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US business leaders suspend reported $820,000 donation to Vatican

Tom Monaghan, founder of Legatus, said the organisation's annual tithe had been 'placed in escrow' (Getty Images)

A group of Catholic business leaders has temporarily suspended its yearly donation to the Holy See.

The group, called Legatus, comprises 5,000 or so American business people. According to the Wall Street Journal, its annual tithe this year was intended to be $820,000.

Thomas Monaghan, the chairman and CEO of the organisation, said the tithe had been “placed in escrow”, pending clarification of its use by the Vatican.

In a letter to members, he said: “In light of recent revelations and questions, we believe it appropriate to respectfully request clarification regarding the specific use of these funds.”

He said Legatus had already had discussions about how the money was used and “what financial accountability exists within the Vatican for such charitable contributions”.

The decision follows controversy over the Vatican’s use of donations from another American organisation, the Papal Foundation.

The foundation faced a rebellion from some of its members after Pope Francis requested a $25 million grant be given to a scandal-hit hospital in Rome. Critics said due diligence was not followed and the Holy See only accepted half the grant after complaints.

Legatus says it is the “world’s premier membership organisation for Catholic business leaders committed to learn, live and spread the Catholic faith”.

According to the National Catholic Register, members must be Catholics in good standing with a minimum of $6.5 million annual revenue.

In the early 1990s Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua called it “the most influential lay organisation in the Church”.

Monaghan, its founder, was the magnate behind Domino’s Pizza, a chain he sold for a billion dollars in 1998.