Editor of CRUX Questions Pope Francis and the Vatican

John Allen Jr., a long-time Vatican correspondent and current editor of CRUX, has raised serious questions about the willingness of Pope Francis and the Vatican to reform itself: “Mysterious exit of Vatican auditor begs question: Is reform possible?” Like his colleagues, Mr. Allen is normally full of effusive praise for the pope and the Vatican, and rarely questions their ability to do their duty.

In the present case, he is concerned with the reform of the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s financial affairs in general. The surprising and mysterious resignation of the Vatican’s Auditor General seems to have damaged his faith. In the past, he was ebullient about the progress made in reforming the Vatican Bank. It developed new procedures designed to prevent money laundering and other criminal activity - which it had been guilty of since its inception in 1942. You may recall that The Godfather - Part III, released in 1990, was about the criminality of the Vatican Bank and its ties to the Mafia. This was old news at the time, yet remarkably little progress has been made since then.

A few years ago, the Vatican accepted the supervision of Moneyval, an agency of the European Union. However Moneyval could only attempt to review its books and procedures. Since the Vatican is a sovereign state, Moneyval could do nothing to punish any irregularities or crimes that it found. Still, Moneyval identified dozens of crimes committed at the bank and submitted its documentation to the appropriate authorities. The ebullience of Mr. Allen and his colleagues for the Bank’s new procedures was not diminished by its failure to prosecute a single one of the identified crimes. Besides, the appointment of a new Auditor General was sure to fix any remaining problems.

The fact is, that prior changes and reforms made about as much difference as the Immaculate Conception. The rubber never met the road, though several conceptual wheels spun noisily. But while the resignation of the Auditor General seems to have challenged Mr. Allen’s faith, I suspect some further pronouncement or appointment by Pope Francis will renew his faith. This happened with Church reforms concerning child abuse, and other matters. The Church is better at boosting faith than at fixing problems.