Pope turns to management consultants in bid to reform Vatican

Francis has broken with tradition by drafting in an army of secular experts to transform the Vatican’s management.  But will this radical approach help him achieve his goal of a ‘poor Church for the poor’?

Over two papal reigns lasting more than 30 years, the top administration of the Roman Catholic Church has gone its own sweet way, aided by the fact that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had other matters which interested them far more, from evangelising the entire world to restoring traditional Catholic values and practices.

But after details of shocking financial corruption emerged last year in private documents leaked by Pope Benedict’s butler, revelations which many believe nudged the German pope towards his unprecedented decision to resign, Pope Francis has taken the dramatic decision to allow an army of outside consultants – lay people all, and the great majority non-Italians – into the secretive bowels of Vatican City, to let daylight in on an institution which long ago ceased to perform efficiently.

This week the Vatican announced that it is hiring McKinsey and Co, the US-based consultancy, to modernise its communications operations, and the international accounting firm KPMG – corporate slogan “cutting through complexity” – to bring its accounting up to international standards. They join the London-based firm Ernst & Young, which is looking at management and economic activity within the Vatican City State’s government, and the Washington DC-based Promontory Financial Group, which has drafted in two dozen employees to bring the Institute for Religious Works, also known as the Vatican Bank, up to international standards of protection from money-laundering and terror financing.

The Vatican’s communications operations are a striking example of the complex and wasteful manner in which the Church’s institutions have evolved. The Vatican press office is rarely available to answer reporters’ queries after midday. Other parts of the operation include Vatican Radio, a daily newspaper called L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Television Centre and the Vatican publishing house. All are managed and directed independently, with little attempt at co-ordination.

The Argentine pope’s radical plans to drag them into the modern age mark the most serious attempt at reform of the Church’s administrative machinery for many decades. But resistance will be encountered, and not all of it will be unreasoning.

John Allen, Vatican expert with the National Catholic Reporter, commented that the rise of “God’s consultants” “represents a clear break with the Vatican’s traditional ambivalence about relying on secular expertise, on the grounds that secular values are inevitably part of the package… In the past the Vatican [showed] … an instinctive distrust of claims to specialised expertise from people who don’t share the moral and metaphysical worldview of Catholicism. They fear that while they might build a better mousetrap, they also might smuggle alien values and ways of doing business into the Church.”

Pope Francis, pictured in St Peter's square this week, is expected to face resistance to his reforms Pope Francis, pictured in St Peter's square this week, is expected to face resistance to his reforms (AFP)
The appointment of McKinsey and KPMG was recommended by a commission of seven lay experts and one monsignor set up by the Pope in July. It is headed by a Maltese economist, Joseph Zahra, and includes just one woman, Francesca Chaouqui, an employee of Ernst & Young, whose semi-clothed image became an instant internet sensation. The commission was expected to, in the Vatican’s words, “offer technical support” and “develop strategic solutions” to help the Vatican simplify and better co-ordinate its scattered resources, budgets, properties and assets; create “a more careful organisation of the economic activities of all Vatican administrative offices”; and “improve transparency in the process of purchasing goods and services”, among other goals.

The chaos and corruption revealed in the Vatileaks scandal made it clear that decisive steps were required. Bishop Carlo Maria Vigano had been appointed by Pope Benedict to bring order to the Vatican’s finances. He uncovered appalling scandal and waste and slashed back grossly inflated budgets – reducing the cost of the Vatican’s life-size Christmas crib from €550,000 to €300,000; and saving €850,000 in the maintenance of the gardens, money which he funnelled into renovating the Pope’s central heating system. In all he claimed to have converted a deficit of nearly €8m into a surplus of €34.45m.

But in the process he upset powerful vested interests, and in 2011 he was “exiled” to the US. His top-secret letter about the affair to the Pope was a cry of agony and rage. The Vatican, he wrote, was “a kingdom divided into little feudal states”; it was a “chaotic, an unimaginable situation”.

It is this feudal chaos that Pope Francis now seeks to reform with the help of some of the world’s top consultants. Will this professionalisation of the Church help him achieve his other overriding goal of creating “a poor Church for the poor”? That remains to be seen.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform