican-authorized task force investigation and called it "rumor."

Profiti was not in his office on Thursday, a secretary said, and he didn't respond to an email seeking comment. Through his lawyer, Bertone declined to comment out of respect for the Vatican judiciary.

After the task force turned in the results of its three-month investigation in April 2014, the Vatican ordered a second in-house clinical assessment into childcare at the hospital. After a three-day visit in early 2015, that investigation found the hospital in many ways was "best in class."

At the same time, a Vatican-ordered external audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers confirmed that the hospital's mission had been "modified in the last few years" to focus on expansion and commercial activities without sufficient governance controls.

The audit, portions of which were obtained by the AP, flagged particular problems with the fundraising foundation, which Profiti headed. PwC found that five years after it was created, the foundation still didn't have an executive committee, audit board or organizational model as called for by its statutes. Its operating costs in 2012 included 145,000 euros in compensation to its board, of which 109,000 euros was paid in cash to its general secretariat.

The audit also found that the foundation paid 24,000 euros to rent a helicopter to ferry Bertone to a hospital-related opening in southern Italy, and recommended that the hospital define policies about what types of expenses could be allowed and how much cash to have on hand.

Flagging the problems as requiring immediate action, PwC suggested that the hospital revamp the board and appoint an executive committee "considering the not-for-profit mission of the Bambino Gesu foundation and the reputational risk associated to its activities for ... the Holy See."

The audit and details of the funds diverted for the Bertone apartment renovation were first revealed in a 2015 book, "Avarice," by Italian investigative journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi.

Fittipaldi and another Italian journalist were subsequently put on trial at the Vatican for having obtained leaked documents. The court ultimately ruled it had no jurisdiction to prosecute them.

In an email to AP on Thursday, Fittipaldi said it "seemed strange" that Bertone wasn't even placed under investigation in the case, given that letters published in his L'Espresso magazine show that Bertone was well aware the foundation was interested in renovating the apartment. However, in the letter exchange, Bertone also made clear he didn't want the foundation to pay for the construction.

"I'm just sorry that Bertone was allowed to stay in his penthouse, while the journalist who discovered the scandal ended up on trial," Fittipaldi said. "Different standards for different people."

___

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Room with a view: 2 ex- Vatican hospital officials charged
Vatican prosecutors have indicted the former president and ex-treasurer of the Vatican-run children's hospital for allegedly diverting money from the hospital's foundation to pay for renovation of a top cardinal's apartment
5:47PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Illinois' strategy for digging out of debt: taking on more
Illinois lawmakers who recently ended the nation's longest state fiscal standoff since the Great Depression have an ironic strategy for digging out of debt: taking on even more of it
5:43PM ( 12 minutes ago )
The Latest: Attorney says client killed 4 Pennsylvania men
A defense attorney for a jailed man connected to the search for four missing men in Pennsylvania says his client admitted to killing the four and told authorities the location of the bodies
5:43PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
New Senate GOP health care bill teeters on the brink
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell releases new health care bill, but he's struggling for GOP votes to pass it
5:10PM ( 45 minutes ago )
Education official apologizes anew, this time to victims
The Education Department's civil rights chief says she's sorry for making "flippant" remarks attributing 90 percent of campus sexual assault claims to both parties being drunk
5:05PM ( 51 minutes ago )
Trustees project biggest Social Security increase in years
The trustees who oversee Social Security say the millions of people who rely on the program can expect to receive their biggest payment increase in years come January.
4:58PM ( 57 minutes ago )
AP National News
Videos appear to show Iraqi troops killing Mosul detainees
Iraqi officials say they are investigating after Human Rights Watch condemned videos circulating on social media purportedly showing Iraqi forces killing and beating suspected Islamic State fighters in Mosul
4:28PM ( 1 hour ago )
Brazil's Silva defiant after conviction, wants to run again
Brazilian former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has launched a defiant public defense after he was convicted of corruption and money laundering
4:24PM ( 1 hour ago )
Cubs acquire Quintana in blockbuster trade with White Sox
The Chicago Cubs have acquired ace Jose Quintana from the White Sox in a major trade between crosstown rivals
4:05PM ( 1 hour ago )
Top General short headlines
French court rejects ban on magazine for Nice attack photos
A French court ruled Thursday against withdrawing the picture magazine Paris Match from newsstands for publishing gruesome photos of the attack a year ago that killed 86 people in Nice _ but forbid two pictures from being published again
4:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: China slams 'improper' remarks supporting Liu
The United Nations says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was "deeply saddened" to learn of the death of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo
3:57PM ( 1 hour ago )
Greece jails man, frees 2 on bail in tourist's beating death
A Serb man was ordered jailed pending trial and two others were released on bail after appearing before a judge in the beating death of an American tourist on a Greek island
2:48PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP World News
Group led by ex-alderman, unions acquires Chicago Sun-Times
An investment group led by a former Chicago alderman and a labor union has acquired the Chicago Sun-Times
5:04PM ( 52 minutes ago )
Insect attack! US West is battling crop-killing swarms
Farmers in the U.S. West face a creepy scourge every eight years or so: Swarms of ravenous insects that can decimate crops and cause slippery, bug-slick car crashes as they march across highways and roads
5:03PM ( 53 minutes ago )
The Latest: Opioid advocates won't back health care bill
Coalition of opioid addiction groups say they can't support revised health care bill, say state grants won't make up for Medicaid cuts
4:33PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
AP Exclusive: Senator's family business uses Mexican labor
An arts and crafts business Sen. Joe Donnelly's family has owned for generations relies in part on Mexican manufacturing, even though the Indiana Democrat denounced Carrier Corp. last year for outsourcing jobs to Mexico
1:54PM ( 4 hours ago )
Investors: 'Pharma Bro' Shkreli was shady - and profitable
A parade of government witnesses who say they were burned by "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli have also had to admit they made hefty profits
12:32PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Exclusive: Senator profits from outsourcing he slams
An Indiana senator who railed against Carrier Corp. for moving manufacturing jobs to Mexico profits from a family business that relies on Mexican labor to produce dye for ink pads
1:18AM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
California governor scrambles for support on climate deal
Gov. Jerry Brown is painting a bleak picture of a state ravaged by climate change and consumers facing higher costs for food and electricity as he implored state lawmakers Thursday to grant his request to extend the state's signature climate initiative
3:56PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: New GOP health plan seeks conservative support
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has released a revamped Republican health care bill, and it seeks out conservative support by letting insurers sell low-premium policies with skimpy coverage
12:18PM ( 5 hours ago )
New McConnell health bill contains plan sought by Sen. Cruz
Aides say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to include language in his new health care bill meeting demands from Sen. Ted Cruz
11:58AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
FDA advisers endorse what could be 1st US gene therapy
FDA advisers hear details about what could be the first gene therapy approved in the U.S.
4:53PM ( 1 day ago )
FDA advisers review data on potential 1st US gene therapy
FDA advisers hear details about what could be the first gene therapy approved in the US
2:53PM ( 1 day ago )
Tough question for hospitals: Who's too risky to release?
The case of man who killed a New York City police officer after a psychiatric evaluation highlights how psychiatrists must decide whether patients pose enough danger to need hospitalization
2:56PM ( 5 days ago )
AP Business - Health Care
Hawaii Army soldier thought 9/11 was false flag attack
A U.S. soldier held on terrorism charges believed the moon landing was faked, questioned the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and thought the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job coordinated by the U.S., according to a former bunkmate
5:44PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Illinois' strategy for digging out of debt: taking on more
Illinois lawmakers who recently ended the nation's longest state fiscal standoff since the Great Depression have an ironic strategy for digging out of debt: taking on even more of it
5:43PM ( 13 minutes ago )
The Latest: Attorney says client killed 4 Pennsylvania men
A defense attorney for a jailed man connected to the search for four missing men in Pennsylvania says his client admitted to killing the four and told authorities the location of the bodies
5:43PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Texas mom calls for firing of cop who arrested her teen sons
A suburban Dallas woman is calling for the firing of a police officer who arrested her two teenage sons outside of their home earlier this month
5:37PM ( 19 minutes ago )
The Latest: Health care bill has $150M sweetener for Alaska
Health care bill offers benefit solely to Alaska, to woo support from state's undecided senator
5:34PM ( 22 minutes ago )