Pope Francis creates financial watchdog dicastery headed by Card. Pell: Secretariat for the Economy

His Eminence George Card. Pell

Behold the genesis of the SE.

My spidey-sense tells me that this new structure could be a strong counter-balance to the power of the Secretariat of State, which Paul VI put on steroids and developed into the Curia’s hyper-dicastery (which ought to belong more to the CDF).

From the Holy See Press Office:


The Holy Father today announced a new coordination structure for economic and administrative affairs of the Holy See and the Vatican State.

Today’s announcement comes after the recommendations of the rigorous review conducted by the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic- Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA) were considered and endorsed by both the Council of 8 Cardinals established to advise the Holy Father on governance and the Committee of 15 Cardinals which oversees the financial affairs of the Holy See. [You need either thread or bread-crumbs to follow that line.]

COSEA recommended changes to simplify and consolidate existing management structures and improve coordination and oversight across the Holy See and Vatican City State. [Two entities.] COSEA also recommended more formal commitment to adopting accounting standards and generally accepted financial management and reporting practices as well as enhanced internal controls, transparency and governance.

The changes will enable more formal involvement of senior and experienced experts in financial administration, planning and reporting and will ensure better use of resources, improving the support available for various programs, particularly our works with the poor and marginalized. [That’s probably code for the “Vatican Bank”, Istituto per le Opere di Religione.]

The changes announced by the Holy Father include:

1. Establishment of a new Secretariat for the Economy which will have authority over all economic and administrative activities within the Holy See and the Vatican City State. [In other words, if it spends or receives money, this thing is in control.  As I was saying: counterbalance.] The Secretariat will be responsible, among other things, for preparing an annual budget for the Holy See and Vatican City State as well as financial planning and various support functions such as human resources and procurement. [Hiring and buying stuff, which could put a damper on theft of material and resale outside SCV.] The Secretariat will also be required to prepare detailed financial statements of the Holy See and Vatican State.  [This will also diminish somewhat the Governatorato.]

2. The Secretariat for the Economy will implement policies determined by a new Council for the Economy – a 15 member Council comprised of 8 Cardinals or Bishops, reflecting various parts of the world and seven lay experts of different nationalities with strong professional financial experience. The Council will meet on a regular basis and to consider policies and practices and to prepare and analyze reports on the economic-administrative activities of the Holy See.

3. The Secretariat for the Economy will be headed by a Cardinal Prefect reporting to the Council for the Economy. [And this guy will have clout.] He will be supported by a Secretary-General in the management of day to day activities.

4. The Holy Father has appointed Cardinal Pell, the current Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, to the role of Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. […]

5. New arrangements also include the appointment of an Auditor-General, appointed by the Holy Father who will be empowered to conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See and Vatican City State at any time.

6. The changes will confirm the role of APSA as the Central bank of the Vatican with all the obligations and responsibilities of similar institutions around the world.

7. The AIF will continue to undertake its current and critical role of prudential supervision and regulation of activities within the Holy See and Vatican City State.

The Prefect of the new Secretariat for the Economy has been asked to start work as soon as possible. He will prepare the final statutes and other related matters with the assistance of any necessary advisors and will work with COSEA to complete the implementation of these changes approved by the Holy Father.


Cardinal Pell, of Sydney, has been a member of Vox Clara and was instrumental in the development of the new, corrected English translation of the Novus Ordo.  He has been more recently a member of the Gang of Eight.

I foresee problems with this.

For example, I don’t know what a “secretariat” is or how if figures into the structure of the Curia.  Also, is there actual law that goes with this?  What is going to happen?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. vandalia says:

    I will offer a few thoughts:

    1) This will be portrayed by the media as Pope Francis “kicking Cardinal Pell upstairs” – removing him from any pastoral position. However, also remember that if Pope Francis named him Camerlengo, Secretary of State and Doctor of the Church this would be portrayed by those same people as the Pope mocking Cardinal Pell and removing him from the “true” (c)hurch.

    2) This had certainly been said by someone before, but one of my favorite lines is that “common sense is the first fruit of the Incarnation.” I think few will doubt “practicality” is one of several underlying concerns of this Pontificate.

    3) This move is absolutely brilliant. Cardinal Pell has shown that he has backbone. He will not let the Vatican cultural inertia prevent him from acting. Also, this leaves opponents of reform and effective management with absolutely no cover. Those who would object to reform in personnel practices since they would be “anti-laity” and “contrary (somehow) to Vatican II” will find no support from the Holy Father. Those who would argue against practical reform as somehow a betrayal of the (T)radition of the Church will find no support from Cardinal Pell.

    Have I said yet how brilliant this move is?

  2. Robbie says:

    Bringing Cardinal Pell to the Vatican is a good thing. As a friend of tradition, he’ll be in a better position to aid the cause. However, I’m surprised by the move to create yet another unwieldy bureaucracy. I thought the bureaucracy was part of the problem? Is creating another dicastery the best way to streamline things? I guess it will depend on the final product of Curial reform, but I’m often reminded of American politicians who always best believe the best way to solve a problem is to create another government agency to deal with it.

  3. Imrahil says:

    Hm. That brings up some of the following questions:

    1. Which responsibilities will remain to the existing Cardinal Prefecture for the Economic Matters? Or is the Secretariate basically an upgrading of the same?

    2. Which responsibilities will pass from APSA and AIF (if I read that correctly as the Financial Information Authority) and, for the Vatican State, Governatorato to the new Secretariate?

    3. What does it mean to say that APSA is the Vatican Central Bank? I always thought that was the Vatican Bank?

    4. Will Cardinal Pell remain in his archdiocese?

  4. pelerin says:

    I thought for a moment that the Cardinal was wearing a new style of biretta! Relieved to see that the added cone was part of a building in the background.

  5. Rob in Maine says:

    Will seminarians be able to get a Pell Grant to pay for their formation?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  6. ljc says:

    I originally saw this as more of a lateral promotion… putting Card Pell behind a desk dealing with finances sounds more like a way to get rid of his influence. But after reading Fr. Z’s comments maybe it will wield some more power than I thought. I’d still rather see him in charge of doctrine or liturgy, or better, Secretary of State.

  7. anilwang says:

    Robbie says: ” I’m surprised by the move to create yet another unwieldy bureaucracy. I thought the bureaucracy was part of the problem?”

    Bureaucracies aren’t necessarily bad. The key thing is to distinguish between “more of the same bureaucracy” and “counterbalancing bureaucracy for transparency”. When you have no counterbalance, every system is ripe for abuse. Take Catholic charities for instances. More than a few so-called Catholic charities contribute to the culture of death precisely because they are not held up to account by a “counterbalancing authority” that validates that they are doing what they say their doing. The trick is designing the “counterbalancing authority” so that it doesn’t collude with or ever-extend its authority (e.g. as supreme court judges striking down moral laws and insisting on immoral ones, or the UN’s reprehensible “child protection” rebuke of the Vatican).

  8. Eric says:

    I would say “poor and marginalized” is definitely code for the Vatican Bank.

  9. TNCath says:

    A good move. If he has the ear of Pope Francis, perhaps Cardinal Pell can advise him on other issues (e.g. liturgy) as well.

  10. Legisperitus says:

    Imrahil: Rorate reports Cardinal Pell is leaving his position in Sydney next month.

  11. mburn16 says:

    I suspect the less attention Pope Francis pays to liturgical matters, the better off we will be. Cardinal Pell or not, I believe the Holy Father is sufficiently set in his preferences on that particular issue. That is a matter that will have to wait for the next Pope. Unfortunately, Cardinal Pell is 72. Cardinal Burke, however, is only 65…

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    This seems like a very prudent move! Something had to be done (and be seen to be done) about the Vatican Bank, and overseeing other financial stuff at the same time seems a reasonable addition.

  13. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Cardinal Pell will be sorely missed in Australia, where there are continuing problems similar to those in the worst dioceses in the United States. I hope he has influence over the selection of his successor there. He has made many enemies (and they have been the right kind of enemies) and they will be looking to get control.

  14. Polycarpio says:

    The name of the new dicastery is interesting. See, I would have expected something like Secretariat of Finances, reflecting an internal perspective: oversight over the Church’s money matters. The Vatican is too small to have its own “economy” really, so the use of the word economy in the name makes me wonder how much this new office will address international economic issues and other issues that relate to “the economy.”

  15. J.M.C. says:


    I actually prefer the use of the word “economy” to “finances.” The Greek root for “economy” basically means “household,” so to me “Secretariat for the Economy” has positive overtones of promoting wise stewardship for the Church’s material resources, and of tending to the “family household” of the Church in a responsible prudent way. In this sense, “economy” seems to sound a bit more wholesome and theologically well-rounded than something like “finances.”

  16. Incaelo says:

    Father, you asked about any law to go along with this. Wouldn’t the Motu Proprio cover that? http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/motu-proprio-on-financial-management-of-the-holy-see

    The term Secretariat is indeed a bit confusing. The only other one is the Secretariat of State. Would this one be on an almost equal footing? It certainly seems that the office of the Auditor General, at least, has certain powers over other dicasteries as far as looking into their expenditure whenever it pleases goes.

    I don’t think it’s fair to assume that Cardinal Pell is being stuck behind a desk to keep him out of the way. He is still a member of the Council of Cardinals, and his new duties are directly tied into Pope Francis’ first focus in the reform of the Curia: the financial side of things.

  17. Phil_NL says:

    On the short term, this might help a bit, it won’t be hard for Pell to weed out the most egregious forms of mismanagement and underhand dealing. In the somewhat longer run, the bad guys will adapt. And smart as Pell is, it’s not something he has any particular expertise in, unless I missed something on his CV.

    In the grand scheme of things financial, I think there are two problems:

    First, the Vatican is located in Italy and has a lot of Italians in them. No offense, but “by the book” is hardly part of the Italian culture, in a whole lot of senses. That will be extremely hard, if not impossible, to weed out.
    Secondly, priests tend to have very little training in management and accounting. And while you don’t need a formal education in those at a parish level or as a missionary, it is needed for a worldwide enterprise, which the Church is too. Especially in the 21st century, where a big mess in any part of the globe is immediately known and picked apart – and used against the Church – all over the world. Luckily, that aspect can be tackled: I think it would do a whole lot of good if all diocese would get orders to sent one (or a couple, depending on size) priest who might be going places administratively to a half-decent university each year to get an MBA. Strike a deal with a school and a couple of dioceses, and you can even get a tailor-made program. It will pay off quickly enough.

  18. Rachel K says:

    I really like the photo, showing Cardinal Pell with a small pyramid on top of his red biretta!
    Very Illuminati!

  19. Polycarpio says:

    Thank you, JMC, that makes sense to me.

  20. jeff says:

    I wonder what he’ll put the other seven cardinals up to….

    Like, say, might maradiaga Rodriguez be put in charge of Jewish relations?

  21. Peter G says:

    A win for both the Vatican and the Church but a huge loss for us here in Australia.
    We only have one red hat here and with Cardinal Pell’s departure that will be up for grabs.
    The red hat has always resided in Sydney but with the creation of the Diocese of Parramatta,Melbourne is now the biggest diocese and now would be an appropriate time to relocate the red hat and our Archbishop Dennis Hart would be a more than appropriate recipient.

  22. Geoffrey says:

    It does seem strange that a cardinal-prefect would be in charge of a “secretariat”, unless it is indeed equal to and not subordinated to the Secretariat of State… But in that case, one would think the title would be something like “Secretary for the Economy of His Holiness the Pope”…

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