Vatican Finances: New Transparency Efforts

December 16, 2022
Financial transparency...

Pope Francis published a document on December 6, 2022 intended to put his financial services funds and foundations into the hands of the Roman Curia. This is the latest tightening in response to criticisms leveled against the lack of transparency by the smallest state in the world.

The report published by Moneyval – the body of the Council of Europe in charge of the fight against money laundering – in June 2021, had the effect of a small bomb going off in the Vatican: while the inspectors had noted some progress in the field of financial transparency, they deplored the Vatican administration’s “high risk of abuse and lack of experience.”

The answer came a year and a half later, in a motu proprio in the form of a letter signed by the Roman pontiff on December 6. Presenting the document's eight articles, Pope Francis “said that to consolidate the reforms, it is ‘necessary to regulate also the various funds, foundations, and entities that, over the years, have sprung up within the curial institutions and are directly dependent on them.’”

Article 3 of the motu proprio stipulates that the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, which has just experienced a change of leadership with the resignation for health reasons of Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero, “exercises supervision and control over instrumental legal persons (dependent on the Curia) in accordance with its statutes.”

Remember that the former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy had set as his main goal, the financial control of the funds possessed by the various dicasteries of the Curia, which did make him any friends.

Thus, article 4 of the motu proprio requires curial bodies “to meet deadlines for submitting budgets to the Secretariat for the Economy, which then presents them for approval to the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.”

On the same day, the press office of the Holy See published a new law extending the application of the motu proprio to entities of the Vatican City State: a way of addressing a criticism in a 2021 report by Moneyval which noted that the “financial intelligence unit’s ‘power to access information did not cover foundations located in and/or dependent from’ the Holy See/Vatican City State.”

This new turn of the screw in the direction of greater financial transparency follows several provisions published earlier in the year. On April 29, the sovereign pontiff prohibited the Curia from investing in companies or businesses deemed to be “contrary to the social doctrine of the Church.” It also criminalized the Vatican’s bustarella culture, by which Vatican officials exchanged cash gifts.

Finally, on April 30, the Holy See allowed for criminal prosecution of cardinals and bishops in the ordinary court of Vatican City State with papal approval, a provision for which Cardinal Angelo Maria Becciu was the first to pay the price.