Over at Real Clear Religion, Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg discusses Pope Francis’s recent appointment of Cardinal George Pell to “Secretariat of the Economy.” The secretariat has authority over the economic activities of the Vatican City State and the Holy See.
Gregg explains his take on Cardinal Pell and this appointment:
It may well turn out to be the greatest challenge of his priestly life.
You don’t need to watch the Godfather Part III to know that the Catholic Church has struggled for several decades to address some real problems in the management of the Holy See’s finances. Just looking at an organizational chart of the various units involved in some way in administering the Holy See’s resources is enough to make even devout Catholics think that maybe Dan Brown’s novels are onto something.
What’s often called “the Vatican Bank” — it’s more formal title is the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) — is just one of several institutions that the Holy See has created over the years to manage various resources. In many ways, a far more important structure is the lesser-known “Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See” (APSA), which, as it stated under its governing document, serves “to administer the properties owned by the Holy See in order to provide the funds necessary for the Roman Curia to function.”
He goes into more details about Cardinal Pell’s qualifications:
Though Pell is more widely known for his outspoken and articulate defense of Catholic orthodoxy and his willingness to critique the secular alternatives on offer (as anyone who has watched his demolition of Richard Dawkins can attest), much of Pell’s time since returning from Oxford has involved shouldering some rather major pastoral and administrative responsibilities. Some of the more prominent include helping to set up a university, overseeing the main Catholic overseas aid organization, and, most importantly, serving as the archbishop of not one but two of the biggest archdioceses in Australia.
Success in such endeavors requires, as well as other abilities, a grasp of modern finance. In that regard, Pell has learnt a lot from some very able Catholic Australians who work in that world. It also helps that, alongside Munich’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Pell has probably the best understanding of anyone in the College of Cardinals of how modern market economies actually function.
Even more specifically, Pell has had to address financial malfeasance in the past. As a young auxiliary bishop in the late-1980s, Pell led an investigation into possible diversions of aid money from Australian Catholic Relief towards some rather radical political causes in the Philippines. He pinpointed what was going on, identified who was and was not responsible, and resolved what had become a major point of contention within the Church in Australia at the time.
You can read the entire article at Real Clear Religion.