An independent audit of Vatican finances was suspended. The audit, by the accountancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, had been announced four months ago. It had been recommended to the Pope on the advice of the Vatican Secretariat of the Economy, led by Cardinal George Pell. The postponement of the audit was seen by some as an attempt to unseat the cardinal, who said he was “a bit surprised” by the suspension and met the Pope privately last week to discuss it.
What the British media are saying
The Guardian ran with the headline: “Vatican’s suspension of major PwC audit exposes internal rift”. The rift, according to the report, was between the “Church’s old guard, a powerful Italian bureaucracy resistant to greater transparency” and “supporters of financial reform” led by Cardinal Pell. The Financial Times said there were broader fears about “a slowdown in Vatican financial reform” but noted that there was still hope given that “Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, would only say that ‘some aspects of the contract’ were being looked into more ‘deeply’, suggesting a renegotiation may occur to tone down some of the more onerous requirements.” While Cardinal Pell is pushing for transparency, Reuters said, “critics have accused him of doing so in a bullying manner”.
What the vaticanisti are saying
The revolution is delayed, announced John Allen of cruxnow.com. He said: “For Cardinal Pell’s admirers, suspending the audit amounts to a temporary victory for a Vatican old guard resistant to reform. For critics, it’s the fruit of Cardinal Pell’s unwillingness to collaborate and to live within a legal framework he himself helped to craft.” He concluded that, on balance, the loser was Cardinal Pell, and added: “The embarrassment has to be bundled with a piece in the Italian newspaper Italia Oggi on Wednesday suggesting that Pell will leave the Secretariat for the Economy when he turns 75 in June and that the current president of the Vatican bank, French businessman Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, a Cardinal Pell ally, will be replaced as well.”
The most overlooked story of the week
✣ Norway’s clergy to withdraw from civil marriages
A Norwegian bishop has said the country’s clergy will no longer officiate at civil weddings. His comments came after the Lutheran Church’s governing synod voted to conduct gay marriages in Norway. Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo said he would seek permission from the Vatican for the change.
Why was it under-reported?
The narrative about the Church being squeezed out of the public square has become less common in the Francis era. The Pope has discouraged clashes between the Church and secular culture. Even Bishop Eidsvig said the issue was a “matter of liturgy” and not necessarily indicative of a change in society’s moral values. Furthermore, the debate about same-sex marriage has dominated Church discussions for the last three years and Catholic commentators might feel that there is little left to say that has not been said already.
What will happen next?
Other countries may follow suit. Two years ago Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia suggested that the Church should get out of the civil marriage business altogether. He said: “In a way it makes sense. It’s hard to see how a priest or a bishop could, in good conscience, sign a marriage certificate that merely identifies Spouse A and Spouse B. This dramatises, in a concrete way, the fact that we face some very hard choices in a new marriage regime.” But he said it would carry a cost at a pastoral level.
✣ The week ahead
Dominicans will mark their 800th anniversary in the Diocese of Westminster today. There will be Solemn Vespers at 2.30pm at Westminster Cathedral followed by a reception at Archbishop’s House. The Order of Preachers was founded by St Dominic in Toulouse in 1216 and is dedicated to addressing the spiritual and educational needs of the population.
Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood dioceses will participate in a Mass for migrants at Westminster Cathedral on Monday. The Mass is in honour of St Joseph the Worker and will be celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
Celebrations to mark the 1,050th anniversary of Poland’s baptism will come to England on Sunday, with a Mass at Ealing Abbey in East London. The festivities commemorate the baptism of Duke Mieszko of Poland. He is thought to have converted as part of the Polish-Bohemian pact, secured by his marriage to the Bohemian Princess Doubravska.