It's fashionable to style Francis as a dramatic break with the past, and there's a sense in which that's real. On the other hand, several substantive reforms for which he's getting credit actually began under Benedict XVI, and nowhere is that more true than in the arena of financial transparency.
It was Benedict who made the historic decision in 2010 to welcome outside secular inspection by inviting Moneyval to conduct the same detailed review of anti-money-laundering protocols it carries out in other European nations. Never before had the Vatican opened its books in this fashion, and the decision met internal resistance. Some members of the old guard objected that in earlier centuries, popes had paid in blood to resist such external involvement in church affairs while Benedict was rolling out the red carpet.Benedict also created the Financial Information Authority to act as a watchdog on Vatican finances and began the process of issuing new rules designed to bring the Vatican into compliance with accepted international standards.
Assuming that process reaches completion under Francis, he'll rightly win praise for finishing the cleanup operation. Certainly, no pope has ever done so much so quickly to recalibrate popular impressions of the church's attitude toward money or to set a new standard of simplicity for church leadership.
At the same time, a good case can be made that if we're talking about financial glasnost -- or, for that matter, recovery from the church's child sexual abuse scandals -- the "reform pope" was actually Benedict XVI, and much of what Francis is now doing amounts to running plays crafted on his predecessor's watch.It's nice to see Benedict getting credit where it is due to him.
Read the whole thing here, which also talks about Francis' Marian devotion, the persecution of Christians in India, and the role of Catholics in the protests in the Ukraine.