Level of Vatican financial ‘criminality’ surprised Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell has spoken of his surprise at the apparent extent of ‘criminality’ involved in recentVatican financial scandals

Cardinal George Pell has spoken of his surprise at the apparent extent of ‘criminality’ involved in recent Vatican financial scandals.

“I didn’t know that there was so much criminality involved,” Pell said. He was speaking to the AP before the Dec. 15 release of the first volume of his jailhouse memoir, ‘Prison Journal.’

The book chronicles the first five months of the 404 days Pell spent in solitary confinement in a Melbourne lockup.

The cardinal led the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy from 2014-2017.  He left the job in 2017 to face charges in Australia that he sexually molested two 13-year-old choir boys in 1996.

After a first jury deadlocked, a second unanimously convicted him. He was sentenced to six years in prison. The conviction was upheld on appeal only to be thrown out by Australia’s High Court. In April 2020, the court found there was reasonable doubt in the testimony of his lone accuser.

In Prison Journey, Pell makes repeated reference to his three years at the Vatican trying to impose international accounting, budgeting and transparency standards on the Holy See’s notoriously siloed bureaucracy, where prefects guard their money, turf and power as fiefdoms.

Pell told AP that the rolling series of financial scandals appeared to show criminal behavior.

A full Vatican trial could eventually establish the whole truth. “It just might be staggering incompetence,” he said.

Pell said his efforts had been “sadly vindicated by revelations and developments.”

“It would be better for the church if these things hadn’t happened, if I wasn’t vindicated in this way,” said Pell. “But given that they have happened, it’s quite clear” that his original reforming agenda was necessary.

Pell’s reforming efforts met with institutional resistance from some curial officials and departments, most notably Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

At the time of Pell’s tenure at the Secretariat for the Economy, Becciu was sostituto of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Becciu at one point acted to cancel a contract Pell had made for an external audit of Vatican finances.

CNA has also reported that Pell and Becciu repeatedly clashed over financial affairs. This included the use of Swiss banks to provide financing for different investments allegedly obscured from Vatican balance sheets. Amongst them was the controversial purchase of a London building for €350 million, and the millions of euros in donations from the faithful paid to Italian middlemen to manage the deal.

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals. Media reports suggested that he used Church funds to benefit family members. Other accounts indicated Becciu had used church funds to influence the outcome  of Pell’s sex abuse trial in Australia.

Becciu has denied the charges.

Pell said of the allegations against Becciu that “I hope for the sake of the Church, there’s nothing in it.”


AP News


Catholic News Agency

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