Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pope Trims Powers of Pro-Free Market Vatican Finance Chief

—Late last year, Cardinal George Pell, the pope’s finance chief, hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to undertake a comprehensive audit of the Vatican’s finances.

On a mandate from Pope Francis to clarify the city-state’s muddled accounts, the newly powerful cardinal had been assessing and tweaking the system; already he had found a total of €1.4 billion “tucked away” off the books.

Cardinal Pell wanted PwC to check that the 136 Vatican departments—each of which used its own, often loose accounting standards—were following guidelines aimed at imposing budgetary discipline.

His task was like pushing against the ancient stone walls of a basilica.

Other officials, led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, known as the pope’s prime minister, let him know the audit wouldn’t fly. In June, the Vatican announced it had been scrapped, and soon many of Cardinal Pell’s wide-ranging powers were handed to others, reports The Wall Street Journal.

According to the Journal, in a series of moves over about 18 months, Francis stripped Cardinal Pell of control over APSA’s real-estate holdings. He declined to approve his recommendations to reorganize the management of the financial portfolio. He wrote and made public a pointed letter making clear that all hiring and transfer of personnel required the approval of the office of Cardinal Parolin. The audit was scrapped, and in July, he took away most of the management functions—for payroll, payment and procurement services—and restored them to APSA.

Some Vatican officials said they believe Cardinal Pell’s free-market ethos has been unwelcome in the Curia, particularly under a pope who has excoriated the free-market system and warned that some financial practices can lead to corruption.


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