CNA has asked the Secretariat of State to clarify if and why Capaldo was granted Vatican citizenship, and to date has received no response, leaving open important questions about the overlap between the secretariat’s handling of financial affairs and its sovereign diplomatic functions.
More broadly, Francis’s decision to strip the Secretariat of State of the power of the purse represents a jump “back to the future” for curial reform.
In the early days of the Francis pontificate, plans for curial reform included the possibility of reducing dramatically the size and scope of the secretariat’s influence over Church governance, even the possibility of breaking the department up altogether. At the same time, central to the pope’s drive for combating corruption was his effort to grant to the Secretariat for the Economy, then under Cardinal George Pell, total oversight of all curial finances.
Both of those reforms were successfully fought off by the Secretariat of State, aided in large part by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was then serving at sostituto at the secretariat.
So successful was the effort to reverse the trend of reform that a recent draft of a new apostolic constitution for the Roman curia actually envisaged an expanded role for the Secretariat of State, placing it at the center of all curial affairs and Church governance.
Now, with Becciu out of the curia and Parolin excluded from key financial oversight boards, the tide of reform appears to have come back in for the Secretariat of State.
Pope Francis’s letter to Parolin assured the cardinal that the department remained, “without a shadow of a doubt,” central to the curia and the pope’s governance of the Church.
But, with Vatican prosecutors still investigating the full extent of possible financial mismanagement and malfeasance at the secretariat, and a mounting toll of suspensions, resignations, and arrests among key figures, Francis’s reassurance appears to be the spoonful of sugar on a large and bitter pill Parolin has been asked to swallow.
Following the pope’s dramatic sacking of Cardinal Becciu in September, Cardinal Pell thanked Francis for his direct action on cleaning up the Vatican’s finances.
“The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances,” Pell said, noting that the pope “plays a long game” in reforming the curia.
After seven years, Francis’s efforts at reform now appear to be, paradoxically, both back to the beginning, and further along than ever before.
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