VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is making a surprising personnel pick for financial oversight in Rome.
Members of the commission will oversee certain contracts that do not fall under new norms. Those new norms, and the creation of the commission, began with a document Pope Francis released June 1.
The purpose of the new norms in that document was to deter financial corruption. The document's full title is, "On transparency, control and competition in the procedures for awarding public contracts of the Holy See and Vatican City State."
Italian archbishop Filippo Iannone was appointed secretary of the five-person board. Pope Francis also appointed Spanish bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, Italian bishop Nunzio Galantino, and Spanish Jesuit Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero.
Some are critical of the setup of the commission. For instance, a Catholic attorney in the United States opined it will facilitate the cover-up of financial misdeeds:
Although the composition is outrageous in itself ... the corker is the four gigantic exceptions to the areas covered by this new, shiny public commission. They entirely swallow up — and thus allow cover-up — of everything and anything they might ever want to keep quiet, including "debts to international organizations," international "obligations," (of course) pontifical secrets, and, just to be on the safe side, include additional general reservations so broad that they can cover up anything and everything anyone would ever want.
Owing to his association with sexually predatory clerics, critics are slamming the choice of Cdl. Farrell as head of the commission.
In February 2019, Francis tapped Cdl. Farrell to be his camerlengo or "chamberlain." A key position, the camerlengo temporarily oversees affairs at the Vatican in the event of the pope's death — including preparations for the conclave to elect the next pope.
Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1947, Farrell was appointed to be an auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C. in 2001. That was when a notorious sexual predator, now-laicized ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, was head of the Washington archdiocese.
But Cdl. Farrell says he knew nothing of the numerous sex abuse allegations against McCarrick, which were brought to public light in 2018 — during what became know as "the Summer of Shame" for the Catholic Church in the United States.
When the McCarrick allegations were made public in 2018, Farrell claimed he was "shocked" and "overwhelmed" by the news.
"I never heard any of this before in the six years I was there with him," Cdl. Farrell remarked in comments to Catholic News Service.
The cardinal further said, "I worked in the chancery in Washington and [had] never, no indication, none whatsoever."
Farrell's comments sparked backlash among many Catholics.
Farrell was also involved with the Legionaries of Christ for a few years after his ordination the priesthood, but left the order in 1981. The order's founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, is accused of rampant sexual predation spanning decades.
Maciel has been accused of sexually preying on numerous boys and young men, as well as fathering children with several mistresses.
Cardinal Farrell claims he "never suspected anything" of Maciel, adding, "maybe I would have met Maciel once or twice."
"I left the Legionaries because I had intellectual differences with them," Farrell says — not because of Maciel's sexual abuse.
But a fellow former Legionary, J. Paul Lennon, told Church Militant in July 2018 that Cdl. Farrell was much closer to Fr. Maciel than he says.
"Kevin did know Fr. Maciel on a personal basis," Lennon argued.