Vatileaks: the plot thickens
It has just been announced that the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, has been arrested on suspicion of leaking confidential documents and letters to some sections of the press. The documents were taken from the Pope's own private studio, access to which Gabriele had a plenty.
As one can very well understand, in the words of one source, the Pope was "saddened and shocked" by this "painful case."
The story has been going on for months. Journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi had triggered a furore when last January he published a number of Vatican memos. Vatican insiders have been convinced that the "Vatileaks" scandal has been orchestrated by some more senior official, as part of a struggle for power within the Vatican. Observers had said that the multiple leaks were clearly designed to undermine the authority of the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone.
One of the documents leaked was a confidential letter regarding an alleged unsuccessful effort by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to take over Milan's University of the Sacred Heart.
According to the leaks, Pope Benedict blocked the move by his Secretary of State, siding with Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan.
Other documents were written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano when he was secretary-general of the Governor's Office of Vatican City State. These letters warned of corruption, abuse of power, a lack of transparency in awarding contracts at inflated prices and opposition to financial reforms. In one letter, Vigano wrote of a smear campaign against him by other Vatican officials who were upset that he had taken drastic steps to clean up the purchasing procedures. He begged to stay in the job to finish what he had started. Vigano was removed from his position three years before the end of his tenure and was sent to the United States, despite his strong resistance.
The continuous leaks were considered so serious that Pope Benedict had set up a high powered commission to investigate the matter and try to discover who was responsible for these leaks. The commission was expected to look into the possibility of taking legal action against those who leaked the documents to the media, if and when caught. An administrative review of every Vatican office was also to be carried out.
The matter was given a twist to the worse when, a few days ago, the same Gianluigi Nuzzi, published his book - His Holiness - consisting of more correspondence to and from Pope Benedict XVI. Much of the documentation was about Italian issues: the memos about a 2009 controversy over the ex-editor of the Catholic paper L'Avvenire; the memos about Benedict's lunch with the Italian president; and a 2011 letter from Bruno Vespa to the Pope enclosing a check for 10,000 € for his charity work – and asking for a private audience. There was a memo sent to the Pope before his meeting with President Obama, diplomatic cables from Vatican embassies from Jerusalem to Cameroon, and cables with the conclusions of the Pope's delegate about Legion of Christ religious order.
This is not the first time that there were leaks from the Vatican. One of the most scandalous was the leaking of photos of Pope Pius XII on his death bed. It transpired that the photos were taken by the Pope's doctor and sold to the media. However there was nothing as widespread as this spate of leaks.
Though the whole affair is saddening one should not be too surprised that such things do in fact happen. The Vatican bureaucracy is quite big. One is bound to find some bad apples among all those employees.
The big question now is whether Gabriele was working on his own and did was he did for the money the media gave him or whether he was a pawn in a much larger power game.