An Italian court has ordered Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, to pay back to his brother, the Rev. Lorenzo Viganò, more than $2 million, plus interest, which he had, according to the Italian press, “illegally and illegitimately” taken from him over many years.
The sentence was issued by Judge Susanna Terni after hearing the case in the civil tribunal of Milan in mid-October, but the ruling was only made known last evening and published by the Italian press today.
Late last August, Archbishop Viganò made headlines around the world when he accused Pope Francis of covering up the abuse of the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and called on the pope to resign.
An Italian court has ordered Archbishop Viganò to pay back to his brother, the Rev. Lorenzo Viganò, more than $2 million.
Today, he is in the news for a very different reason. The story began over half-a-century ago when the two priests—Fathers Carlo Maria and Lorenzo, part of a family of eight siblings—inherited a sizable fortune from their father, a steel industrialist in Milan, who died in 1961. The brothers decided to keep their part of the inheritance “in common” and agreed that Carlo Maria would manage it. Father Lorenzo told an Italian daily in 2011 that he had “trusted him blindly,” until his brother’s actions caused him to resort to legal action and demand the division of their inheritance. (Previous reports in the Italian press have said Father Lorenzo is a Jesuit, but this is not true, according to Il Sismografo, a well-informed site for Vatican news.)
According to the court in Milan, by September 2010 the inheritance included several units of real estate valued at around $23 million, plus a sum of money of around $7 million. Much of the money was held in a bank in Switzerland. The court concluded that the former nuncio had benefited from the real estate, keeping all the money that should by right have been shared with his brother, totaling about $4 million.
Father Lorenzo, who spent much of his life in Chicago, suffered a stroke in 1996, after which it seems that the archbishop took total control of his brother’s part of the finances, on the grounds that Father Lorenzo was not able to do so. According to the Italian press, the move was too much for Father Lorenzo, and he decided to take legal action. This led to civil actions by each of the brothers against each other. The opposing civil cases are not easy to unravel, even today. One of the archbishop’s sisters also recently accused the former nuncio of wrongdoing.
The verdict of the civil court in Milan should mark the end of a family feud over money that has lasted many years.
In 2013, Father Lorenzo told Il Giornale, an Italian daily, “My brother has robbed me of several million euros.” He alleged that the archbishop, by then the nuncio in Washington D.C., had cut him off from his rightful income and had even threatened him, using a person said to be an F.B.I. agent. Father Lorenzo also claimed, to his great dismay, that many of his biblical research files had been destroyed by Archbishop Viganò.
Father Lorenzo told the paper he could not believe it when he learned that Archbishop Viganò had sought in a letter to Benedict XVI on July 7, 2011, to persuade the pope not to send him to the United States as nuncio, alleging that he should remain in Rome because he had to take care of his very sick brother who was physically and mentally weak after a stroke. Father Lorenzo told the Italian daily: “It was a lie, he did not have relations with me for years! He wrote something false to the pope.” In the end, Benedict sent the archbishop to Washington, D.C., following a conflict inside the Vatican caused by the fact that Archbishop Viganò had accused one or more Vatican persons of corruption. A subsequent internal Vatican investigation concluded this was not the case.
Il Giornale first revealed these various “civil and penal legal actions” between members of the Viganò family in 2012, including news that the archbishop’s sister Susanna accused him of cheating her out of some real estate, even as he claimed to be conducting a battle against corruption in the Vatican.
Corriere della Sera, Italy’s paper of record, quotes Father Lorenzo as saying in 2013 that the archbishop “sought to get me to write a testimony in favor of my nephew Monsignor Polvani” (who works in the Vatican Secretariat of State), but, “at other times, he wanted to entrust everything to a [limited] company because he said, ‘If I become cardinal it is not good that it be known that we have so much money.’”
According to the Italian press, the verdict of the civil court in Milan should mark the end of a family feud over money that has lasted many years and included accusations and counter-accusations in a fratricidal conflict, and which has ended in a clear judgment against the former nuncio.