December 9, 2013
Pope to review Vatican bureaucracy, bank scandal
Pope Francis, who has said he wants the Catholic Church to be a model of austerity and honesty, could restructure or even close the Vatican's scandal-ridden bank as part of a broad review of its troubled bureaucracy, Vatican sources say.
Francis, who inherited a Church mired in scandals over priests' sexual abuse of children and the leak of confidential documents alleging corruption and infighting in the Vatican's central administration, is mulling his options as he sets the tone for a reformed and humbler Holy See.
One of the tests of his papacy will be what he does about the bank which has regularly damaged the Vatican's image over three decades and faces growing calls for reform.
Last year a European anti-money laundering body found that the bank - formally called the Institute for Works of Religion and known by the Italian acronym IOR - had failed to meet some of its standards on fighting financial crimes.
"Certainly if the pope wants to, he can close the IOR," said a senior Vatican official, a prelate who had years of experience of directly dealing with the bank. The future of the IOR was one of main issues Francis would have to confront now that the whirlwind of his surprise election was slowing, he said.
Any significant reforms of the IOR would not come for some time and would probably be made after changes at the Secretariat of State, the central Church department which was at the centre of a "Vatileaks" scandal that rocked the Holy See last year.
These changes would include the replacement of its head, Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone, who is number two in the Vatican hierarchy and has widely been blamed for failing to prevent the many mishaps and infighting in Church government during the eight-year pontificate of Pope Benedict.
"It will take time (to change the bank)," said another Vatican official who is not a prelate. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
The second official believed it was more likely that the bank, which manages money for the Vatican, international Catholic religious institutions and orders of priests and nuns, would undergo "serious restructuring" rather than being closed.
"But I would not exclude anything, including closing it down the line. Francis is doing surprising things every day," he said.
Both officials said the new pope might, as a first step, set up a committee to advise him on possible changes to the Vatican's financial structure.
The first sign of change would be a new secretary of state. "It's not a question of if but when Bertone leaves," the senior prelate said. "It remains to be seen who the pope chooses as new secretary of state."