FR. LOMBARDI: REFLECTIONS ON ECONOMIC MATTERS OF THE HOLY SEE
Tomorrow, November 5, two books are due out that purport to show, via confidential and private Vatican documents and interviews, growing opposition in the Vatican to Pope Francis’ ongoing reforms in the Roman Curia, as well as allege excesses in spending, especially on residences for some prelates.
As I noted in my blog Monday, November 2, with the news of two arrests made in the Vatican of people accused precisely of leaking such documents, one of the books, “Merchants in the Temple,” is by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi who, in 2012, penned a book, “His Holiness,” that reproduced confidential letters and memos to and from Benedict XVI and his personal secretary and others that, according to the Vatican, violated the Pope’s right to privacy. He had previously aired these on an Italian television program. It was revealed in May 2012 that the Pope’s personal butler was the author of the thefts and the person who gave the documents to Nuzzi. This eventually led to the affair being called “Vatileaks.” The butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested, underwent a trial and was subjected to house arrest, but later pardoned by Pope Benedict.
The second volume is “Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church.” It was written by Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi who writes for the Italian weekly, L’Espresso, which has previously published leaked Vatican documents, including the letter by 13 cardinals to Francis at the start of the 2015 synod. That was leaked by L’Espresso staffer Sandro Magister but later proven not to be the original letter. Nor were all 13 signatories names correct.
This is background for what follows:
(VIS) – The following are reflections by Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, regarding a new chapter in discussions on the economic matters of the Holy See.
“As is known, a significant part of what has been published is the result of the disclosure of reserved information and documents, and therefore of an illicit activity that must therefore be prosecuted forthwith by the competent Vatican authorities. But this is not what we now wish to speak about, given that it is already the object of much attention.
Now, instead, we are interested in considering the content of the disclosures. It can be said that it consists mostly of information that is already known, although often less widely and with less detail, but above all it must be noted that the documentation published relates mostly to an significant effort to gather data and information, initiated by the Holy Father himself in order to carry out a study and reflection on the reform and improvement of the administrative situation of Vatican City State and the Holy See.
The COSEA (Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See), from whose archive the majority of the published information originates, was instituted by the Pope for the purpose on 18 July 2013 and then dissolved after the fulfilment of its task.
This is not, therefore, information obtained against the will of the Pope or of the heads of the various institutions, but generally information obtained or provided with the collaboration of these same institutions, for a common positive purpose.
Naturally, a great deal of information of this type must be studied, understood and interpreted with care, equilibrium and attention. Often the same data can give rise to different readings.
An example is that of the situation of the Pension Funds, in relation to which a series of very different evaluations has been expressed, from those who speak with concern of a large “gap”, to those that provide instead a reassuring interpretation (as resulted from the official Communiqués published authoritatively through the Holy See Press Office).
Clearly there is then the issue of the destination and use of goods belonging to the Holy See. Although regarded in their entirety they appear extremely extensive, they are in fact aimed at supporting over time the vast range of service activities managed by the Holy See or connected institutions both in Rome and in different parts of the world.
The origins of the ownership of these goods are varied, and the suitable instruments for knowing their history and development have been available for some time (for example, it would be useful to refer to the economic agreements between Italy and the Holy See in the context of the Lateran Pacts and the work of establishing an effective administration carried out by Pius XI with the assistance of excellent and expert collaborators, a work commonly recognised as wise and far-sighted, also in terms of investments abroad and not only in Rome or Italy).
With regard to Peter’s Pence it is necessary to observe that it is employed for various purposes, also in situations, according to the judgement of the Holy Father, in which it may be given trustfully by the faithful in support of his ministry. The Pope’s works of charity for the poor are certainly one of the essential uses, but is certainly not the intention of the faithful to exclude the possibility that the Pope himself may evaluate situations of urgency and the way of responding, in the light of his service for the good of the universal Church. The Pope’s service also includes the Roman Curia, as an instrument of his service; his initiatives outside the Diocese of Rome; communication of his teaching to the faithful in different parts of the world, including the poor and distant; and the support of the 180 Pontifical diplomatic representations throughout the world, which serve the local Churches and intervene as the main agents for distributing the Pope’s charity in the various countries, as well as the Pope’s representatives in local governments. The history of Peter’s Pence illustrates this clearly.
These issues return to the fore periodically, but are always occasions for curiosity and polemics. It is necessary to study the situations and specific problems in detail and with professionalism, so as to be able to recognise much that is entirely justified, normal and well-managed (much more than is generally assumed and systematically excluded from the type of publication under consideration here) including the payment of taxes due, and to distinguish where there are problems to be corrected, ambiguities to be clarified, and genuine improprieties or illegal acts to be eliminated.
This was precisely the aim of the arduous and complex task initiated at the Pope’s behest with the constitution of the COSEA, which completed its work some time ago, and with the decisions and initiatives which are still in the process of development and implementation (or which are at least in part followed up by recommendations from the same COSEA at the end of its work). The reorganisation of the economic Dicasteries, the appointment of the Reviser general, and the regular working of the competent institutions for the supervision of economic and financial activities, etc., are an objective and incontrovertible reality.
The publication in bulk of a large quantity of different forms of information, in large part linked to a phase of work by now complete, without the necessary possibility of further clarification and objective evaluation instead produces the result – unfortunately largely intentional – of creating the contrary impression, that of a permanent reign of confusion, lack of transparency or indeed the pursuit of particular or inappropriate interests.
Naturally this does not in any way account for the courage and commitment with which the Pope and his collaborators have faced and continue to face the challenge of improving the use of temporal goods in the service of the spiritual. This, instead, is what would be more greatly appreciated and encouraged in the correct work of providing information to respond appropriately to the expectations of the public and the needs of truth. The path of good administration, correctness and transparency continues and proceeds without uncertainties. The is evidently Pope Francis’ wish and the Holy See has no lack of those who collaborate loyally and to the best of their abilities”.