Allegations of High Spending at Secretariat for Economy 'Completely False'

Cardinal George Pell.
Cardinal George Pell. (photo: CNA)

Allegations of high spending by the Secretariat for the Economy are "completely false" and claims Pope Francis and Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat, have discussed such matters are "complete fiction", the Vatican said today. 

In a statement released by the Secretariat, a spokesman said the new dicastery has actually been operating "below the budget set when the office was estabished". 

The Secretariat said it would shortly release financial statements giving detailed accounts of all Vatican entities, including the Secretariat for the Economy. In response to some personal attacks against the cardinal, the statement added: "Finally and for the record, Cardinal Pell does not have a Cappa Magna."

The communique comes after allegations were made in the Italian magazine L'Espresso that the Secretariat had run up a high level of expenses in its first six months of existence, and that Cardinal Pell was facing resistance to ongoing reforms of the Vatican's finances.

Associated Press reported that the leak of Cardinal Pell's receipts to L'Espresso, as well as "other documents detailing cardinals' complaints about his efforts", was "clearly aimed at discrediting him and harked back to the Vatileaks affair." 

Yesterday, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a statement that "passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal.

“The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal. In light of the views expressed, the Pope issues guidelines, and everybody follows them.”

Father Lombardi continued: “The article makes direct personal attacks that should be considered undignified and petty. And it is untrue that the Secretariat for the Economy is not carrying on its work with continuity and efficacy. In confirmation of this, the Secretariat is expected in the next few months to publish the financial statements for 2014 and the estimated budgets for 2015 for all of the entities of the Holy See, including the Secretariat itself.”

Some are speculating that the attacks directed against Cardinal Pell and the Secretariat have little or nothing to do with finances, but are rather a consequence of the cardinal's strong defence of the Church's tradition, and in particular with regards her teaching on marriage, the family and human sexuality. 

Yesterday, The Catholic Thing published a short extract from a foreword the Australian cardinal wrote for the book "Gospel of the Family", in which he argued that there has been "almost complete unanimity of two thousand years of Catholic history" on the indissolubility of marriage. The doctrine of the Church on this issue can no more be ignored than the teachings on marriage "of the Council of Trent or those of Saint John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI." 

"Were the decisions that followed Henry VIII’s divorce totally unnecessary?," he asked. 


Here below is the full text of the Secretariat's statement issued today:

Reports of a discussion between the Holy Father and Cardinal Pell about expenditure by the Secretariat are completely false - there has been no discussion between the Holy Father and Cardinal Pell about such matters. Claims of a conversation are a complete fiction.

Since March 2014 when the Secretariat was initiated, the operational costs of the Secretariat, which include some initial set up costs, were in fact below the budget set when the office was established.

The Secretariat currently has twelve staff working on implementing new financial management routines to improve transparency and accountability. The Secretariat will shortly present to the Council for the Economy the Audited Financial Statements for 2014. This will include a detailed account of all Vatican entities, including the Secretariat for the Economy.

We attach the statement by the Holy See about this matter. Finally and for the record, Cardinal Pell does not have a Cappa Magna.