While Pope Francis has long preached about the ills of economic inequality and sins of capitalism, the Catholic church has been robbing Peter's Pence to the tune of over $50 million annually to plug holes in their out-of-control budget - after paying over $3 billion in pedophile priest settlements around the world over several decades.
According to the Wall Street Journal, most of the roughly $55 million the church takes in annually goes towards "plugging the hole in the Vatican’s own administrative budget, while as little as 10% is spent on charitable works."
The little-publicized breakdown of how the Holy See spends Peter’s Pence, known only among senior Vatican officials, is raising concern among some Catholic Church leaders that the faithful are being misled about the use of their donations, which could further hurt the credibility of the Vatican’s financial management under Pope Francis. -Wall Street Journal
Of note, Peter's Pence is an annual collection event held every June, billed as a fundraising event for the needy. It is described as a "gesture of charity, a way of supporting the activity of the Pope and the universal Church in favoring especially the poorest and Churches in difficulty. It is also an invitation to pay attention and be near to new forms of poverty and fragility."
A section of the website dedicated to “works realized” describes individual grants, such as €100,000 in relief aid to survivors of last month’s earthquake in Albania or €150,000 for those affected by cyclone Idai in southeastern Africa in March. -WSJ
"The purpose of the Peter’s Pence Collection is to provide the Holy Father with the financial means to respond to those who are suffering as a result of war, oppression, natural disaster and disease," according to the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Except that for at least the past five years, just 10% of the money collected (over $55 million in 2018) - actually goes towards the types of charitable causes advertised for the collection, according to 'people familiar with the matter,' who added that approximately 2/3 of the funds have been used to help plug the budget shortfall at the Holy See - which consists of the central administration of the Catholic Church as well as the global papal diplomatic network.
Last year, the budget deficit reached around $78 million on total spending of around $334 million.
The 'reallocation' of charitable donations comes as the Holy See is facing a ballooning budget deficit which the pope has warned cardinals could have a "grave impact" on the economic future of the church. Francis was elected in 2013 with a mandate to overhaul the Vatican's finances following allegations of corruption, waste and incompetence, according to the report.
News of the Vatican's financial mismanagement couldn't come at a worse time - as the church grapples with a scandal over dodgy London real estate investments which led to the dismissal of its chief financial regulator, René Brülhart, in November. First revealed in October, the latest scandal centered on the Holy See's attempts to secure an €100 million ($110 million) loan to acquire luxury property in London's Chelsea neighborhood.
Church law allows the pope to use donations as he sees fit, including to support his administration. According to the collection's website, "Peter’s Pence also contributes to the support of the Apostolic See and the activities of the Holy See,” emphasizing activities that help “populations, individuals and families in precarious conditions."
And now we find out, it contributes a lot.
The assets of Peter’s Pence now total about €600 million, down from about €700 million early in the current pontificate, largely on account of unsuccessful investments, said the people familiar with the funds’ use.
The use of Peter’s Pence donations mostly to plug the budget deficit is particularly sensitive for Pope Francis, who began his pontificate by calling for a “poor church for the poor,” and has continually emphasized the church’s mission to care for and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable. -Wall Street Journal
Last month, Pope Francis said: "When the money from Peter’s Pence arrives, what do I do? I put it in a drawer? No. This is bad administration. I try to make an investment and when I need to give, when there is a need, throughout the year, the money is taken and that capital does not devalue, it stays the same or it increases a bit."
He forgot to include that he uses it to pad the budget.