Meet one of the most influential Catholics in the world

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No-one knows how difficult it is to serve both God and Mammon as much as the men who run the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), the so-called Vatican Bank. Turmoil over the recent ousting of its president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, has not only made that clear, but has also put a spotlight on the Vatican’s less than successful efforts to “modernise” this ambiguous financial institution and bring it into line with European regulations, reports The Tablet.

The reasons why Gotti Tedeschi, an Italian financier and member of Opus Dei, failed in this task remain mysterious. But it became obvious months ago that his bosses had lost confidence in him. Now they are looking to an American lawyer and insurance mogul to resurrect this ambitious enterprise.

He is Carl Anderson, the 62-year-old head of the Knights of Columbus, a US-based organisation that describes itself as “the world’s foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society”. He has been on the IOR’s five-man board of directors since September 2009. As its recording secretary, he wrote the unflattering 24 March memorandum to officially inform Gotti Tedeschi of his firing, a decision that the five-member commission of cardinals that oversees the IOR then ratified.

Many of Anderson’s fellow Catholic Americans probably did not realise he was so closely associated with the Vatican Bank until its latest mess. That would have been because most of them grew up with an image of the Knights of Columbus as a group of Catholic men who sponsored Friday fish fries at their local meeting hall, provided sword-and-plume honour guards at special episcopal Masses and gathered each week for a game of cards over a few beers or whisky sours.

In fact, the Knights is a wealthy organisation with assets of $15.6 billion, which it dispenses to charities and other worthy causes. It claims to have given away nearly US$1.5bn (£965 million) over the past decade, to beneficiaries including projects and activities sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Holy See.

The money is presumed to come from interest and investments generated from the multibillion-dollar life insurance company that exists exclusively for the Knights and their families.

When Fr Michael McGivney established the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882, the main purpose was to provide financial support for the widows and orphans of its members. Now that there are 1.8 million men belonging to some 14,000 chapters, it is easy to understand how the organisation’s wealth has expanded so impressively. The empire now has $80 billion of insurance in force with 1,400 full-time agents in the field.

FULL STORY Carl Anderson is one of the most influential Catholics in the world (Tablet)

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