After three weeks of controversy over its investments and financial management, the Vatican has revealed that it is working on a document to unify and better regulate its economic policy.
Driving the news
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, made the revelation Wednesday at a conference at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan.
Turkson lamented that “in the last few days we have made news again for our financial problems”.
But he said the Holy See is currently pressing ahead with reform to fix “the many things we have inherited from the past”.
Turkson set out what he sees as the underlying problem that has exploded in scandals at the Vatican Secretariat of State and Financial Information Authority (AIF), as well as in journalistic allegations that the Holy See is close to financial collapse.
“In the Vatican, there are several ministries that manage financial investments on their own, sometimes playing against each other”, the cardinal admitted.
“Institutions like APSA [Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See], Propaganda Fide, Secretariat of State and IOR each decide on their own how to manage their money… And these realities must be coordinated better”, he elaborated.
One of the ideas for better coordinating this bodies is that of a merger, the cardinal revealed, adding that Pope Francis is in favour of such a union.
“Pope Francis wants to unite them and we are working on a document that will help accompany this process”, Turkson said.
All the different bodies might not be reduced to just one, though, he explained.
“Let’s hope in the end there will not be a single organism, but certainly everyone will have to know what the other person does and do things in a coordinated way, avoiding everyone going off on his own”, Turkson clarified.
Why it matters
As well as police raids in the Secretariat of State and the AIF linked to investments in luxury London property, and the journalistic accusations of Vatican financial mismanagement, the Holy See has been hit with yet another scandal.
That is, the admission of the APSA that it loaned $50 million in 2015 to save a Church-owned hospital, when European regulatory commitments mean it is prohibited from making loans of that kind.
But Turkson said that his Dicastery is preparing an ethical investments guide for Vatican entities with the goal of ensuring scandals like these are a thing of the past.
Vatican bodies and other Church organisations must not invest in arms and oil, for example, since money “must serve and not dominate”, the cardinal explained.
“[W]e must focus on agriculture in poor countries and access to water to those who do not have it, things that are necessary for people’s survival”, Turkson added.
The cardinal further decried the fact that “the financialisation of the real world is an obstacle to the growth of the world and has created opaque structures far from reality”.
Large multinational companies, he added, “have a predatory policy” and create “shadow structures and offshore havens that promote recycling and tax evasion”.
That just for one example of the speculation that “does not serve the economy and promotes a model that leaves many behind”, Turkson insisted.
But the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development said Catholics and other people of good will have a choice: to fight back with their wallets.
“It is the wallet with which we can choose what to buy and what to not”, Turkson recalled.
Prosecutors uncover “serious indications” of embezzlement, fraud, money laundering in Vatican investments
For the record
Another cardinal who expressed a different perspective on the talk of financial crisis at the Vatican this week was Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga.
He is the former Vatican spokesman with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and now Coordinator of the Pope’s Council of Cardinal Advisors (the ‘C6’ group).
“They want to strike the papacy… First they depicted a church largely made up of pedophiles, now they’re suggesting economic recklessness, but it’s not so”, the cardinal insisted.
“Funds from Peter’s Pence used for financial operations? Not based on what I know”, Maradiaga said, referring to the accusation that the Secretariat of State used these donations from Catholics around the world to fund the purchase of the London property.
“The Secretariat of State has resources from different places, not just those of the papal charities – which, at the request of Pope Francis, must be used only and exclusively for good works”, the cardinal explained, adding: “I don’t believe it happened differently”.
The cardinal even suggested that the rumours of financial mismanagement could be an attempted to derail this month’s Amazon Synod in the Vatican.
“During a Synod of Bishops about important content, this is forcing us to talk about something else”, Maradiaga lamented.