Friday, January 24, 2014

Pope criticized for hiring management consultants

It may be "poor and for the poor," the Church dreamed of by Pope Francis. 

Meanwhile, however, the Vatican is becoming the cash cow of the most exclusive and expensive firms in the world of management and financial systems.

The latest one signed up is the legendary McKinsey & Company, with the task of coming up with "an integrated plan for making the organization of the Holy See's means of communication more functional, effective, and modern." 

Enough to sow panic in the ranks, which at the Vatican recently have not diminished but expanded, in a crescendo of confusion.

To Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the press office and the official spokesman, has been added a "senior communications adviser" in the person of the American journalist Greg Burke, a member of Opus Dei, with an office in the secretariat of state.

Not to mention the two press agents that the president of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), Ernst von Freyberg, brought to Rome last spring from his native Germany, Max Hohenberg and Markus Wieser, both of Communications & Network Consulting.

Then there is Vatican Radio, directed by Lombardi, with a 30 million dollar annual budget and with as many journalists as it once took to broadcast on shortwave in the most obscure languages and to the most remote regions of the globe, but now excessive in number.

There is "L'Osservatore Romano," another money pit with the few thousand daily copies of its main edition.

There is the Centro Televisivo Vaticano, which has good revenues thanks to its exclusive worldwide rights to the images of the pope but must face prohibitive expenses with Sony and other major firms for technology updates.

And then there is the pontifical council for social communications, a bureaucratic rattletrap that should have done the work now entrusted to McKinsey but evidently was not thought capable of it.

In this disorder it has been clear for some time that Pope Francis prefers to follow his own lights. 

Of the three interviews of his that have made the biggest splash, he gave two of them to the Jesuits of "La Civilta Cattolica" and one to the ultra-secularist founder of "la Repubblica," without Fr. Lombardi or Burke or anyone else having anything to do with it.

Another big name recruited by the Vatican is Promontory Financial Group, based in Washington. 

Since May, a dozen of its analysts have been set up in the offices of the IOR sifting through the accounts of the institute one by one, hunting for illicit operations. And they are doing the same with the accounts of the APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.

Not only that. Top-level managers of Promontory have become part of the permanent leadership of the IOR. One former Promontory officer is Rodolfo Marranci, the new director general of the Vatican “bank.” 

And the senior advisers of the IOR include Elizabeth McCaul and Raffaele Cosimo, who at Promontory were respectively the heads of the New York and European branches. 

Also coming from across the Atlantic is Antonio Montaresi, called in to manage the risk office, a role that did not exist at the IOR before.

A similar multiplication of roles and personnel at the Vatican also concerns the Financial Information Authority, created at the end of 2010 by Benedict XVI, today directed by the Swiss Rene Brulhart, an expensive international star in this area who will soon be doubling his staff.

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