VATICAN CITY, ROME — Similar to that of Statement of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN) among public officials and government employees, one of the rules now being enforced by Pope Francis is requiring all Roman Curia officials—from the prefects of dicasteries to the vice-directors—to complete, as soon as they take office, a declaration of personal background, assets, and liabilities.
In the new rule, the said officials in the Vatican must attest, in particular, to never having been convicted in any country and to not have benefited from any system of amnesty or prescription.
The motu proprio explicitly states that all curia heads, ‘including cardinals’, will also have to promise not to be the subject of any ongoing criminal proceedings for corruption, fraud, terrorism, money laundering, or exploitation of minors.
Financially, they will also be prohibited from holding, “even through a third party,” any interests “in companies and businesses, in countries included in the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes,”
They will also have to ensure that they have no property—movable or immovable—through illicit activity. A declaration must be renewed every two years. More broadly, they will also be prohibited from having any “shareholdings or interests in companies or firms operating for purposes and in sectors contrary to the Social Doctrine of the Church.”
Officials will be required to update and sign the declaration of interests every two years with the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy having the authority to verify the truthfulness of such declarations and will keep a record of all information. Those who are found to be withholding or providing incorrect information may be removed from the office.
However, the Pope’s new decree does not only concern the heads of the Roman Curia because Francis has expressed his desire to even go further by fighting against a form of corruption that is sometimes called ‘grey corruption’, which has been described as a type of borderline or minor corruption.
“Corruption can also occur in different ways and forms in sectors other than procurement,” Francis explained in the introduction to his decree, and to this end, all members of the curia, employees of Vatican City and those of all bodies associated with it will now be prohibited from “accepting or soliciting, for themselves or for persons other than the Institution
in which they work, by reason or on the occasion of their office, gifts, presents or other benefits of a value greater than forty euros.”
Vatican insiders said that the Pope’s new rules are actually very similar to those that govern many public administrations around the world.
The pontiff set the maximum value for accepting a gift without declaring it at €150 for the French National Assembly, €250 for Italian parliamentarians, €50 for European Commission officials and €276 for the US senior administration officials.
As for the declarations of interests, they are, in many countries made public and it is a degree of transparency to which the Pope obviously did not wish to go.
“Being honest is hard: the more responsibilities you have, the harder it is,” Francis pointed out.
But in the Vatican, where secrecy taints all exchanges, this is a cultural revolution in many ways.
“We are experiencing the last moments of a world closed in on itself,” a curia official, who requested anonymity, stated about a few weeks ago.
“Reasonable accommodation is no longer the order of the day. This is the end of an era, which began a few years ago with the end of the distribution of cash envelopes. More broadly, it asks us about our relationship to money,” the same official added,” he concluded.
(Source: LaCroix International/Tracy Cabrera/AI/MTVN)