Kelly spoke at the webinar series, “Inspiring Trust: Church Communications and Organizational Vulnerability,” offered by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. The university is entrusted to Opus Dei, with which Kelly is associated.
“To be brutally honest about it, from my perspective of the council’s perspectives … it’s not clear how funds have been flowing and how they’ve been managed because the transparency hasn’t been there,” she said.
Kelly is adamant that “once that transparency is there, and international standards are applied, then you can start talking altogether differently about the Vatican’s role and its responsibility and how it manages money, and so forth.”
“If someone’s going to put money into the Peter’s Pence account, they need to know that that money is being well spent. And at the moment, you can’t say definitely that we can show that, but we’re well on the way I think to be able to do that before too long,” she said.
The Council of the Economy was very focused on cost restraint in setting this year’s budget, asking Vatican departments to come up with reductions in their spending, Kelly explained.
The Vatican’s budget, which already operated on a deficit, took another hit in 2020 and the beginning of 2021, when the Vatican Museums, a major source of income, was forced to close for months.
For the Holy See, the coronavirus crisis also meant collapsing market investments, uncertain income from real estate investments, and diminished contributions from the Church around the world.
“The Holy See suffered, along with every other organization, or many other organizations, in the pandemic, and that’s not surprising. And the question really for the council is how much of that is temporary and how much of that will bounce back,” she said.
“And it is the case that fundraising has been severely dented through the COVID crisis, not surprisingly, as it has been felt right throughout the Church,” she said.
“So, you know, it is one of the areas in our minds, as we think about how to restore the reputation and how to create a strong reputation for how the Holy See manages finances.”
Kelly is confident that there is a strong willingness among both the lay members and the cardinals on the council to “make an impact quickly.”
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“We do expect results, very significant results, before the six years run out at the end of the council's current term,” she said.
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx has overseen the council since its creation in 2014. Other cardinals currently on the council include Joseph Tobin of Newark; Anders Arborelius of Stockholm; Péter Erdő of Esztergom-Budapest; Odilo Scherer of São Paulo; Gérald Lacroix of Quebec; Giuseppe Petrocchi of L’Aquila; and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
Among the lay members are German law professor Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof; Maria Kolak, president of the National Association of German Cooperative Banks; Alberto Minali, the former chief investment officer of the asset management group Eurizon; Leslie Ferrar, who was treasurer to Britain’s Prince Charles; elevator manufacturer Zardoya Otis; and Eva Castillo Sanz, who sits on the board of directors of the Spanish bank Bankia.
Kelly said: “One of the things that’s on my mind to really explore as we go forward is how the whole whistleblowing setup works in the Vatican. Because I think part of an open culture is not only financial transparency but the ability of people to raise issues in private, perhaps without being identified or only identified if they so wish.”
“Now I do know that whistleblowing happens, but I’m not yet sure that that works well enough within the Holy See, and the Vatican.”
“There is a huge way to go, but I do think the will is there at the very top to see change happen,” she said.