Cardinal George Pell, former Vatican economics minister, spoke at a webinar hosted by The Global Institute of Church Management, which included the topic of transparency in the financial administration of the Church.
The recommendations by the high prelate in matters of financial management can be summed up in three points: transparency in the use of money, competence in administration, and consistency in management.
And he insists that this is the only way the Vatican will get out of trouble. He added that he was convinced that many current financial problems, in particular the controversial purchase of a property in London, could have been avoided, or “would have been intercepted sooner, if Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ external audit had not been canceled in April 2016.”
The criticism is clear: it amounts to saying that, had the Secretary of State not blocked the efforts, many leaks would have been detected earlier and stopped. A very important accusation that targets the Secretariat of State, in particular cardinals Pietro Parolin and Giovanni Becciu.
Cardinal Pell welcomes the Pope’s recent decision to centralize all the resources of the Secretariat of State in the hands of the Apostolic See’s Heritage Administration (Apsa), on which a single center of investment will depend.
With the transfer of all resources to Apsa and the Secretariat of the Economy, continues the cardinal, it will now be easier to stop things that are not healthy or opaque. “The Pope’s plan to create an expert council [the investment committee] to manage the investments is, in my opinion, a vital thing,” Cardinal Pell added.
Finally, on the question of the Peter’s Pence - which was still recently in the hands of the Secretariat of State - the porporato recalled that this money was intended to finance the pontiff's charitable work and to cover part of the curia’s fees.
This money should never have been used to make investments. And to recall a principle of justice enshrined in law: "if donors offer money to the Church for a specific purpose, the money must be used for that purpose and not for anything else".
The high prelate ended with an experience finding: “There is a close link between incompetence and deception,” he said. And to warn seriously: “From a financial point of view, I am not sure that the Vatican can continue to lose money as we are doing.”
Because another very worrying problem will test the soundness of the system: the pressure from pension funds is becoming very worrying. In other words, pensions, which, as in many institutions, are shaping up to be the major financial problem for decades to come.