PopeWatch: Cash Cow

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Sandro Magister at Chiesa draws attention to the enlistment by Pope Francis of some rather expensive firms in his efforts to revamp Vatican operations:

It may be “poor and for the poor,” the Church dreamed of by Pope Francis. Meanwhile, however, the Vatican is becoming the cash cow of the most exclusive and expensive firms in the world of management and financial systems.


Another big name recruited by the Vatican is Promontory Financial Group, based in Washington. Since May, a dozen of its analysts have been set up in the offices of the IOR sifting through the accounts of the institute one by one, hunting for illicit operations. And they are doing the same with the accounts of the APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.

Not only that. Top-level managers of Promontory have become part of the permanent leadership of the IOR. One former Promontory officer is Rodolfo Marranci, the new director general of the Vatican “bank.” And the senior advisers of the IOR include Elizabeth McCaul and Raffaele Cosimo, who at Promontory were respectively the heads of the New York and European branches. Also coming from across the Atlantic is Antonio Montaresi, called in to manage the risk office, a role that did not exist at the IOR before.

A similar multiplication of roles and personnel at the Vatican also concerns the Financial Information Authority, created at the end of 2010 by Benedict XVI, today directed by the Swiss René Brülhart, an expensive international star in this area who will soon be doubling his staff.

The balance sheets of the IOR are certified by Ernst & Young, to which the Vatican has also entrusted the verification and modernization of the finance and management practices of the governorate of the tiny state.

And another renowned multinational, KPMG, has been called to bring up to international standards the accounting practices of all the institutes and offices based in Vatican City.

In spite of the boasts of transparency, no information is coming out about the costs of this recourse to external contractors, costs that are presumed to be enormous, particularly those charged to the IOR.

As if this were not enough, the Vatican “bank” has had to spend 3.6 million euro to cover part of the debt of 28.3 million, calculated by Ernst & Young, for the world youth day in Rio de Janeiro.

And it has had to use roughly ten million euro to cover half of the chasm left in the diocese of Terni by its former bishop Vincenzo Paglia, the current president of the pontifical council for the family.

Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch is skeptical that expensive outside firms will do much except to waste Peter Pence money for little return.  Leaving aside the moral concerns raised by such firms, addressed in a post here by Motley Monk, the Vatican has its own operating culture, frustrating to most Popes, and completely foreign to outsiders.  PopeWatch assumes that most Vatican insiders will pay lip service to changes suggested by these corporate hired guns, and then proceed to conduct business as usual.  If Pope Francis truly wishes to change the way in which the Vatican operates it will take much more than hired outside secular firms to accomplish.

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  1. Can the Vatican really purchase an appearance of propriety vis a vis financial auditing of its institutions?
    It would seem that habitual practice of the virtues is a better and less expensive way to acquire a reputation for propriety, honesty, and fair dealing…intangibles that an audit cannot measure.

  2. I doubt any of us here can pass judgement on what needs to occur to modify internal systems to meet today’s needs … yes, consulting firms can spend and at times waste money … but with that comes some level of expertise in what they were hired to do. At other times one needs the voice and influence of outsiders to act as change agents. In the end, it will be the ability to feed and manage consultants that ensure a successful result.

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