Vatican condemns leak of documents on differences over economic reform

Vatican City — As Pope Francis and Vatican officials try to completely revamp the Vatican's economic policies and the procedures at what is commonly called the Vatican bank, differences of opinion are normal, but leaking documents about those discussions is illegal, said the Vatican spokesman.

"The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal," said Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, in a note published late Friday.

The spokesman's comments came after the Italian magazine L'Espresso published three articles allegedly illustrating how "power struggles between the most important prelates are placing the reforms of Pope Francis at risk."

The articles particularly target Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. The leaked minutes of a meeting of cardinals, the magazine said, show top Vatican officials are concerned about a lack of checks and balances as the cardinal gains more power over Vatican spending, hiring, income and revenues.

"Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal," Lombardi said.

One of the articles focused specifically on what it described as lavish spending by Pell's Secretariat for the Economy during its first year of existence even though the office was formed to monitor and rein in spending.

L'Espresso said it had seen receipts that included a 2,508 euro ($2,813) bill from Gammarelli, a Rome clerical tailor shop, and surmised that it was for a "cappa magna," or great cape with a long train sometimes worn in processions.

In a statement released Saturday, the Secretariat for the Economy said the article's report of a conversation between Pope Francis and Pell about his office's spending -- a conversation the magazine presented in direct quotes -- is "complete fiction."

The money spent by the secretariat in its first year was "in fact, below the budget set when the office was established" in February 2014, it said. An audited financial statement will be presented to the Council for the Economy, which oversees the secretariat's work.

"Finally and for the record," the statement said, "Cardinal Pell does not have a cappa magna."

A version of this story appeared in the March 13-26, 2015 print issue under the headline: Vatican condemns leak of documents on differences over economic reform .

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