Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 6  Num. 73
                    ("Quid coniuratio est?")


(St. Peter's Banker, by Luigi DiFonzo. New York: Franklin Watts, 1983. ISBN: 0-531-09889-3)

They're all here, all the characters you've come to know and love: Bishop Paul Marcinkus, Michele Sindona, the Vatican Bank, the infamous freemason lodge P-2 (Propaganda Due) -- all those who must have caused a younger Sherman Skolnick's eyes to open wide in amazement as he read on, late into the night.

You may have some trouble, though, in getting hold of this book: I did. Your best bet would be the library.

After reading St. Peter's Banker I have to confess that much of it was a bit deep for me. It goes into a lot of financial mumbo jumbo that I, not being at all knowledgeable about subtleties of banking sleight-of-hand, just had to read through hoping that some of it might be registering with my mind. Someone having good-to-excellent financial knowledge would understand the book better.

My overall impression of the book is that it may well be a "hack job": paid for by Sindona family funds as damage control on the reputation of Michele Sindona. It reminded me in a way of the biography of Meyer Lansky, Little Man (by Robert Lacey. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1991.) After reading Little Man I put it down half thinking that, "You know, that Meyer Lansky wasn't such a bad guy." Same with St. Peter's Banker: you read it and wonder what all the fuss was about; after reading it, you do not feel unsympathetic toward Sindona.

I can't help thinking, as also with the Lansky book, that there is a lot more going on here that is being passed over, that this Sindona may have been a very devil. But you don't get that here. And, it seems, you will look in vain for other books on Sindona, his connection to the Vatican Bank, and his connection to the collapse in the U.S. of the Franklin Bank. I feel that this subject deserves to have had a hundred books written about it, giving other perspectives than that apparently pre-approved by the Sindona family. As it is, just try finding a copy of even this one book to read.

Michele Eugenio Sindona was born into an impoverished Sicilian family on May 8, 1920. His grandfather had been a prominent, wealthy Sicilian but Sindona's father gambled away the family fortune. Michele studied hard and became an avvocato, apparently a sort of lawyer in Italy. According to the book, he was a Nietzchean genius who studied the intricacies of financing and became a sought-after and acknowledged expert in this area. Eventually he succeeded in becoming Mercator Senesis Romanam Curiam sequens -- the pope's banker.

What is so bad about being the pope's banker? One thing is the alleged Mafia connections between that notorious society and the Vatican. Italian politics after World War II pitted the Christian Democrats against the Communists. Naturally, the Catholic Church had to support the Christian Democrats because the Communists are anti-God. "The Vatican's fear was clear: communism posed a threat to its religious, political, and economic strength."

"Politics makes strange bedfellows," the saying goes. In a 1947 election in Sicily, the Communists captured much of the parliament. "Determined to regain control of the island, the Christian Democrats turned to the Mafia for help. In return for the right to appoint mafiosi as leading members of the party, the Mafia agreed to teach the communists a lesson."

In behalf of democracy, the Mafia enlisted as their agent Salvatore Giuliano. He and his cousin Gaspere Pisciotta led their men into Portella della Ginestra. Without prejudice, they shot and killed a dozen people and wounded more than fifty others. New elections were held, and the Christian Democratic party won a resounding victory. Later, at the orders of the Mafia, Pisciotta murdered Salvatore Giuliano. At his trial, Gaspere Pisciotta said of the massacre, "We were a single body: bandits, police, and Mafia, like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Ultimately, this "black trinity" would give birth to a more powerful group known as the High Mafia, or the political Mafia. For from that time forward the right wing of the Christian Democratic party would be dominated by Mafia-connected politicians, a fate that not only would lead to the corruption of Italian politics and the infiltration of industry and banking by well-educated Mafia-connected men like Michele Sindona but would also lead to the contamination of the Holy See.

(The "Holy See" means, in other words, the Vatican.)

We have here a situation not unlike here in the U.S.A., where "our" CIA has and does turn to and link with criminal elements, ostensibly to "fight communism" or "promote democracy" or whatever. From such marriages a President Bill Clinton can be born.

St. Peter's Banker also gives info on "P-2", a.k.a. "Propaganda Due" (pronounced PROP-a-gan-da DOO-ay). P-2 originated in the early 1800s as a secret society called the Carbonari. The Carbonari were similar to the Freemasons, but were more serious about their political beliefs. "The presence of mafiosi among the Carbonari guaranteed that violators of omerta, the Sicilian code of silence, would meet death by mutilation."

Licio Gelli, friendly to Benito Mussolini, Juan Peron of Argentina, and having fought with the fascist Italian Blackshirt division during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, found himself eventually "grand master" of P-2.

As grand master of P-2, Licio Gelli turned the lodge into the most powerful, political, and violent secret organization in Italy. Important Italian generals, magistrates, and businessmen became members of P-2, which Gelli severed from the hierarchy of Freemasonry. According to a former U.S. intelligence officer who until recently was stationed in Italy where he became friendly with Gelli, P-2 under Gelli's command became "an underground state within a state."

(I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall that Gelli attended Ronald Reagan's inauguration and the accompanying ball in 1981.)

...beneath the structure of [Italy's] official government there exists another more potent government, which serves the special interests of its members and financial supporters. Still deeper below, another government operates in complete darkness. It has been called the Mafia, the High Mafia, and Propaganda Due [DOO-ay]. Italians have surrendered to it, some by watching without opposition, others by not caring, and still others by using it.

Sindona became a P-2 Freemason. As such, he had powerful connections. So too we have Sindona, in 1969, rising to the supreme position of banker to the Vatican. He was at a peak of power. The poor Sicilian lad now had wealth -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- prestige, and great influence.

But the Italian left had their own evil genius, Enrico Cuccia, head of Mediobanca, Italy's government-owned financial institution. He and Sindona seem to have had a smouldering hatred, glowing quietly like hot coals, between them. Add to that a vengeful Judas, Carlo Bordoni, who struck back (with the help of his cunning wife, Virginia Cornelio Bordoni) traitorously at Sindona for mistreatment -- perceived or real -- and we have the downfall of Michele Sindona.

In the end, the great banker Sindona is reduced to a cringing neurotic, cooking up increasingly wild plots against his enemies, and pursued as a criminal in connection with his intricate and esoteric financial deals. He gets a twenty-seven-and-a-half year prison sentence and (as of 1983) is serving it at a medium- security federal correctional facility in Otisville, New York.

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Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9
O what fine thought we had because we thought | That the worst rogues and rascals had died out. | Illinois, -- W.B. Yeats, "Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen" | I'm your boy.