Pope Francis’ Financial Angel Fails to Safeguard the Vatican’s Reputation

A bad reputation can be expensive...but not like this.


The Vatican is a self-contained country in the middle of Rome. In fact, what the locals call Vatican Bank — officially titled the Institute for the Works of Religion — manages €5.9bn ($7.3bn, £4.64bn) in assets.

In short, the Holy See won’t be ordering takeout anytime soon.

AP just released a report about the Vatican’s coffers stemming from Papal Emeritus Benedict’s regime in the gold (leaf) throne:

Italian weekly L’Espresso reported in its Friday editions that Cardinal George Pell’s economy secretariat had run up a half-million euros (dollars) in expenses in the first six months of its existence. The total includes seemingly legitimate expenses, including computers and printers, but also a 2,508 euro bill from the famed Gamarelli clergy tailor.

Pell spoke to the Catholic Herald about the Holy See’s seemingly extravagant finances last year, saying, “It is important to point out that the Vatican is not broke.”

And then, he said this:

“In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet.”

Get that? 100s of 1,000,000s hanging out between the cushions on the couch.

cardinal george pell
Cardinal Pell sans the bling (PHOTO: Reuters)

That’s unfortunate following the “Vatileaks” scandal in which a Monsignor was charged with fraud and corruption along with a former secret service agent and a ­financial broker. Many skeptics and scholars alike believed this is what led to Benedict’s “retirement” from the Holy See.

Regretfully for the Catholic Church and the Vatican, perception is perpetually skewed — not only because of the larger scandal involving altar boys but because of the megalomania up and down the hallways of the opulent sanctuary. Priests are supposed to take a vow of poverty, but there this guy is sitting on a golden throne. What others don’t consider is that the throne (and most of the hallways) are wooden with thin gold leaf.

That’s like a starlet wearing costume jewelry and haters only seeing the bling.

In the world of PR, you have to be aware of perception — fair or not — and how that reflects upon the overall “brand.” While it’s close to sacrilege to consider the Catholic Church or the Vatican as a brand, embezzlement demands a trip to the confessional.