mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Francis' Finances
Pope Overhauls Corrupt Finances, Sets Agenda

Yesterday Pope Francis released “Faithful and Prudent Administrator,” a document that creates a new office called the Secretariat for the Economy. Francis has tapped Australian Cardinal George Pell to head up the Secretariat, but there will also be a 15-person Council for the Economy working with Pell. Seven of the 15 will be lay Catholics with financial expertise. Finally, there will be a new auditor-general. Reuters:

The auditor-general will have wide oversight powers “to conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See and Vatican City State at any time,” a statement said.

The Secretariat, effectively a new ministry, will be headed by Pell and guided in policy making by a new 15-member Council for the Economy made up of eight prelates and seven lay financial experts “with strong professional financial experience” from around the world, according to the statement.

The creation of a new office might not seem very important. Committees are often where reform goes to die. But in appointing a powerful auditor-general and bringing lay experts in, Francis has laid the groundwork for greater transparency in Vatican finances than we’ve seen before. What’s very clear from this move is that Francis has placed a priority on cleaning up the Vatican’s finances as his first internal task. The new Secretariat is only the most visible of a series of financial reforms Francis has already pushed. It’s an interesting choice given how drastically reformers have pushed for the church to address the sex-abuse scandal first.

The measure of his success will ultimately be how well he address both of these areas, but it’s encouraging that he’s taking steps on one of them. The big question about Francis has been whether he is a reformer as well as a media darling. The answer, at least on finances, is increasingly looking like “yes.”

Features Icon
show comments
  • lukelea

    OT, but Steve Sailer has five — five! — penetrating new articles up on his blog today:

    Tell me, how can this guy not be considered the best journalist in America? He’s the George Orwell of our time.

  • lukelea

    Correction. Sailer has seven new pieces up. And I thought WRM was prolific.

  • charlesrwilliams

    Vatican finances is a small issue. Yes, it is nice for the Pope to clean up these embarrassing problems. But there is an illusion that the Catholic Church is some vast international corporation with a centralized administrative apparatus. The Vatican is really a very small operation with a limited and important role in a billion person Church. The main point of leverage for the Pope is the appointment of bishops for the dioceses.

    • free_agent

      You write, “The main point of leverage for the Pope is the appointment of bishops for the dioceses.”

      Yes, but the selection of bishops is largely done by one of the Congregations, which has a new head, appointed by Francis. And the new Secretariat has some sort of power over “personnel” matters, which suggests that it may have a grip on who gets appointed to the Congregation…

      • charlesrwilliams

        Well, yes, the people Pope Francis appoints to help him find men to appoint as bishops are themselves very important appointments.

  • free_agent

    The version that appeared in the Boston Globe ( said “an economics secretariat to control all economic, administrative, personnel and procurement functions of the Holy See”.

    As I see it, Francis is creating a new committee — to be filled with *his* people — that has control over *all* the money and an unspecified (but probably large) control over who gets new appointments. This is seizure of power on a grand scale!

    • charlesrwilliams

      “Seizure of power”? Come on, the Pope has controlled appointments of diocesan bishops for a long, long time. He relies on the recommendations of his staff organizations, naturally, since there are thousands of bishops and hundreds of appointments every year. Now the administrative side of the Vatican has not been well managed for quite some time. They probably pay way more for #2 pencils than they should and I doubt that these old buildings are as well insulated as they should be. I imagine Pope Francis wants the administrative stuff handled effectively so that he can concentrate on his real job without dealing with embarrassing scandalettes.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service