The finances of the Catholic Church, and more specifically of the Vatican, are quite the mess. When Pope Francis was elected, he recognized this problem and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell as the inaugural Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy. Cardinal Pell was given the authority and the task to clean up the finances of the Vatican, something that has been an issue since the mid-1970s. But now reports are surfacing that Pell is losing his authority to make any moves toward resolving this problem. Samuel Gregg recently wrote a piece for The Stream explaining what is at stake if the Vatican fails to fix its financial problems. Gregg starts out by making the claim that this could really hurt the Pope’s image:
Whatever the cause, any serious obstruction or even termination of Pell’s efforts to make all the Vatican’s institutions fully financially transparent and subject to modern auditing requirements surely would be judged as a major failure of this papacy. Moreover, given the amount of time and words Pope Francis spends denouncing what he regards as various economic and financial injustices, that rhetoric will seem somewhat hollow if there’s any perception he couldn’t get his own house in order.
It’s not surprising that the Vatican is dealing with such an issue given that its location is surrounded by Italy, a country that has been ranked as the most corrupt in all of Europe. Gregg explains:
Italy has a remarkable history of civilizational achievement. It’s the land of Michelangelo and Dante, the home of the Renaissance, and the birthplace of modern banking and capitalism. Like all societies, however, Italy has its blind-spots. One concerns financial probity. Transparency International has consistently ranked Italy as the most corrupt country within the Eurozone — worse than Greece, which is no small achievement. There’s no reason to believe that either the Church in Italy or the Vatican are somehow immune to this general cultural problem.
In the end of Gregg’s article, he explains the most valuable thing at stake with this problem:
This in turn puts the souls of many others in peril since such corruption compromises God’s instrument of salvation, the Church, and repels many people from Christ.
Too much is at stake here. Cardinal Pell’s reform effort needs the pope’s energetic support. Pray that news of its death has been greatly exaggerated.
You can read the full article here at stream.org.