Top 10 Dark Secrets of the Vatican

Okay, let me make this clear: I don't want to offend any Catholics by making this list! The idea has nothing to do with Catholicism, as opposed to a topic that is outside of the United States. Consider it a distant cousin to my "Top 10 Weirdest Secrets of the United States Government" list. Understood? That's good. Now enjoy.
The Top Ten
1 The Vatican made money off of the Holocaust

Not only did the Vatican pave the road out of Europe for thousands of Nazis, but the Vatican also helped smuggle various items that were property of Jewish families. The financial advisor of the Vatican at the time, Bernardino Nogara, is thought to have possibly been a Nazi spy. He supposedly incorporated an agenda that enabled the Vatican to invest its money in certain Italian insurance companies that kept assets from life insurance plans of many Jewish families who were almost all annihilated.

Given that the Vatican invested and was not a direct source of insurance, they didn't need to return any of the money they got from the life insurance plans of hundreds of thousands of dead Jews. Considering how the Vatican was at the time a nation within a nation, which was a primary Axis power during the Holocaust (we're talking about Italy, of course), this shouldn't be as baffling as it is. If this isn't a dark secret, I don't know what is. The involvement the Vatican had in World War II is more than you think.

2 The Vatican helped Nazis escape the Allied Powers in World War II

Given the relationship between Hitler and Mussolini, you should not be surprised. After World War II started coming to its end, the Nazis, who were going to be charged with mass genocide, mostly sought refuge in South America. Thousands of Nazis escaped their ill fates by hiding in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.

The travel documents used to get the Nazis into South America indicate the Vatican helped them travel to these countries. There is an argument that this was done because the Vatican wanted to revive European Christianity or that the Vatican was afraid of the increasing influence the Soviet Union had on the rest of Europe. The Vatican refuses to confirm or deny these claims.

I think this had nothing to do with Christianity or the Soviet Union. It's simply corrupt intervention because the guy who ran the rest of Italy (notably not the Pope) was chums with Hitler, and the Pope wanted to be on Mussolini's good side. Take that with a grain of salt, though.

3 The Vatican had ties with the Mafia

In the third installment of the Godfather movies, a corrupt deal between the Mafia and the Vatican eventually got the Pope killed. While we don't have enough to make this a fact, it is possible that this was not just from the director's imagination. On September 29, 1978, Pope John Paul I was sitting up in his bed, but he was a corpse.

John Paul I had been Pope for a bit more than a month, very similar to the likes of the president of the United States, William Henry Harrison. Vatican officials say that John Paul I died of a heart attack, but there was never an autopsy of his body to prove this, and when he died, the Vatican had indisputable ties to organized crime, including the American Mafia. As if to emphasize that, in 1982, the president of the Vatican Bank, Father Paul Marcinkus, resigned from his position after a trail of scams and scandals showed that the Vatican Bank had strong ties to the Mafia. After some time, the Vatican Bank had to refund more than $200 million in American dollars to creditors. Father Paul Marcinkus was never charged with a crime, but he has been suspected of playing a hand in many sudden deaths, even Pope John Paul I's.

4 The Vatican has Swiss Guards

This might seem like a weird inclusion, especially considering how "weird" is not the theme of this list, but hear me out. While in the present day, Switzerland has a reputation for being a pacifist nation, back in the 1500s, they were a force to be reckoned with, along the lines of what the United States is today. Unstoppable in the right hands.

Swiss armies were famous for mastering a lethal weapon called the "halberd," which is kind of what you would get if you combined a spear and an axe. Their ground troops were equally known for destroying armies of foes while riding on horseback. Once Pope Julius II saw their fierce military capability in battle five centuries ago, he recruited a handful of soldiers as his bodyguards.

To this day, Swiss Guards have been loyal bodyguards of the Pope and have sacrificed their lives for him. When you want to be protected from those who want you dead, you work with what has been a success, even if what works is not Italian.

5 The Vatican has the highest crime rate of any nation

This is actually not as bad as it sounds. It's not that all the citizens exercise their sinful nature more than they let on. I don't think it's even anything involving the Mafia in the present day.

The Vatican is a tiny nation with a population under one thousand. It gets flooded with tourists for obvious reasons. As a result of these giant crowds of tourists, it's really easy for the citizens to get away with misdemeanors.

To top it off, the Vatican needs some serious prison reform, as there are no working prison systems and the Vatican has one judge. As a result, felons are usually guided into Italy, which is part of a deal the two nations have.

The crimes that the Vatican is capable of dealing with on their own, mainly petty matters like shoplifting, are usually punished with a temporary restraining order, so the shoplifter can't access the area where they committed the crime. The Vatican can also handle drug problems and issued their first drug conviction in 2007.

6 The Vatican gave Nazis gold

At this point, are you even remotely surprised? A document dating back to 1946 suggests that the Vatican may have smuggled Nazi gold during World War II, even though the Vatican was a neutral force. This document was first shown to the general public in 1997, and it claimed the Vatican bank obtained 200 million francs, which is roughly $254 million in present-day, and that the Vatican was sending all that money to Nazis. That money was put through what is referred to as the "Vatican pipeline," which goes to Argentina and Spain, where it was sent to Nazis who left Germany to escape punishment for war crimes.

The Vatican bank also sent money that was stolen from Serbs and murdered Jews through Utashe, a Nazi puppet nation in Croatia. Towards the end of World War II, the Utashe started stealing from the victims of their ethnic cleansings and then sent about 350 million Swiss francs, which is hundreds of millions in American dollars, out of Yugoslavia to go through the Vatican. This money wasn't sent to Nazis escaping war crimes, though. It was used to fund the Utashe organization while they were a government in exile, which is quite close to funding Nazi Germany in and of itself.

7 Two modern day Popes have performed exorcisms

With scientific advancements, it's hard to believe that exorcisms, rituals that rid people or places of demons, are still practiced. But contrary to popular belief that they were done up until the Middle Ages, there are still a few hundred exorcists on Earth, and there are four working in Rome, or the Vatican, collectively. While they are usually left for priests to perform, two relatively recent Popes have done exorcisms in the Vatican.

The first one was conducted by Pope John Paul II in March 1982 on Francesca Fabrizi, a young Italian woman. During the exorcism, she thrashed and wailed, much like someone possessed by a demon. Her cure came when the Pope said he would say Mass for her the next day. Afterwards, she lived a very normal life, getting married and having kids. Pope John Paul did another exorcism in September 2000, with very similar circumstances, although he failed, and the woman had to have a follow-up exorcism performed by Father Amorth the next day.

The second Pope to have done an exorcism, Pope Benedict XVI, performed it in May. The people exorcised were two men who were howling during the Pope's weekly audience. Supposedly, their demons left them when Pope Benedict blessed the men, and they flew nine feet back and were as good as new. While it is questionable whether these exorcisms truly had these effects, there is no denying they happened.

8 Popes can resign

In some ways, such as the longevity of a term, being the Pope is usually not that different from being a Supreme Court justice in the USA. However, just like every other profession, there are a couple of exceptions. Popes are allowed to retire, but it's not exactly something Catholics look at kindly. It goes against Catholic values, so it's rare for a Pope to resign.

In the past millennium, there have been 123 Popes, and out of them, only five have resigned or retired, making the odds of a Pope resigning 4.07%. The first Pope to resign was Pope Benedict IX, who was one of the youngest Popes and was perhaps twenty when he became Pope. He is the only person to have served multiple terms as Pope as well. He was forced out of the Papacy (which means he was no longer the Pope) in 1036, but he became Pope again a few months afterward. However, he had a certain endeavor that was problematic. He wanted to get married, which goes against the Catholic rules for Popes.

In the end, he sold the Papacy to the Pope who came after him, Pope Gregory VI. Unfortunately, Benedict regretted stepping down, as the woman he wanted to marry didn't want to marry him. After he sorted out his mistake, he eventually became Pope once again in November 1047. Pope Gregory VI stepped down at the urging of the Bishops. He denied he did anything wrong but resigned nevertheless in 1046. After him, there was a steady 200 years between further resignations.

Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294, Pope Gregory XII in 1415, and the final Pope to resign broke that theme by roughly 600 years. The final Pope to resign was Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, although there are a few people who believe he was forced out.

9 You can read the letters to the Pope

The Vatican's secret archives are not purely unknown, due to Pope Leo XIII letting scholars visit the Vatican in 1881. In the present day, the archives are even more accessible. Tourists are allowed to view the discussions between every pope for the past millennium, but like everything that sounds too good to be true, there's a clause.

In order to do this, tourists must know precisely what they're looking for. Although there are about 52 miles worth of shelves in the Vatican archives, the librarians forbid browsing. The most famous existing letter to the Pope is perhaps King Henry VIII asking for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be viewed as invalid by the Pope, which Pope Clement VII said no to.

The odd thing is that King Henry divorced her nonetheless and married a total of five women over time, which caused Rome to separate from the Church of England.

10 The Vatican Bank isn't in the books

The Vatican Bank was established during the start of World War II, in 1942 to be exact. The purpose behind this was to elude the restrictions that Allied forces had put on financial transactions. Italy was one of the powers fighting the Allies, and the Allied troops didn't want the money to reach their enemies. It was economic warfare, basically.

The Contenders
11 Not every pope has lived in the Vatican

This is not too different from how not every President of the United States lived in the White House during their presidency. Originally, the Pope lived in the Lateran Palace in Rome. They even left Rome completely in 1309.

After King Philip IV got the ball rolling for a French cardinal to become the Pope, the papal court migrated from Rome, Italy, to Avignon, France. Seven French popes served in Avignon, and the papacy did not return to Rome until 1377. But once the papacy returned to Rome, the Lateran Palace was destroyed, burned to the ground.

That's when the Vatican became the place where the Pope resides, where the papal court is, and where Catholicism itself is at its finest, for almost 700 years.

12 Angel Gomez, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, performed 100,000+ exorcisms
13 The posthumous trial of Pope Formosus

This happened in 897 AD when the body of Pope Formosus was unearthed and taken to a courtroom presided over by the then-current pope, whose only intention was to find Pope Formosus guilty. If you're not familiar with the term "synod," it is an ecclesiastical council or gathering where decisions about issues related to faith or disciplinary matters are determined.

While trying a dead body would be beyond weird in Vatican City today, the Cadaver Synod took place during a time when political machinations ruled the papacy, long before 11th-century reforms that regulated papal elections.

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