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For most of its recent history, Peter’s Pence donations have gone to plug the Vatican operating deficit. The Catholic Church in America is undergoing the largest downsizing in its history.

Since 1995, the bishops have closed 1373 churches, on average one per week in the last fifteen years.

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sex abuse crisis, showing how bishops have deceived parishioners in “a national fire sale” of churches, while Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, was a pivotal player in a scheme to profiteer off U. In a riveting narrative with extensive footnotes, Jason Berry uncovers an astonishing lack of accountability for the billions of dollars that run through the Catholic Church each year.

Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church (Crown; 6/7/11) is a landmark book that examines the church’s financial underpinnings and practices.

Berry likens the church financial system to medieval fiefdoms where few dioceses subject their finances to robust auditing, where parishioners have little knowledge or say in how bishops control the use of their contributions.

Safeguards on Sunday collections are so haphazard, reports Berry, that approximately $2 billion have been lost since 1965 to embezzlements from priests and lay workers. having been paid to clergy abuse victims, and for treatment of priests in mental hospitals, bishops are selling off whole pieces of the infrastructure—churches, schools, and commercial properties. Seldom is anyone beyond the circle of a bishop and his close advisors aware of how assets are liquidated, and the Vatican’s role in such decisions.

Berry, a Catholic, praises the church as one of the great engines of charity in American history, yet insists that it must bear scrutiny. Charitable donations to Vatican have long been used to plug deficit.

Every June, Catholic parishes take the Peter’s Pence collection, a donation advertised exclusively for the pope and his charitable uses.

In 2009, Peter’s Pence pulled in .5 million from parishes in the developed world.

The Vatican has publicly accounted for less than 11% of those funds.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano helped his nephew target shuttered U. In 2003, Sodano and other cardinals gave carte blanche to Boston’s new archbishop, Sean O’Malley, to close-and-sell churches to fund lawsuit settlements and fill a deep deficit.

The nephew, Andrea Sodano, a building engineer was vice-president of a business in New York led Raffaello Follieri.

Berry reports that Cardinal Sodano installed Monsignor Giovanni Carrù as under secretary at Congregation for the Clergy.

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