Attack on Pope Francis’s man smacks of ‘Vatileaks’ scandal

Article criticises cardinal in charge of Vatican finances ‘clean-up’

Report in  “L’Espresso” was critical of Australian cardinal George Pell’s spending. Photograph: Don Arnold/Getty Images

Report in “L’Espresso” was critical of Australian cardinal George Pell’s spending. Photograph: Don Arnold/Getty Images

 

The ghost of “Vatileaks” hung in the Vatican air yesterday following the publication by Italian news weekly, L’Espresso, of a report critical of Australian cardinal George Pell, the point man for Pope Francis in the “clean-up” of the Vatican’s finances.

L’Espresso alleges that in its first six months, the Secretariat for the Economy, an organisation established by Pope Francis to oversee the restructuring and rationalisation of the Holy See’s economic affairs, has already run up more than half a million euro in expenses.

The implication is that while Cardinal Pell, the prefect of the secretariat, has been busy preaching to the Curia about the steep and thorny path to fiscal rectitude, he himself has been treading the primrose path of dalliance.

To support these claims, L’Espresso provides an inventory of costs which include airline travel, lavish interior design renovations, job appointments and real estate rentals as well as computers and printers. In particular, it lists €2,508 worth of purchases made from Gammarelli, the clerical tailors, on behalf of the secretariat.

Right-hand man

The secretariat also provides Mr Casey with accommodation in central Rome at a cost of €2,900 per month, while almost €90,000 was spent on renovation of the apartment.

Cardinal Pell’s travel costs come in for scrutiny, too, with L’Espresso pointing out that he spent €1,293, €1,150 and €1,238 last year on flights to London, Dresden and Munich respectively. The implication here is that the cardinal likes to travel business class. Somewhat improbably, the magazine also suggests that he likes to “buy champagne and canape for everyone”.

Treasury tiffs

Much more seriously,

L’Espresso

alleges that there have been bitter disagreements between Cardinal Pell and the board of APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See or the Vatican Treasury Ministry.

Members of the APSA board such as Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Cardinal Attilio Nico

ra and others have objected to Cardinal Pell’s burgeoning influence, arguing that he has too much power.

Not surprisingly, the Holy See issued a firm rejection of the allegations yesterday afternoon, with senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi calling its “direct personal attacks . . . undignified and petty”. He also said

it was “illegal” but “not new” for confidential documents to be leaked to the media.

At the end of the day, this article looks like a version of the 2012 Vatileaks scandal, with one faction of cardinals telling tales about another. It may not be coincidental that this article, seemingly intended to discredit Cardinal Pell (and by extension Pope Francis himself) has appeared just as Francis is due to issue a new legal framework for the financial oversight bodies. Is this more of the Curia fightback?