As little as 10% of the millions raised each year by the Catholic Church to help the poor and suffering reaches the needy, with the vast majority of the donations going to solve the Vatican's financial problems. Peter's Pence, the pope's principal charitable appeal, raises more than $55 million each year in answer to local bishops' pleas to help the less fortunate, the Wall Street Journal reports. The pope can use the money as needed, and the fund's website says it "also contributes to the support of the Apostolic See and the activities of the Holy See." About one-tenth of the donations have gone to charity work for the past five years, while two-thirds of the money has covered the Holy See's budget deficit, sources tell the Journal.
Contributions to Peter's Pence have fallen under Francis, officials say. In September, the pope ordered the Vatican's budget deficit closed and financial mismanagement ended, per Fox Business. Francis' charge when he became pope included straightening out the church's finances, and he has added oversight. The deficit doubled in 2018 from the year before, to $76 million. The pope has defended using the donations for investments, saying that when the money comes in, "What do I do? I put it in a drawer?" He said he taps the cash when needed. After contributions cover the Vatican's costs, however, observers say about 25%, at most, remains for investment. The Vatican has said it will release financial figures this fall for the first time in several years. (Read more Catholic Church stories.)