VATICAN CITY // The Vatican tribunal that convicted the pope's former butler of stealing private papal correspondence sharply condemned the theft yesterday, saying it harmed the pope, the Holy See and the entire Roman Catholic Church.
The three-judge tribunal issued its written explanation of how it reached its October 6 ruling against Paolo Gabriele, who was convicted of aggravated theft and sentenced to 18 months, currently being served under house arrest.
Gabriele confessed to photo-copying papal documents and giving them to an Italian journalist, saying Pope Benedict XVI was not being informed of the "evil and corruption" around him and that he believed exposing the problems publicly would put the church back on the right track.
The revelations of petty bureaucratic infighting, intrigue and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons marked the biggest Vatican security breach in modern times.
Noting what they called Gabriele's "simplistic" intellectual capacity, the judges acknowledged that Gabriele thought he was doing the right thing by leaking the documents. But they said his theft damaged the pope and the rights of the Holy See, the Vatican City state and the entire church.
"In particular, Gabriele's actions violated not just the fundamental right to a good name and reserve owed all involved, but also the secrecy of actions owed to a sovereign," the judges wrote.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said prosecutors have a few more days to decide whether or not to appeal the sentence. Gabriele's attorney has already decided not to appeal.
Once the deadline passes, Gabriele will begin serving his sentence. Previously the Vatican had said he would serve it in an Italian prison, given the Vatican does not have a long-term detention facility. But the Rev Lombardi said yesterday he would serve it in the Vatican, where he spent the first two months of detention after his May 23 arrest.
Pope Benedict could still pardon Gabriele. The Vatican had said a pardon was "concrete, likely" - though yesterday the Rev Lombardi only said it was "a possibility" and that no timeline was possible.
He said yesterday his choice of words was intentional.