Green Room

Pope Francis overhauls Vatican finances

posted at 9:34 am on February 24, 2014 by

Just shy of his one-year anniversary as pontiff, Pope Francis has delivered a sweeping reform of Vatican finances, one of the biggest items on the agenda for Curia reformers. In a document released today, the Vatican will establish a separate secretariat for its financial affairs — and appoint an auditor with broad oversight powers:

Pope Francis has taken his boldest step yet to overhaul the Vatican’s scandal-plagued finances, creating a new department with broad powers to oversee all of its economic and administrative affairs, the Vatican said on Monday.

The Secretariat for the Economy will answer directly to the pope and will be headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell, currently the archbishop of Sydney.

The pope will also name an auditor with oversight powers, according to a papal document known as a Motu Proprio, Latin for “by his own initiative”, formalizing the changes.

The Secretariat will be guided in policy making by a new 15-member Council for the Economy, which will be made up of eight cardinals and bishops and seven lay financial experts from the around the world.

The inclusion of the lay members was seen as a move by the pope to bring more outside expertise into the often closed world of Vatican finances to avoid repeats of scandals that have hit the Holy See for decades.

Pope Francis released the text of his order:

“Like a faithful and prudent manager who has the task of carefully looking after what has been entrusted to him, the Church is aware of her responsibility to protect and manage her assets, in the light of her mission of evangelisation and with particular care for those in need. In a special way, the management of the economic and financial sectors of the Holy See is intimately linked to its specific mission, not only in the service of the universal ministry of the Holy Father, but also in relation to the common good, with a view to the full development of the human person.

After having carefully consulted the results of the work of the Commission for Reference on the the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See (cf. Chirograph of 18 July 2013), and after consultation with the Council of Cardinals for the reform of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Pastor Bonus’ and with the Council of Cardinals for the study of economic and administrative problems of the Holy See, by this Apostolic Letter issued Motu proprio, I adopt the following measures:

COUNCIL FOR THE ECONOMY

1. The Council for the Economy is hereby instituted, with the task of offering guidance on economic management and supervising the structures and the administrative and financial activities of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, of the Institutions connected to the Holy See, and of Vatican City State.

2. The Council for the Economy is composed of fifteen members, eight of whom are nominated from among the Cardinals and Bishops in order to reflect the universality of the Church, and seven of whom are lay experts of various nationalities, with recognised professional financial competences.

3. The Council for the Economy shall be presided over by a Cardinal coordinator.

SECRETARIAT FOR THE ECONOMY

4. The Secretariat for the Economy is hereby instituted, as a Dicastery of the Roman Curia in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution ‘Pastor Bonus’.

5. Notwithstanding the provisions for the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat will report directly to the Holy Father and will undertake the economic audit and supervision of the Bodies indicated in point 1 above, along with the policies and procedures regarding procurement and the allocation of human resources, respecting the competences of each Body. The competence of the Secretariat will extend to all matters that in any way fall within this area.

6. The Secretariat for the Economy shall be presided over by a Cardinal Prefect, who shall collaborate with the Secretary of State. A Prelate Secretary General will assist the Cardinal Prefect.

AUDITOR GENERAL

7. The Auditor-General shall be appointed by the Holy Father and shall prepare the audit of the accounts of the Bodies referred to in point 1.

THE STATUTES

8. The Cardinal Prefect shall be responsible for drawing up the definitive Statues of the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy, and the Office of the Auditor-General. The Statutes shall be presented quam primum for approval by the Holy Father.

I dispose that all that is established herein have immediate, full and permanent value, abrogating any incompatible measures, and that the present Apostolic Letter issued Motu proprio be published in the Osservatore Romano of 24 February 2014 and subsequently in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given in Rome, St. Peter’s, on 24 February of the year 2014, the first of my Pontificate.”

It will take some time to implement, of course, and it may not produce much fruit at first. The Vatican has spent the last couple of years trying to clean up the existing structure, so the effort won’t start from scratch, either. But this is a rather dramatic shift, and it will raise expectations of dramatic improvements in the Vatican’s financial dealings.

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Has the Pope addressed the pedophilia scandal? Honest question. I haven’t seen anything.

Until he does, it will be the 1 ton gorilla in the room and no matter what other problems he addresses, it will scream for resolution.

Many Catholics are waiting for him to speak to it.

NavyMustang on February 24, 2014 at 9:43 AM

This is a bit concerning because George Pell has been accused of being slow to respond to sexual abuse in Australia. There is a big scandal down there.

And I agree with you about the abuse scandal. It does seem like Francis has been slow on this one. It would be nice if some of the bishops most associated with the scandal got fired. Law is still hanging around Rome and enjoying a very comfortable retirement. Both Law and Rigali regularly attend papal ceremonies in Rome. Finn and Myers are still in charge of their dioceses. It would be nice if there were some firings and consequences for their actions just like there were consequences for the German bishop building himself a new palace.

Illinidiva on February 24, 2014 at 10:03 AM

This pope is making a very positive reform in the vital area of Church finance–an area he correctly relates to the well being of the sheep. For the metaphorical “poor widow” to sacrifice her near last penny, it is imperative, that she know it will indeed end up as intended to aid the of Christ-given mission of the Church.

Now if we can only get the much-needed reform of the financial structure(with objective outside accountability) of the USCCB which managed to send millions of dollars to the Obama friendly ACORN and other questionable constructs; money intended by the givers to help the poor-0not harm them.

Don L on February 24, 2014 at 10:21 AM

I think the Church has made some substantial progress in the area of the abuse problems but are still dealing with a legion of legacy claims. Frankly it is going to take another generation before this is all sorted out but the reforms in the seminary system to weed out homosexuals and their protection programs are fairly rigorous. Lots of work to be done and not fast enough to suit many of us but progress is being made.

On the banking front, I am glad the Pope is tackling this issue head on. This has been another area where the entrenched bureaucracy has done an abysmal job.

ehscott on February 24, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Has the Pope addressed the pedophilia scandal? Honest question. I haven’t seen anything.

Not sure he has publicly addressed this issue but much of what we hear is through the filter of the media and if it doesn’t fit their template then it is sure to be buried. Just a clarification, there is no “pedophilia” scandal per se. The vast majority of the abuse cases involved homosexual priests and post pubescent boys. The term pedophile is either misunderstood or is a pejorative used by the dominant media that is very pro homosexual and doesn’t want to highlight the actual problem which was the infiltration of the Church by gay priests who could not control themselves or frankly never intended to in the first place. They simply wanted to be in a place of trust with young boys.

ehscott on February 24, 2014 at 5:13 PM

I think the Church has made some substantial progress in the area of the abuse problems but are still dealing with a legion of legacy claims. Frankly it is going to take another generation before this is all sorted out but the reforms in the seminary system to weed out homosexuals and their protection programs are fairly rigorous. Lots of work to be done and not fast enough to suit many of us but progress is being made.

On the banking front, I am glad the Pope is tackling this issue head on. This has been another area where the entrenched bureaucracy has done an abysmal job.

ehscott on February 24, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Yeah.. Maciel didn’t discriminate by gender. And there are cases of priests abusing only little girls; Bishop Finn was convicted of failing to report a priest who had porngraphic pictures of little girls on his computer. Apparently, the man was taking revealing pictures of prepubescent girls in the parks, etc. However, more little boys were abused because it was mostly a crime of opportunity. People like Maciel had more access to little boys than to little girls. Little girls were only allowed to be altar girls starting in the early 1990s around the time that the Church started to get serious about child protection.

And can we please not assume that gay people are pedophiles. Most aren’t, just like most straight men aren’t pedophiles.

Illinidiva on February 24, 2014 at 5:25 PM

And can we please not assume that gay people are pedophiles. Most aren’t, just like most straight men aren’t pedophiles.

Illinidiva on February 24, 2014 at 5:25 PM

In the church pedophilia scandal, 72% of the incidents were male aggressor – male victim. With this in mind, it is just a simple reality that there was a very significant homosexual presence in the scandal.

Overall in society, anywhere between 20-25% of sexual abuse cases are male aggresor – male victim. Again, this is grossly disproportionate to the numbers of male homosexuals in society.

You are correct that not all homosexuals are pedophlles. But there are a disproportionate number of pedophiles within that community.

SubmarineDoc on February 24, 2014 at 9:54 PM