In Anti-Corruption Move, Pope Limits Vatican Gifts

Employees will have to report on finances every 2 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 29, 2021 5:22 PM CDT
In Anti-Corruption Move, Pope Limits Vatican Gifts
Cardinals queue to greet Pope Francis in Clementine Hall at the Vatican in 2019. On Thursday, he imposed a cap on gifts and added financial disclosure requirements.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, Pool)

Pope Francis set a $48 gift cap for all Vatican employees Thursday and issued a new law requiring Vatican cardinals and managers to periodically report on their compliance with clean financial practices in one of his biggest efforts yet to crack down on corruption in the Holy See. The law requires Vatican superiors to declare every two years that they aren't stashing money in tax havens and aren't under criminal investigation for tax evasion, money laundering or other crimes. They also must declare that any investments they hold are in funds consistent with Catholic doctrine, the AP reports. Vatican prosecutors are nearly two years into a corruption investigation involving the Vatican’s investment in a London real estate venture. Francis has preached about cleaning up the Holy See's murky financial practices for eight years, but the new law marks his biggest step yet to ensure his own cardinals and managers are clean.

The most striking part of the law is a measure that, if broadly applied, would amount to a revolution in curial culture: It prohibits any Vatican employee from receiving work-related gifts with a value of over 40 euros. While "work-related" will likely be open to some interpretation, the prohibition is clearly aimed at cutting down on the sometimes-lavish gifts that Vatican officials often receive from wealthy benefactors, friends, and fellow clerics. The practice was highlighted by the scandal involving ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked in 2019 after the Vatican determined he sexually abused minors as well as adult seminarians. McCarrick was a major fundraiser known for giving checks to Vatican officials, leading to speculation that his largesse helped him avoid punishment for his sexual misconduct, which was known in the Holy See as early as the 1990s. Francis wrote that the new regulations are necessary "because corruption can manifest itself in different forms and ways." The Rev. Robert Gahl of Rome's Pontifical Santa Croce University called the pope's move a "courageous" step toward real financial reform.

(Read more Pope Francis stories.)

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