April 06, 2005

Holy See in the red

The Age

By Gregory Viscusi
April 7, 2005

Pope John Paul II's successor won't just face falling church attendance and an aging priesthood: He also has to find new revenue to balance the Vatican's budget.

After making a profit for eight years, the Holy See, the central administration for the church, ran deficits in the three years through 2003, the Vatican's financial statements show. The separately run budget for Vatican City, the independent papal state in Rome, was also in the red in 2003, the latest year for which figures are available.

The papacy relies on earnings from roughly $US1 billion ($A1.3 billion) in stocks, bonds and real estate to top up donations from Catholics around the world. While the Holy See benefited in the 1990s from booming stock markets and a strong US dollar, losses on currencies plunged it to a 9.6 million loss on revenue of 204 million in 2003. ...

The 2864 Catholic diocese and 412,886 parishes worldwide - even Rome's - are financially independent from the Vatican.

That independence kept the Vatican financially untouched by sex-abuse scandals in the US. The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 2004 after paying $US53 million to settle more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. The diocese of Tucson, Arizona, filed for Chapter 11 in September and Spokane, Washington, followed in November.

Vatican finances were totally secret before Edmund Szoka, then the archbishop of Detroit, moved to Rome at John Paul II's request to become head of the prefecture for the economic affairs of the Holy See in 1990.

Posted by kshaw at April 6, 2005 09:18 AM