God's Banker

One of the world's most notorious holy men is quietly giving Mass in Sun City

But, as usual, Marcinkus avoided prosecution in the matter. Archbishop Marcinkus refused to talk to investigators about the issue, and the Vatican protected him.

Another issue about which Marcinkus has never spoken was the death of John Paul I, who was pope for 33 days in 1978 after the death of Marcinkus' dear friend, Pope Paul VI.

In the early stages of his 33 days as pope, John Paul I, Albino Luciani, promised a thorough investigation of the growing scandal involving Marcinkus, Robert Calvi, Michele Sindona and the Vatican Bank.

As David Yallop documents in his book, John Paul I wanted Marcinkus removed immediately from his position with the Vatican Bank.

But days before that was to happen, John Paul I died in his bed from what was officially described as an accidental overdose of medication. The pope's body was embalmed that same day, a bizarre breach of protocol that also meant no autopsy could be performed to determine if poison might have been the cause of death.

John Paul I's death was the most fortuitous death in Marcinkus' career. Marcinkus kept his position with the Vatican Bank until he was run out of Italy a decade later.

This is not the Paul Marcinkus the people of Sun City know. They have been told nothing of his past. As usual, the Phoenix Diocese has avoided telling parishioners the full story about a man presented to them as an emissary of a loving God.

Marcinkus is described by his neighbors and parishioners as a deeply caring and deeply involved priest. He often goes out of his way to visit sick parishioners in the hospital, they say. He is clearly concerned about the spiritual well-being of his flock at St. Clement of Rome church in Sun City, they say.

The difference between the man described by parishioners and neighbors and the man described by investigative journalists, attorney and prosecutors is a stunning duality.

It is a duality I see mirrored in the actions of the Diocese under which Marcinkus is allowed to give Mass. So caring in one regard, so guarded of dark secrets in the other.

Paul Marcinkus will soon be visited by more journalists and prosecutors seeking comment. The BBC apparently is in the beginning stages of a documentary on the Vatican Bank scandals. Other news organizations will surely follow as interest grows internationally regarding Roberto Calvi's murder and the lawsuits claiming Vatican Bank complicity in laundering World War II Nazi loot.

Marcinkus was even portrayed by Rutger Hauer in an Italian movie, God's Banker, which was released last year.

Marcinkus gave no comment about being portrayed as a man intimate with the church's financial scandals and the murder of his longtime friend Roberto Calvi.

There soon may be many more "no comments" from him. There will be many more knocks on the door.

And one of the questions that needs to be asked, and surely won't be answered, is a simple question of integrity:

Is your continued silence regarding scandals that affected so many thousands any way for a man of God to act?

It is a question not only to be asked at Archbishop Marcinkus' door. It's a question to be asked also at the door of Bishop Thomas O'Brien and any other church authority who has given harbor to, and provided a veil of silence for, priests with scandalous pasts.

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