19 February 2015, The Tablet

Cardinals Pell and Marx clash over financial transparency

Clashes over reforms to Vatican finances took place this week following a meeting of cardinals after a detailed breakdown of the Holy See’s economic position was outlined.

Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told a consistory of cardinals that a review of finances found a total of £978 million in assets and funds that had not been previously accounted for.

But Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the Council of the Economy, the body that has overarching responsibility for all the financial activity of the Holy See and to which the secretariat reports, questioned the wisdom of releasing of the figures.

“Such figures are not very helpful and I personally am always reticent about quoting figures. Assets figures only make sense if I connect them to the obligations I have,” he said in an interview with the German Catholic News Agency. “Up to now it was not usual and to a certain extent impossible to conduct a real overall budget which was up to international standards. That must change.”

Cardinal Pell gave details of the figures in interviews with French, Italian and American publications where he also spoke about opposition to his push for transparency.

One department accused of resistance to financial reforms is the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples – known as Propaganda Fide – that oversees and funds the Church in mission territories.

Filoni in IraqThe 400-year-old office has extensive property holdings and a degree of autonomy: the prefect in charge of the department – currently Cardinal Fernando Filoni – is known as “the red Pope”.

An article on the Vatican Insider website, however, said it had heard from a number of sources inside the curia that it is “simplistic” to suggest that Cardinal Pell and his collaborators “are the only men fighting for transparency in the face of a non-transparent and resistant curia.”

It also said there had been heated clashes between cardinals during the consistory over the concerns raised by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts about the new statutes for the Secretariat for the Economy. There has been opposition to the Secretariat being assigned oversight of all Vatican assets.

Top: Cardinals Pell and Marx. Above: Cardinal Filoni, seen here representing Pope Francis on a visit to northern Iraq. Photos: CNS

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