Behind the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal

Giuseppe Cacace / AFP – Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves after a celebration at Milan’s Duomo as part of the 7th World Meeting of Families on Saturday.

ROME – The birds offered the first hint of danger in the tiny Vatican State. On Jan. 30, Pope Benedict XVI released the traditional two doves as “a sign of peace to the city of Rome and to the world” from his papal apartments. But instead of flying away, one hesitated for a long spell before flying off, and the other made a quick U-turn and flew right back into the room.

Could it be that they were scared of the crows hovering overhead? 

A crow, “corvo” in Italian, is a pejorative term for informants. And these days, there is no more famous informant than Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s butler who has recently been exposed as the source of confidential memos leaked to the Italian media since the beginning of the year. ) He was arrested last week, and he must have thanked God the days of the Inquisition are long gone; instead of being burned at the stake, he is being detained and questioned in a comfortable “security room” within the Vatican walls.  

The first question that investigators will probably be asking is if the butler was acting alone? Even the history of Christianity suggests that Judas didn’t act alone. So is there a Pontius Pilate or a Herod in this story? 

On Sunday, days after his arrest, more memos were leaked to the Italian daily La Repubblica, giving credit to the suspicion that Gabriele was just a pawn in a game of thrones in the Holy See, the “postman” at the service of much bigger players trying to shake up the very core of the Vatican’s center of power. 

New Vatican documents leaked; source calls pope’s butler a ‘scapegoat

But whoever the “judases” are, they didn’t betray the pope for monetary gain, but according to their own (anonymous) admission, they did it to “clean up house” and expose the abuse of power that is consumed on a daily basis within the Vatican walls by the closest aides of the pope. 

The main target of the memos is thought to be Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. He is accused by many in the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Curia of wielding too much power. Many of the leaked memos were directly or indirectly linked to him, and reveal an almost dictatorial role within the Vatican that goes beyond his role as the Vatican’s “prime minister.”  

Pool / Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican State Secretary Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, center, and the bishop of Milan Angelo Scola, right, attend a concert at Scala’s Theatre in Milan June 1, 2012.

On Monday evening, Bertone spoke out for the first time against the scandal that has been nicknamed “Vatileaks” during an interview with TG1, one of Italy’s biggest newscasts, and he didn’t mince his words. He called the leaks a “ferocious, biting and organized attack on the pope.” Bertone said however that the pope “is not letting himself be scared by these attacks, whatever their nature.”

Benedict has stood by him so far, and even sent out a strong message of unity by parading him along on his trip to the northern Italian city of Milan over the past weekend.   

But while Benedict and Cardinal Bertone try their best to prove that they are still in control despite the embarrassing scandal, the crows, it seems, are still flying overhead. 

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