Pope Francis Cracks down on Secretive Vatican Department Dubbed "the Saints" Factory"
By Nick Squires
March 10, 2016
|Italian journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi, left, and Emiliano Fittipaldi, leave the Vatican City from the Perugino gate Photo: AP|
Pope Francis launched a stern crackdown on the murky, secretive process of canonisations on Thursday, months after a scandal engulfed a Vatican department nicknamed “the Saints’ Factory”.
The Pope imposed strict new regulations demanding much greater transparency and accountability in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which handles the complex, opaque world of promoting worthy Catholics to sainthoods.
The 23 new rules included a warning that disciplinary measures will be taken against anyone suspected of abusing the system.
The new regime was introduced after leaked Vatican documents published last year revealed that the process was rife with waste, nepotism, favouritism and corruption, with wealthy patrons spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to have their favoured candidate made a saint.
A process designed to elevate worthy candidates to the highest pedestal in the Catholic firmament was found to be anything but saintly in the way that it carried out its business.
A book published last year, written by an Italian investigative journalist, revealed that the Church had no oversight of the “postulators” who were paid to research the good deeds of worthy candidates and then advance their cases towards canonisation.
Based on leaked, confidential Vatican documents, the book – Merchants in the Temple – found that on average it cost ˆ500,000 (?390,000) to promote a cause for sainthood.
The money was paid to theologians, bishops, doctors and lawyers who were involved in deciding whether or not a person should be placed on the path to sainthood, in a process that can take decades.
In one case, involving the beatification in 2007 of Antonio Rosmini, an Italian priest and philosopher of the 19th century, the price was ˆ750,000.
|Antonio Rosmini-Serbati was an Italian Roman Catholic priest and philosopher Photo: Getty|
There was plenty of opportunity to make money – it was revealed that there are 2,500 pending sainthood cases, handled by 450 postulators.
Donors and religious orders had to pay an initial fee of 50,000 just for nominating their candidate, the book claimed.
The leaked documents showed that one postulator also owned a printing business which had a virtual monopoly on printing all the documents required to support cases for beatification and sainthood.
Pope Francis was so appalled at the corruption in the whole process that, in an unprecedented move, he ordered the freezing of bank accounts held by postulators at the Vatican bank, with the accounts together worth ˆ40 million.
He appointed a fact-finding commission which discovered that postulators received large sums of cash without entering the money into official records.
Under the new regulations, money intended to advance a saintly cause must be properly documented and be managed by an administrator.
The administrator must keep a record of donations and expenditure, drawing up a budget each year.
Pope Francis also tightened up the mechanism by which funds left over from one cause should be used to help the causes of candidates from poorer countries, whose supporters do not have the ability to fund the necessary research.
To be beatified, a candidate must be shown to have performed a miracle – typically the healing of a disease or ailment which the Catholic Church claims cannot be explained by science.
Canonisation requires a second miracle.
|Pope Francis is expected to approve Mother Teresa's canonisation on March 15 Photo: Getty Images|
The Pope’s crackdown comes just days before he is expected to set the official date for the canonisation of Mother Theresa, which is likely to happen in September.
Gianluigi Nuzzi, the journalist who wrote Merchants in the Temple, is on trial with four other people accused of leaking and publishing confidential documents that revealed intrigue and decadence within the Holy See.
The "Vatileaks" trial is due to resume on Monday. The other defendants include a second Italian journalist who also wrote an expose of Vatican mismanagement and skulduggery, as well as a Spanish monsignor and an Italian woman who was hired as a public relations expert.
If convicted they all face up to eight years in prison.
The Vatican has been heavily criticised around the world for putting the two journalists on trial, with press freedom campaigners saying they were merely doing their jobs.