Pope Francis on Tuesday dismissed the entire leadership of the international charity wing of the Roman Catholic Church and appointed a commissioner to lead it, following allegations of mistreatment and abuse of employees.
The pontiff’s surprise decision was announced in a papal decree and involved the heads of Caritas Internationalis (CI), a Vatican-based confederation of 162 Catholic aid, development and social services organizations working in more than 200 countries with more than a million staff and volunteers.
Among those affected is Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the outgoing nominal president of Caritas who is often tipped to be the next pope. Tagle will remain in another role to assist the commissioner in maintaining relations with Caritas national offices and preparing for the election of new leaders in 2023.
A separate statement from the Vatican’s development department — which oversees CI — revealed that a review of the workplace environment by outside psychologists and management experts found the charity’s headquarters blighted by poor management practices and a toxic atmosphere.
“No evidence of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety emerged, but other important topics and areas requiring urgent attention emerged from the commission’s work,” the development office said in a statement.
“Real deficiencies in management and procedures were identified, which seriously undermined team spirit and staff morale,” it added.
It also noted that while “financial issues are well managed and fundraising targets are regularly met”, management norms and procedures require improvement.
Current and former staff members spoke to Reuters about alleged cases of favoritism, verbal abuse and overall mismanagement of human resources that led some employees to quit.
Two insiders and a former employee — who spoke on condition of anonymity — further disclosed that the order targeted the management practices of the outgoing secretary general’s office and the board.
A former CI employee said headquarters staff resigned because of a climate of bullying, fear and “ritual humiliation.”
A CI spokesman referred all questions to a statement from the Vatican department.