Discover more from Just the Facts with Gerald Posner
Gerald Posner to Pope Francis: Release the Vatican Bank World War II files
"Pope Francis, who has worked hard to carve out a reputation as a reformer, is facing one of his most daunting challenges when it comes to the Catholic Church’s finances, particularly the Vatican Bank. Since World War II — when the bank was created as the equivalent of the Federal Reserve combined with a commercial bank — it has operated with few checks and balances. Over the decades, it has become embroiled in seemingly endless scandals that include questions about wartime profiteering with Nazis, gigantic business schemes and political slush funds.
The Vatican did not even have a law against money laundering until 2011. Some previous popes — including Paul VI in the 1960s and John Paul II in the 1980s — had promised upon their election to tame the church’s unruly finances. But they were inevitably defeated by entrenched powers inside Vatican City who pretended to embrace reforms while working surreptitiously to maintain the bank’s outlier status. The issue facing the church is whether Francis, riding a remarkable wave of international popularity and goodwill, can accomplish what frustrated his predecessors.
Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has energetically tried to remake the bank into a transparent and accountable institution through decrees, key appointments and an overall reorganization. By tapping outsiders for important management and enforcement roles at the Vatican Bank, he has started to loosen the grip of old-guard clerics, mostly Italian, who have long wielded the city-state’s money power. And Francis’ appointment of a respected cardinal, George Pell of Australia, to oversee a new uber financial department, has received a mostly positive reception from Vatican watchers.
But has Francis done enough?
Read the rest of the column