Cardinal Pell regrets not insisting enough on Vatican reform
The former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy speaks of the “ingenuity” of those who opposed the overhaul.
Financial reform at the Vatican is heading in the right direction, according to Cardinal George Pell, whose involvement in the reform was interrupted by a prison sentence for false charges.
“We have good, honest men doing it,” Cardinal Pell said in a webinar this week. “We have a methodology with a modern and contemporary method of presenting financial information, so it is possible for the authorities to determine quite easily where we are.”
The 80-year-old former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, said he believed the Vatican had “made very substantial progress against corruption.” The Institute for Works of Religion – commonly referred to as the Vatican Bank – is “substantially clean,” according to the cardinal’s assessment.
But, he warned, the Vatican has spent more money than it receives. “We have to do more,” he said. “We are not yet out of the woods financially. ”
The cardinal was interviewed for The church up close, a professional seminar for journalists wishing to better understand the coverage of the Catholic Church. It is organized by the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome.
During the September 23 webinar, Cardinal Pell said he regretted that when he was Prefect of the Vatican Economic Secretariat he did not go far enough on some issues.
“I have probably underestimated the ingenuity and resilience of opponents of reform,” Pell said. Some of these opponents “didn’t like the change, they didn’t understand what was being proposed”. Other opponents, he said, were “people linked to corruption”.
In 2013, the newly elected Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Pell, then Archbishop of Sydney, and seven other cardinals to advise him on the reform of the Vatican Curia. The following year, Pell was appointed the first prefect of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy, responsible for the annual budget of the Holy See and the Vatican. One of the first things he did was hire PriceWaterhouseCoopers to do an audit of Vatican finances. This decision met with opposition, however, and the audit was never fully completed.
Pell, in the Santa Croce webinar, said he felt “we made a major mistake when the external auditors were fired,” a move he said he never approved. “But maybe I should have pushed further” against her.
Pell withdrew in 2017 when he was accused by Australian authorities of sexually abusing two underage boys while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. Although he was ultimately exonerated from the charges, he was spent more than 400 days in prison in isolation, an experience he talks about in his two volumes Prison diary.