VATICAN CITY – Intrigue mounted Saturday over the controversial ouster of the Vatican bank's president, with leaked documents showing board members and even a psychiatrist had questioned his behavior and fitness for the job months before he was fired.
The board of the Vatican bank ousted Ettore Gotti Tedeschi on May 24 in a unanimous no-confidence vote, firing a man handpicked by Pope Benedict XVI's No. 2 to help turn around an institution that has been plagued by scandal for decades.
The board has already made public a scathing denunciation of Gotti Tedeschi's failings as president, saying he was impeding the bank's efforts to be more financially transparent as the Vatican tries to get on the so-called "white list" of countries that share financial information.
Il Fatto Quotidiano daily cited a letter Saturday from a Rome psychotherapist, Dr. Pietro Lasalvia, who in March wrote to the bank's general director with his concerns about Gotti Tedeschi's personal behavior.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained Saturday by The Associated Press, Lasalvia summarized his observations of Gotti Tedeschi during the bank's 2011 office Christmas office party where he said he was "dismayed" by what he witnessed.
Lasalvia, a specialist in the psychology of workplace stress who had been brought into the bank to tend to staffers' needs, said Gotti Tedeschi demonstrated certain behaviors linked to a pathological disorder, but stressed Saturday that his observations were not a diagnosis but merely reflections.
Emails and phone calls to Gotti Tedeschi's lawyer and assistant at Banco Santander, where Gotti Tedeschi is the chairman of the Spanish bank's Italian branch, weren't returned Saturday.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, declined to comment since the matter concerned "reserved documents that were wrongly published."
Gotti Tedeschi's ouster has jolted the staid world of Vatican affairs, in part because of his close ties to Benedict. The firing became all the more worrisome to the Holy See when Gotti Tedeschi's home was raided last week in an unrelated corruption probe, and documents he had prepared to respond to his firing were seized by police.
The seizure and Gotti Tedeschi's subsequent questioning by prosecutors prompted the Vatican on Friday to issue a warning to both its ex-bank president and Italian authorities, reminding them that its officials and documents enjoy immunity protections given that the Vatican is a sovereign state.
Gotti Tedeschi and the IOR's general director were placed under investigation in 2010 by Rome prosecutors for alleged violations of Italy's anti-money laundering norms in conducting a routine transaction from an IOR account at an Italian bank. Prosecutors seized some €23 million ($28.97 million) from the account but eventually returned it after the Vatican passed an anti-money laundering law that went into effect last year.
Gotti Tedeschi has long called the investigation the result of a misunderstanding. Neither he nor the general director has been charged.
In addition to the Lasalvia letter, Il Fatto reproduced two other letters from bank board members to the Vatican secretary of state in which they explained why they wanted Gotti Tedeschi out.
Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz, ex No. 2 at Deutsche Bank and now the IOR's interim president, warned Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone he would resign from the board if Gotti Tedeschi's ouster weren't accepted, saying the bank's reputation in international financial circles had degenerated so much recently that he feared "imminent danger."
"It is precisely in moments like this that a financial institution needs a firm and trustworthy leader," he wrote, according to Il Fatto.
Carl Anderson, head of the major U.S. Catholic fundraising organization Knights of Columbus, cited Gotti Tedeschi's "lack of an adequate response" to the decision by JPMorgan to close its IOR accounts earlier this year. JP Morgan did so under apparent pressure by Italian banking regulators.
While tantalizingly scandalous, the recent intrigue at the IOR is nothing new: The Vatican bank was famously implicated in a scandal over the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in the 1980s in one of Italy's largest fraud cases. Roberto Calvi, the head of Banco Ambrosiano, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 in circumstances that remain mysterious.
Banco Ambrosiano collapsed following the disappearance of $1.3 billion in loans the bank had made to several dummy companies in Latin America. The Vatican had provided letters of credit for the loans.
While denying any wrongdoing, the Vatican bank agreed to pay $250 million to Ambrosiano's creditors.
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