Vatican Pool – Corbis / Corbis
Pope Francis on Thursday issued a decree aimed at financial transparency in the church, demanding a strict limit on the value of gifts cardinals and managers can receive and requiring them to disclose their investments to ensure they are in accordance with Catholic doctrine.
The new mandate, which comes in the form of an apostolic letter, comes amid an ongoing major investigation into allegations of financial corruption at the Vatican, something Francis has preached about the cleanup since becoming pontiff in 2013.
The new rules aim to put an end to what some call the Vatican’s “shell” culture.
“[A]According to the Scriptures, faithfulness in small things is related to faithfulness in important things, “Francis wrote in the letter, referring to Luke 16:10 that” just as being dishonest in matters of little importance is also linked to being dishonest in important matters ”.
Among the pope’s new provisions is a ban on Vatican employees from receiving “work-related gifts” worth more than 40 euros ($ 49) – a measure to limit the practice of cardinals and monsignors of the Vatican to receive checks from their fellow church members to supplement their relatively modest salaries.
the Catholic National Register writes: “These gifts have been criticized for contributing to corruption in the Church when they were used between senior Church officials to seek favors, especially in cases such as that of the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, DC, was removed from office by Francis in 2019 after a church court found him guilty of “solicitation in the sacrament of confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power. “
McCarrick was known to hand over checks to Vatican officials, which has led to speculation whether this affected the handling of the allegations against him, which had been known at the highest levels of the church for decades. However, an internal Vatican investigation in 2020 found that in McCarrick’s case, there was no evidence that “customary gifts and donations had an impact on important decisions made by the Holy See.”
In another case, a 2019 investigation by the American Church found that West Virginia Bishop Michael J. Bransfield – who had been the subject of “credible” accounts of sexual misconduct involving adults – had sent checks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars over more than a decade to other clergymen, including two American cardinals. He then repaid himself with church funds. Bransfield then refunded the money and issued a public apology.
The latest Vatican regulations also state that cardinals, as well as senior executives and administrators whose jobs require handling money, must affirm in writing that they have never been convicted of a crime and that ‘they are not investigated for offenses such as money laundering, corruption, fraud, exploitation of minors or tax evasion.
In the statement, managers and cardinals must also affirm that they do not hold funds in offshore tax havens or have investments that go against church doctrine. The declaration must be reaffirmed every two years.