By Edward Hadas
Confessing one’s sins is relatively easy. Penance can be painful, but usually ends fast. Leading a better life, though, is a lot more difficult. Pope Francis is ensuring that the Vatican’s financial system is well on the way. And by doing so he is also schooling Wall Street on how to clean house.
God’s and mankind’s bankers share a patchy history. The financial sins of both stretch back decades, at least – as do efforts to overcome them. Every few years, there’s remorse. The headlines about corruption at the Vatican kept coming, though, while Wall Street hopped from one scandal to the next.
The Vatican is leading the way in setting things right. Financial reform was high on the agenda of the cardinals who chose Francis as pope. He has obliged, culminating on Wednesday with a new management team for both the Institute for Works of Religion, better known in English as the Vatican Bank, and the Vatican’s other financial business. He is also imposing a new supervisory board and organisational structure. Perhaps the most important long-term change he has made forces the bank to retreat to purely church-related business.