— Rome — Pope Francis has ordered pay cuts for senior Vatican officials and broad pay freezes, a belt-tightening measure that further illustrates the Holy See’s financial straits. The pope enacted the measures in a decree — a motu proprio — published Wednesday, to take effect April 1st.
Curial cardinals – who reportedly receive monthly salary packages of €4,000-€5,000 – will take a 10% pay cut. Other department heads will take an 8% reduction. Lower-level officials who are clerics and/or religious will see 3% less in monthly pay.
Laity, clerics, and religious will all face pay freezes – even those not subject to pay cuts – for two years. The modest “bi-annual pay rises” built into the Holy See’s compensation schemes are suspended for all but employees on the lowest three pay grades (levels 1-3 of a 10-leves scale), effective 1 April 2021 through 31 March 2023.
There were no hard numbers on how many employees are on levels 1-3 but they are believed to be very few. Pay grades for professional employees begin at level 6 – in recent years level 5 – while support staff who work for the Vatican rarely begin below level 4.
The measures apply as well to the Vicariate of Rome, the papal basilicas and basilica chapters, and other entities connected to the Vatican.
The development underscores the increasingly dire financial straits under which years of mismanagement and nearly thirteen months of coronavirus emergency have put the Vatican. Traditional revenue sources like the Vatican Museums have been almost entirely unavailable during the pandemic, while charitable giving to the Peter’s Pence collection — with which popes have quietly filled holes in the Vatican budget for years — has been down.
The Catholic Herald asked the Press Office whether other the Vatican has taken any other steps – specifically, any attempt to recover losses from highly publicized real-estate speculations. “There is an investigation underway,” Press Office Director Matteo Bruni replied, but had no word on whether any measures have been taken.
There also is a saving clause for those facing the cuts: They will not apply “if the interested party documents that it is impossible to meet fixed costs related to one’s own state of health or relatives’ within the second degree.”
The law does not specify whether it is two degrees in the direct line, or collaterally: if the former, the rule covers parents and offspring (wards); if the latter are included, it covers siblings as well. If, on the other hand, the language presupposes the standard Italian sense of degrees of consanguinity, it could encompass grandparents and – in principle – grandchildren.
A canon lawyer consulted by the Catholic Herald said the language of the provision was unclear, and the Press Office of the Holy See was unable to provide immediate clarification on the point.