PopeWatch: Mammon



The Apostle Paul said that the love of money is the root of many evils.  Certainly money throughout the history of the Church has proven troublesome, as clerics often seem to demonstrate an inability to manage funds without massive waste and fraud occurring on a regular basis.  Pope Francis tasked Cardinal Pell with the onerous duty of cleaning up this mess, and this job makes the fabled cleaning of the Augean stables by Hercules child’s play by comparison.  Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa gives us the gritty details:

ROME, March 6, 2015 – The two most remarkable appointments that Pope Francis has made to the curia so far bear the names of cardinals Pietro Parolin and George Pell.

The first, a diplomat of the highest rank, to the secretariat of state, and the second, a manager of Anglo-Saxon pluck, to the newly created secretariat for the economy. Both of them are part of the “C9,” the council of cardinals that the pope wanted to gather around him for the reform of the curia.

And yet there is no agreement between these two.

Even worse. Behind their backs and to their detriment there has re-exploded the chaos of blunt recriminations, poisonous accusations, and vested interests that ravaged the previous pontificate. A terrible accompaniment for the vaunted reform of the Roman curia.

The appointment of Pell last year had been preceded by a barrage of consultation on how to reorganize the Vatican economic-financial structure, requested from companies like McKinsey, Promontory, Ernst & Young, KPMG, among the most distinguished and expensive in the world but certainly inexperienced with the unique profile that distinguishes the Holy See.

Even the “ad hoc” Vatican commission inspired little confidence, seeing the more than substantiated protests that reached all the way to the pope against its two most visible representatives, the priest of Opus Dei Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda and the public relations guru Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui.

The fact is that after all the fireworks, Pope Francis called Pell from Australia and set him at the head of a brand-new secretariat for the economy before he had an office, a team, or even a set of statutes that would certify his powers and responsibilities.

What was immediately clear was that the new secretariat for the economy will absorb entirely or in part two preexisting organisms: the prefecture for economic affairs of the Holy See and the administration of the patrimony of the apostolic see, abbreviated APSA.

These will, however, remain in existence, headed by two pupils of the notorious Tarcisio Bertone, cardinals Giuseppe Versaldi and Domenico Calcagno, who show no signs of wanting to make an orderly retreat in spite of the manifest inefficiency of the prefecture and the recent legal upheavals of the APSA in the person of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, its accountant who ended up under arrest.

On July 8, finally, a papal motu proprio set down in black and white that the management of the patrimony of the APSA will pass to the secretariat for the economy.

But Cardinal Calcagno is not giving up. On September 8 he went to the pope and exacted from him a “Rescriptum ex audientia,” complete with handwritten notes by Francis, that seemed to drive matters back out onto stormy waters.

The entire board of the APSA rebelled against Pell, with cardinals Attilio Nicora and Giovanni Battista Re particularly warlike.

But he has confidently forged ahead, sure of the fact that he is subordinate to no one but the pope. The pope, however, seems to say yes to everyone, with a visible hint of annoyance over the confusion of a curia that he has never liked and that he systematically does without, deciding himself on the things that really matter to him.

When Pell then took aim at the secretariat of state, revealing that he had found within it a treasury of hundreds of millions of euros administered under the highest secrecy and that he wanted to bring this too into the light of day, meaning under his supervision, the battle went wide-scale and even cardinal Parolin took the field against the Australian cardinal.

The secretariat of state, in fact, is afraid that the loss of control over its funds and over the Vatican administrative and financial structures, into the hands of the new secretariat for the economy, was only the first step of a further diminution of its powers and therefore of the capacity to represent the Holy See fully in international relations.

In the secret consistory of last February, all of these conflicts exploded. The North American and German cardinals are with Pell, but in the curia there is no one who supports him.

Pell’s weak point is that he still has no set of statutes to establish his powers. The draft that he presented was ripped to shreds by the pontifical council for legislative texts headed by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio.

The pope is watching, he is listening, and no one knows where he is heading to go.

Go here to read the rest.  Global businesses with annual receipts as large as the Holy See routinely make budgets and stick to them without all this Sturm und Drang.  If Pope Francis can truly reform the way the Vatican manages its funds he will deserve the thanks of all Catholics.  However, PopeWatch is not sanguine.  Pope Francis is fighting against fiscal mismanagement that goes back very far in the history of the Church.  A story goes that during the reign of Pope Alexander VI a Jewish merchant told his Christian colleague that he was thinking of converting to Catholicism, but before doing so he was going to go to Rome and observe the Church in operation at its highest level.  The Christian merchant was horrified, having some idea of the horrible corruption that flourished under the Borgia Pope.  He next saw his friend a month later.  The Jewish merchant announced that he was going to be baptized next Sunday.  His friend cautiously asked if anything in Rome had disturbed him.  Not at all the Jew responded, everything I saw in Rome convinced me to convert.  I saw such fraud, mismanagement, folly and outright criminality that it is a wonder that the Church has not been bankrupt in a week.  Yet it has endured for almost fifteen centuries. It must be from God!

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  1. All that mammon that is in the possession of the Vatican is held in trust for all future generations, in join and common tenancy with all peoples for all time.
    Besides, mammon is very heavy.

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