The transfer to APSA needs to be done well and competently, he stated, and the Secretariat of Economy needs to have the power to be able to stop things if they need to be stopped.
“The pope’s plan to set up a board of experts to manage the investments, coming out of Covid, coming out of the financial pressures we are presently experiencing, that will be absolutely vital,” he added.
According to Pell, the pope’s charitable fund, called Peter’s Pence, “faces a gigantic challenge.” The fund is intended for the charitable activities of the pope and to defray some of the costs of running the Roman Curia.
The fund should never have been used for investments, he stated, noting that he has “fought for years for the principle that if donors give money for a specific purpose, it should be used for that specific purpose.”
As financial reform continues to be enacted at the Vatican, the cardinal emphasized the importance of having the right personnel.
He said having competent people in charge of financial affairs is an essential first step toward changing the culture to one of more accountability and transparency.
“There’s a close connection between incompetency and being robbed,” Pell commented. “If you have competent people in place who know what they’re doing, it’s much harder to be robbed.”
In a diocese, one important aspect is having a finance council made up of experienced people who “understand money,” who meet often, whom the bishop consults, and whose advice the bishop follows.
“One hazard of course is if your finance council doesn’t understand that you’re a Church and not a business.” The first priority is not financial profit, but care of the poor, the unfortunate, the sick, and social assistance, he said.
The cardinal praised the contribution of lay people, saying, “at every level, from diocese, to archdiocese, to Rome I’ve been impressed at the large number of competent people who are willing to give their time to the Church for nothing.”
“We need lay leaders there, Church leaders there, who do know the basics of management of money who can ask the right questions and find the right answers.”
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He also encouraged dioceses to not wait for the Vatican always to lead the way on enacting financial reform, even if it should.
“We’ve made some progress in the Vatican and I agree the Vatican should be taking the lead -- Pope Francis knows that and is trying to do that. But just like any organization, you can’t always make everything happen as quickly as you want,” he opined.
Pell warned that money can be “a tainting thing,” and fascinates many clerics. “I had been a priest for decades when someone pointed out to me the dangers of money being about hypocrisy,” he said. “It’s not the most important thing we’re doing.”
“For the Church, money is not of first importance or of every importance.”
Pell was initially convicted in Australia in 2018 of multiple counts of sexual abuse. On April 7, 2020, Australia’s High Court overturned his six-year prison sentence. The High Court ruled that he should not have been found guilty of the charges and that the prosecution had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Pell spent 13 months in solitary confinement, during which time he was not permitted to celebrate Mass.