Rorate Caeli

Franciscan Minister General to Order: We're broke, due to questionable financial activities of the recent past

From the letter of the Franciscan Minister General, Brother Michael Perry, OFM:

In an effort to live as children of the light, the General Definitorium and I wish to bring to light a grave situation in which the General Curia of the Order now finds itself. The matter involves our financial stability and the patrimony of the Order. While our first concern has and remains verifying the nature, extent, and impact of what has occurred, we also recognize the significant role that external actors, people who are not members of the Order, have played in creating this grave situation.

In September 2014, the General Definitorium initiated a series of steps in order to conduct an internal inquiry into the financial dealings of the Office of the General Treasurer. A sub-commission within the General Definitorium was created to serve as an advisory group. Together we charted a course to collect reliable information, identify potential concerns, and examine all available documents in order to reach well-informed decisions about how best to proceed to guarantee the financial soundness of the Order in a manner consistent with our Franciscan values and way of life. We immediately sought advice from a highly regarded group of lawyers who continue to work for the Order. Competent ecclesiastical authorities also were informed of our concerns and have been updated on a regular basis. In addition, Provincials and Custodes in a number of the Franciscan Conferences also were provided with a brief, albeit incomplete, explanation of our situation and were requested to demonstrate their solidarity with the General Curia through prayer and in other significant ways. I regret that not all Provincials and Custodes were contacted. I ask of all Provincials and Custodes your understanding and for a financial contribution to help address the current situation, which involves also the repayment of significant debts.
Three important elements have emerged from the internal investigation. First, the General Curia finds itself in grave, and I underscore ‘grave’ financial difficulty, with a significant burden of debt. Second, the systems of financial oversight and control for the management of the patrimony of the Order were either too weak or were compromised, thus limiting their effectiveness to guarantee responsible, transparent management. We have initiated steps to address these concerns. Third, there appears to have taken place a number of questionable financial activities that were conducted by friars entrusted with the care of the patrimony of the Order without the full knowledge or consent of the former and current General Definitorium. Because of the scope and magnitude of these activities, they have placed the financial stability of the General Curia at grave risk. These questionable activities also involve people who are not Franciscan but who appear to have played a central role. For these reasons, the General Definitorium, working in unanimity, has decided to call upon assistance from civil authorities to take up this matter.

Right, "without the full knowledge" -- of those who should have full knowledge... It is just so nice that the predecessor of the current Minister General for ten years (!), current Abp. José ("Call me Pepe") Rodríguez Carballo, was made Secretary and the personal man of the Pope in the Congregation for Religious. The same man who has been a key player in the ongoing dismantling of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. 

Quite a promising start for the Year of Consecrated Life!

(Note: both in Italy and in many other places, large orders such as the Friars Minor also receive massive amounts of public funds, both through tax breaks and direct government contributions to their educational, healthcare, and charitable activities. Will authorities in Italy and elsewhere act accordingly considering the shady financial dealings of the past? As with the ongoing abuse scandal, will the intervention of Caesar be necessary to bring justice to this situation?)