Pope Francis has issued new guidelines for ensuring financial transparency in advancing causes of beatification and canonization, requiring both an administrator to oversee the process and annual budget checks.
The new norms place a strong emphasis on regular budgeting and accounting to ensure transparency, as well as to see to it that donations from the faithful supporting causes are used as intended.
They were approved by the Pope March 4 in a papal rescript for an “ad experimentum,” or provisional, period of three years.
Published March 10, they repeal the norms which had been put into place by St. John Paul II Aug. 20, 1983.
The new norms are the fruit of a commission established in March 2015 by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, a source who works closely with the congregation told CNA.
The new rules govern the way funds for causes of canonization or beatification are both established and managed, particularly for what is called the “Roman phase” of cause.
The Roman phase follows the initial collection of evidence of the person’s life and sanctity at the diocesan level, as well as the preparation of a “position” paper, which is frequently thousands of pages long and includes the details of the proposed saint’s earthly life. The report is then presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which takes over for the “Roman phase” of the process.
The rules call for an administrator to be named by the “actor” of the cause, meaning the entity who initially asked the Church to open it. The person nominated can also be the postulator of the cause, and must be approved by the local bishop.
One of the primary tasks of the administrator is manage the funds allocated for the cause, and to make sure the use of the money “scrupulously respects” the intention of the donors.
They will be required to keep updated accounts of the funds, and will also prepare an annual budget, financial statements, and a final balance sheet to be sent to the actor of the cause for approval. Once the actor approves it, they must also send a copy to the competent authorities overseeing the process, which can include diocesan bishops or religious superiors.
If the actor wishes to use a certain amount of the funds for something other than the cause itself, they must first obtain permission from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
As for the authorities supervising the process, the new rules allow for them to monitor both incoming and outgoing funds at all times. However, as the highest supervising authority, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints may ask the administrator for financial information and the relevant documentation on a cause at any time.
In the case of defaults or financial abuses, the new norms allow for the congregation to intervene with disciplinary procedures.
The rules also lay out the way in which each cause will pay the congregation for its services in finalizing causes for beatification or canonization. Once the process is finished and a saint canonized, it is up to the congregation to decide how to use the remaining funds.
On that point, the norms have also set up a special “solidarity fund” which is supported by donations from other causes. The fund can be used to support causes with fewer donors, or which might be stalled due to a lack of resources.
Any appeals to use the Solidarity Fund must be made by the actor of a saint’s cause through the local bishop. The congregation will then evaluate request on a case by case basis.
Expenses are involved in the process of canonization because of the work involved in investigating the candidate's life and writings, gathering and evaluating testimonies, the involvement of medical experts in verifying miraculous healings, as well as the cost of celebrations of beatification or canonization.
Andrea Gagliarducci contributed to this report.