Cardinal Pell challenges the Italians

A choir of voices has begun lauding Cardinal George Pell for cleaning up the Vatican’s money management operations.

And the strongest notes in this hymn of praise come from the basso profondo of the Australian cardinal himself.

The 73-year-old Pell, who is officially the prefect of the Vatican’s recently created Secretariat for the Economy, gave a glowing progress report of his financial reform efforts in an 1,800-word article published last week in Britain’s Catholic Herald.

Modern and transparent with checks and balances

He made it clear that Pope Francis was mandated by “an almost unanimous consensus among the cardinals” to carry out financial reform.

He said they were “well under way and already past the point where it would be possible to return to the ‘bad old days,’ ” even though much remained to be done.

He added that the basic program for reform was drawn up by an “international body of lay experts” that the pope appointed and was based on the following three principles: first, the adoption of “contemporary international financial standards” and “accounting procedures”; second, transparency in producing annual financial balance sheets; and third, “something akin to a separation of powers” with “multiple sources of authority.”

Yet Pell made it clear that his secretariat, above all others, possessed “authority over all economic and administrative activities” in the Vatican, even though its policies would be “determined by the Council for the Economy.”

That body is headed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and includes eight other cardinals and seven laymen. “Having decision-making lay members at this level is an innovation in the Vatican,” Pell wrote.

His article highlighted several other positive developments in the way the Vatican will manage its financial resources in the future.

Indeed, there is much to be praised.

But the article has also set off alarm bells and raised concerns over a reform that is deeply unpopular among Vatican employees fearful of ending up on the wrong end of the stick.

It also never mentioned why the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide), a virtual empire that has a vast patrimony of investments and prime properties in central Rome and elsewhere, is apparently not subject to the reforms. Continue reading

Robert Mickens is editor-in-chief of Global Pulse.

Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , , , ,