Ah, the Church and money. That has been a problem area since Judas was treasurer and helped himself to the contents of the purse. Most popes, all of them over the past two centuries, have announced initiatives to reform this vexing area. Pope Francis has his go at it:
In the most concrete sign to date of his intention to reform the Vatican, Pope Francis announced the creation Monday of a single authority to handle all business, administrative and personnel management at the Holy See, a response to the rash of financial scandals that have tarnished the Roman Catholic Church’s reputation among believers and nonbelievers.
The new Secretariat for the Economy will draw up the Vatican’s annual budget, call on lay experts for advice and launch surprise internal audits. The body will help ensure “a more formal commitment to adopting accounting standards and generally accepted financial management and reporting practices, as well as enhanced internal controls, transparency and governance,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Heading the secretariat is Australian Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, who has been a critic of the Vatican’s lack of accounting transparency. Pell is a member of a group of eight handpicked cardinals whom Francis has tasked with advising him on how to reform the Holy See.
“If we make better use of the resources entrusted to us, we can improve our capacity to support the good works of the church, particularly our works for the poor and disadvantaged,” Pell, 72, said in a statement.
In a papal document known as a motu proprio, Francis decreed that Pell would work with a 15-member council made up of eight senior prelates from different parts of the world, as well as seven lay experts “of various nationalities, with financial skills and acknowledged professional status.” The pope has already hired independent firms such as Ernst & Young and KPMG to help shake up the Vatican’s complicated and murky bureaucracy.
Centralizing many financial powers under the new secretariat represents the biggest change to the Curia, the Vatican administration, since John Paul II overhauled operations in 1988.
Go here to read the rest. PopeWatch wishes Pope Francis well in this initiative, but, other than wasting Church donations on outside experts, doubts if much will be accomplished. Religious, at least those who end up at the Vatican, tend to be poor at managing money. Their views on how money is earned are often hair-raisingly wrongheaded: Vatican economic papers tend to be useful only for unintentional humor (go here to read one that came out under Pope Benedict which was a hoot) and money management simply tends not to be a strongpoint for them. Add in inevitable nepotism, along with good old fashioned corruption, and periodic scandals, amid day to day waste and poor spending decisions, are simply inevitable. However, perhaps PopeWatch is being a cynic and this reform will be a Black Swan success. PopeWatch prays that will be the case.