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Vatican Lawyer for Abuse Case Defended the Vatican Bank in Holocaust Suit

Com­ment: In the recent­ly re-aired FTR #508 [1], we exam­ined the ascen­sion of Pope Bene­dict, whose elec­tion came at a time when unfold­ing Vat­i­can scan­dals threat­ened to unrav­el, reveal­ing that insti­tu­tion’s dark­er side for the blood-soaked hor­ror show that it tru­ly is. Avail­able evi­dence sug­gests that Ratzinger/Benedict is a prod­uct of the Vatican/fascist axis so exhaus­tive­ly detailed in AFA #‘s 17–21 [2].

We now see that the Vat­i­can has hired a legal advis­er who had pre­vi­ous­ly defend­ed it against Holo­caust-era law­suits. (The hero­ic John Lof­tus, inter­viewed most recent­ly in FTR #‘s 704 and 706 was involved with those suits. They are touched on in both inter­views.)

“AP Exclu­sive: How the Pope Got His US Lawyer” by Nicole Win­field [AP]; yahoo.com; 4/17/2010. [3]

The Vat­i­can has long let car­di­nals or its offi­cial spokes­men do its talk­ing when scan­dal hits.

But as the Vat­i­can reels from a swirling cler­i­cal sex abuse cri­sis, the Holy See has turned to an unusu­al advo­cate: a ten­nis-lov­ing, Saab-dri­ving solo prac­ti­tion­er from Berke­ley, Calif., whose obscure inter­est in sov­er­eign immu­ni­ty law and flu­en­cy in Ital­ian land­ed him the job of the pope’s U.S. lawyer.

Jef­frey Lena’s stud­ied yet cre­ative approach to defend­ing the Vat­i­can in U.S. abuse law­suits has influ­enced the Vat­i­can’s new pub­lic mes­sage as he is increas­ing­ly called on to act as Rome’s unof­fi­cial U.S. spokesman and strate­gist. .  .  .

. . . Still, the 51-year-old for­mer his­to­ry pro­fes­sor avoids the lime­light. He declined to be pho­tographed for this pro­file, cit­ing secu­ri­ty and pri­va­cy con­cerns for his wife and son. He says he has received threats because of his advo­ca­cy for the Holy See and has moved his three-per­son law office to an undis­closed loca­tion in Berke­ley.

The threats stem from the con­tro­ver­sial nature of the cas­es brought against the Vat­i­can in the U.S. over the past 10 years: before the cler­i­cal abuse law­suits tar­get­ing the Holy See, Lena defend­ed cas­es in which the Vat­i­can bank was accused of stash­ing Nazi loot.

Lena recalls that when look­ing for co-coun­sel to rep­re­sent the Vat­i­can bank, sev­er­al large firms declined because they did­n’t want to defend a Holo­caust claims suit. . . .

. . . Lena was teach­ing con­tracts at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Turin in 2000 when he was asked to sub­mit his advice on a clam­orous law­suit that had just been filed near his home­town in San Fran­cis­co.

Holo­caust sur­vivors from Croa­t­ia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia had filed suit against the Vat­i­can bank, alleg­ing that it accept­ed mil­lions of dol­lars of their valu­ables stolen by Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers.

Just who asked Lena to take on the case? All roads point to Fran­zo Grande Stevens, one of Italy’s best-known and respect­ed attor­neys, dubbed “l’avvo­ca­to del’Avvo­ca­to” — the attor­ney of the late Fiat chair­man Gian­ni Agnel­li.

Grande Stevens was also the lawyer for the Vat­i­can bank, for­mal­ly known as the Insti­tute of Reli­gious Works, and the lawyer for the Vat­i­can City state.

Grande Stevens did­n’t respond to e‑mail requests for com­ment and Lena declined to say if Stevens made the request.

But in a let­ter to La Stam­pa news­pa­per last week, Grande Stevens chan­neled vir­tu­al­ly all of Lena’s key defense strate­gies in the U.S. sex abuse cas­es to com­plain about a pro­file the paper had run on Lena’s main U.S. adver­sary, Jeff Ander­son.

The Holo­caust claims suit against the Vat­i­can bank was dis­missed in Decem­ber after an appeals court upheld the bank’s immu­ni­ty under the for­eign sov­er­eign immu­ni­ties act, one of at least 12 pub­lished fed­er­al deci­sions Lena has won in the area of sov­er­eign immu­ni­ty. . . .