The new law also requires curial department heads, senior lieutenants, and “all who carry out administrative, judicial or supervisory functions” to sign a declaration stating they have never been convicted of any crime in any jurisdiction, nor benefitted from a pardon or amnesty, nor escaped conviction due to expiry of any applicable statute of limitation; and that they are not subject to criminal investigation at the time they assume office.
Officials are to sign the declarations when they assume office, and renew them every two years.
The Secretariat for the Economy is empowered to investigate the veracity of declarations when there is reason to suspect falsehood or omission, but the law does not appear to provide more particular mechanisms for verifying the claims.
It is unclear how those swearing to all the aforesaid effects should know whether they are subject to investigation in any jurisdiction, hence what the standard or measure of “veracity” is in the legally pertinent sense.
The law also establishes that officials shall neither solicit nor accept “for themselves or for persons other than the Institution in which they work,” whether “by reason or on the occasion of their office, gifts, presents or other benefits of a value greater than forty Euro.”
The language suggests that officials may accept gifts in favor of the dicastery for which they work, or in favor of the Holy See. Pope Francis, however, has already required dicasteries to liquidate investments and deposit cash holdings with the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See — APSA, the Vatican’s central bank — in an earlier reform measure.
The new law also expressly states that its aim is to curtail and target instances of a range of crimes, including fraud, corruption, money-laundering, terrorism or terrorism-related activities, exploitation of minors and human trafficking, as well as tax evasion.
The new law also requires officials to declare that they do not hold cash, investment interest or other stake in corporations or companies in jurisdictions listed among those at high risk of money laundering, “[U]nless,” the text of the law specifies, “their relatives to the third degree of consanguinity are residents or therein domiciled for valid reasons including those of family, work or study.”
Officials must ensure that — to their knowledge — all assets or movable and immovable goods owned or held by them, as well as all remuneration of any kind, originate from licit activity, and are prohibited from holding shares or interests in companies or businesses engaged in practices or policies incompatible with the Church’s social doctrine.
Several recent scandals — most recently one in which Vatican money found its way into a Swiss pharmaceutical concern that produces abortifacients — have involved investment in concerns with policies and practices not easily reconcilable with the Church’s teaching and mission.
The Vatican described the law as a “crackdown” and said it follows measures enacted in May of last year to regulate procurements in the Vatican. As a matter of chronology, that is accurate.
The procurements law, however, was pursuant to previous international undertakings, specifically, the UN’s 2003 Convention against Corruption. The Holy See joined the Merida Convention – as the UN Convention is colloquially known, as it was first opened to signatories in Merida, Mexico – in 2016.
Pope Francis signed the motu proprio creating the new dispositions and modifying the General Norms of the Roman Curia on 26 April. The measures are effective as of 29 April, the day the international umbrella organization of financial intelligence units was meeting in Strasbourg to discuss, among other things, the most recent report on the Holy See’s anti-money-laundering efforts.
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