Oversight Lacks Independence

National Catholic Reporter, July 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Oversight Lacks Independence


The Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, is scandal-plagued and has been for years. Pope Benedict XVI took important steps in bringing reform to the bank, not the least of which was insisting that the Vatican follow the international standards set by Moneyval, the European anti-money-laundering agency. Moneyval reviewed Vatican financial procedures last year and will return in 2014 to see if the mandated improvements have been made. For example, Moneyval insisted the Vatican establish an independent Financial Information Authority with the power to investigate suspicious transactions. This agency is headed by Rene Brulhart, a highly respected Swiss lawyer and expert in the field who in May revealed more than a dozen suspicious activities since 2011. That is real progress.

At the time of his election, Pope Francis received a clear mandate from the College of Cardinals to move the reform ahead faster and further. Francis has said he wants "to allow Gospel principles to permeate [the church's] economic and financial activities, too."

We applaud these efforts and encourage a thorough examination of the Vatican bank's processes and practices.

The resignations of a director and deputy director of the Vatican bank and the arrest of Msgr. Nunzio Scarano (see Page 1) underscore the importance of a speedy, efficient housecleaning. But obstacles may impede this cleaning.

A case in point is Carl Anderson's sitting on the Vatican bank's lay supervisory council. Anderson, head of the U.S.-based Knights of Columbus, inherited his seat in 2009 when Virgil Dechant--Anderson's predecessor as supreme knight--stepped down after nine years on the body. Do the Knights have a permanent seat on this council? Anderson has used the Knights' millions of dollars, generated from investment proceeds of the fraternal organization's insurance portfolio, to leverage extraordinary influence into every level of the Vatican bureaucracy. By paying for everything from infrastructure renovations to chauffeured limousines for visiting prelates, Anderson has made himself a Vatican establishment guy. …

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