Blog Post

Beware of the Media Hysterics Surrounding VatiLeaks

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

It's becoming increasing difficult to discern between the facts and the usual media hysterics surrounding the growing Vatileaks scandal which reached new heights this week with the arrest of the pope's butler for allegedly leaking papal documents to the Italian press.

Although the Vatican has acknowledged that the leaking of these documents, which allegedly expose corruption in the Church's financial dealings within Italy, will test the faith of Catholics in their Church, an official investigation into the affair has yet to confirm any of the wild allegations being tossed around in the media.

It all started last week when the head of the Vatican's bank was abruptly dismissed. According to the Catholic News Agency (CNA), Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, 67, was removed as president of the Vatican Bank May 24, following a no confidence vote by the other four board members. Tedeschi served as the head of the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion, since 2009. The reasons for his dismissal were outlined in an explanatory note by board member and head of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson, which cited him for his “failure to carry out basic duties,” “abandoning and failing to attend meetings,” the “dissemination of inaccurate information regarding the Institute,” “polarizing the Institute and alienating personnel,” and “progressively erratic personal behavior.”

At about the same time, authorities arrested Paolo Gabriele, the pope's private butler. This arrest was the culmination of several months of investigation into what has come to be known as “Vatileaks” in which numerous confidential documents about alleged corruption in the Church's financial dealings were passed on to the Italian media.

These leaks became a sensation when they were published in a book written by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi entitled Sua Santita (His Holiness). Among other leaked documents, his book contained personal letters to the Pope. Nuzzi's claims to have more than one source of information from inside the Vatican launched a new round of wild speculation about possible plotting and conspiracies among Cardinals vying for power in the Holy See.

The Italian media has gone so far as to claim that, according to other whistleblowers in the Vatican, the pope's butler was arrested because the Church did not dare to implicate the cardinals who were behind the leaks.

"There are leakers among the cardinals but the Secretariat of State could not say that, so they arrested the servant, Paolo, who was only delivering letters on behalf of others," claimed one of the so-called "leakers" to the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica.

This led to speculation of a widespread power struggle between the enemies and the allies of the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, which Reuters described as being "reminiscent of Renaissance conspiracies inside the Vatican."

Vatican Spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has "completely" denied that any Cardinals are currently being investigated by the Promoter of Justice, Nicola Picardi, and the Vatican Gendarmerie.

Lombardi also squashed rampant conjectures in the press about the Holy See targeting a "woman" who is allegedly very close to the Pope and in charge of coordinating some certain unspecified operations, calling these rumours “pure fantasy". Reports of police carting "cratefuls" of documents and even professional photography equipment supposedly found in the butler's Vatican apartment were declared false as well.

And then there are the women religious connected with the disgraced Leadership Council of Women Religious who have launched a global campaign to free the butler, claiming that Gabriele is a "political prisoner" and that the Vatican is "torturing" him.

" . . . (T)he Vatican is just as medieval as we have always said it was," said Sr. Randi McNulty, a Sister of Mercy, to the National Catholic Reporter. "This just proves it."

Beneath these hysterics are a few facts that should be kept in mind. The Pope took action against these leaks in April when he established a special commission of three cardinals, chaired by the Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, to investigate their source.

We also know that the chief prosecutor, Picardi, has completed the first phase of his investigation into the butler's activities, which resulted in Gabriele's arrest. The Vatican magistrate, Piero-Antonio Bonnett is in charge of carrying out the second phase of the investigation as to whether or not these charges should be tried in court or dropped.

None of us, including the press, will know the truth, until these investigations are complete.

Instead of behaving like people who have read too many Dan Brown novels, we need to remember that what the Church needs now is prayer.  "This is naturally something that can hurt the Church," Fr. Lombardi said, "and put trust in it and the Holy See to the test."

It has also deeply saddened our Holy Father, who Lombardi described as maintaining "the calm attitude and spiritual superiority that set him apart.” Everyone is working to “try to restore a climate of transparency, truth and trust, as soon as possible.”

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