JACOB SOLL, professor of history, USC Dornsife.
This op-ed originally appeared in the Boston Globe on June 8.
As Pope Francis sets the course for his young papacy, one of his first challenges has nothing to do with theology or the behavior of the far-flung priests and bishops he supervises: It is to reform the troubled Vatican Bank. A private and highly secretive institution estimated to control more than $7 billion in capital and more than 33,000 secret accounts, the Institute for the Works of Religion (its official name) has long been dogged by scandals and questions.
Founded in 1942 to “safeguard and administer” the funds of church members, it has become a modern symbol of the hazards of secrecy in finance. It was accused of holding Croatian Nazi funds during World War II and more recently has faced continued suspicions of money laundering for the mafia.