Ber­nie goes to Rome – II

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Ber­nie Goes to Rome – II
So His Holi­ness Pope Fran­cis briefly met with Sena­tor San­ders after all. ‘This mor­ning when I was lea­ving [to Greece ‑AO], Sena­tor San­ders was there, he had come to the con­ven­tion. He knew I was lea­ving at that time and he had the cour­tesy to greet me. I gree­ted him, his wife and ano­ther cou­ple who were there and were slee­ping in Santa Martha,’ said the Pope. (Am I the only one who gets a really awk­ward fee­ling, pic­tu­ring that scene?) The other cou­ple must have been Jef­frey Sachs and his wife. About Jef­frey Sachs more later, perhaps.

I doubt if there was time for a con­ver­sa­tion beyond poli­te­ness and admi­ra­tion. What a pity, for If any­one on our our tor­men­ted pla­net knows how to deal with big banks, it’d be the cur­rent Pope. When he got elec­ted into office one of his first bold moves was to take fur­ther steps in the cathar­tic reform of the Vatican’s cor­rup­ted finan­cial insti­tu­ti­ons. Fran­cis was cou­ra­geous, to an extend that many fea­red he would be kil­led before he could even start his pon­ti­fi­cal works of puri­fi­ca­tion of the Vatican’s finan­ces. For there is a lot at stake in the city-state’s economy.

The Insti­tute for the Works of Reli­gion is an intri­guing bank. It has a his­tory of cor­rup­tion and money laun­de­ring. It has been fun­ne­ling covert Uni­ted Sta­tes funds to the Con­tras in Nica­ra­gua, the right wing oppo­si­tion to the San­di­ni­sta regime, that was so loudly hai­led and prai­sed by Sena­tor San­ders in the ‘80s. San­ders’ sup­port of this Mar­xist regime deser­ves a clo­ser look. But for now I’d like to just state that Bernie’s sup­por­ters’ claim that the Sena­tor has always been ‘on the right side of his­tory’ is a dam­na­ble lie: the San­di­ni­s­tas’ reputa­tion inclu­des open and vio­lent anti-Semi­tism, in fact the burning of syna­go­gues and eth­nic clean­sing of Nicaragua’s Jewish popu­la­tion and bru­tal mas­sa­cre among the indi­ge­nous Indian population. 

But let’s return to our sub­ject of the day, the hid­den tre­a­su­res of the Roman Catho­lic Church and how they relate to San­ders’ nar­ra­tive. The Vatican’s finance depart­ment does not excel in transpa­rency. Howe­ver we know that the Church’s immense capi­tal inclu­des large invest­ments in JPMor­gan Chase, the First Nati­o­nal Bank of New York (‘Where Eve­ry­one Knows Your Name’) and the Ban­kers Trust Com­pany. Also that the Vati­can owns bil­li­ons of sha­res in indu­stries like Gulf Oil, Shell, Gene­ral Motors, Bethle­hem Steel Cor­po­ra­tion, Gene­ral Elec­tric, IBM, etc. Per­so­nally I find this stuff highly boring and the only rea­son I bring it up is this weird move in the cam­paign stra­tegy of Sena­tor Ber­nie Sanders. 

Wit­hout any doubt the Sena­tor and his entou­rage will be warmly wel­co­med upon return from his brief unpre­ce­den­ted pil­gri­mage to the Holy See. The fren­zied crowds will be deligh­ted and cheer­ful and uncri­ti­cal as usual. And this man won’t cease to shock and sur­prise us.

Antony Oomen