Now, this is interesting:
Pope Francis on Tuesday stood behind his embattled finance czar Cardinal George Pell, signing a series of statutes consolidating Pell’s authority and giving him sweeping powers to oversee Vatican finances. The controversial cardinal, the former archbishop of Sydney, had recently become the subject of a smear campaign to discredit him.
Last year, Pope Francis tasked Pell with cleaning up Vatican finances, long plagued by scandal and corruption. He appointed him head of a powerful new ministry known as the Secretariat of the Economy, where Pell – known for his no-nonsense management style and unblinking tenacity – reportedly ruffled a lot of feathers, particularly in the Italian-dominated curia.
Pell implemented new measures for transparency and accountability applicable to all Vatican departments, including those that had never had any financial oversight whatsoever. He further irritated critics when he announced in February that he had discovered $1.5 billion in assets that the Vatican did not know it had, due to muddled accounting practices. Also in February, he issued a new procedure requiring Vatican department heads to sign a legally binding document stating that their financial statements were accurate and complete.
Pell met with increasing resistance. Critics said Pell went beyond his mandate to clean up finances, and wanted to centralize power in a “superministry.” One influential Italian cardinal suggested creating a panel of cardinals to oversee Pell, and exempting some of the biggest Vatican departments from his financial control altogether.
Last week, his critics went even further, and the pugnacious Pell became the target of an old-style Vatican smear campaign. Italian weekly L’Espresso published leaked documents and receipts painting Pell as a profligate spender, despite his mandate to impose financial discipline. The magazine alleged Pell spent money on business flights, furniture, and tailored clerical robes, and said the pope confronted Pell about his spending.
The Holy See press office quickly issued a statement saying the attack against Pell was “unjustified and petty,” and condemned the leaks as illegal. The next day, the Secretariat of the Economy — Pell’s office — dismissed the allegations as “completely false,” the alleged conversation between Pell and the Pope as “a complete fiction,” and said that the operational costs of setting up the secretariat were actually under budget.
Go here to read the rest. Cardinal Pell was a champion of orthodoxy at the Synod. The Pope now backing Pell demonstrates that power relationships in the Vatican are frequently opaque when viewed from the outside.