VATICAN CITY — The Secretariat for the Economy has suffered two blows to its authority in the past few weeks in what inside sources say is a concerted effort to obstruct revealing financial information and possible misconduct in the Roman Curia.
Pope Francis set up the secretariat in February 2014 to have authority over all economic activities of the Holy See and Vatican City State, exerting economic control and vigilance over Vatican entities, as well as policies and procedures relating to “purchasing” and “allocation of human resources.”
A second possible setback to the Secretariat for the Economy, but one which could eventually serve the reform process by creating more accountability, took place on July 9 when the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had approved a document, issued motu proprio (of his own accord), in which the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) — a Vatican department that, more than the Vatican Bank, has historically been the focus of most allegations of financial malpractice — would be recovering much of its previous administrative responsibilities that had been delegated in 2014 to the Secretariat for the Economy (which known by its Italian acronym SPE).
Although many of these decisions appear reasonable in theory, the way they were actually handled tells a different story. The Register has learned that for both the suspension and then ending of the PwC [Pricewaterhouse Coooper] audit, as well as the motu proprio, there was little or no consultation with the SPE, highlighting a severe lack of unity of purpose and cooperation.
News of the PwC suspension, for example, came as a surprise to Cardinal Pell. The first he knew of it was when the Secretariat of State mailed the news to all Vatican entities. Nor were he and his office involved in the decision to end the PwC audit in June, which was announced when both the cardinal and his most senior financial adviser were out of Rome.
The Register sought comment from the Secretariat of State but it has not been responding to requests related to financial reforms.
On July 14, the Register put a series of questions to Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the “substitute” in the Secretariat of State, in charge of the day-to-day administration of the Roman Curia. The questions asked for a response to criticism that APSA and other departments were trying to hide financial information, and to the claims that SPE was not being properly notified of major decisions.
The archbishop declined to answer them, saying he would not give interviews while on vacation. His office also chose not to field anyone else to respond.