x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pope's butler accused of leaking documents as Vatican reels in scandal

The arrest of Paolo Gabriele caps one of the most convulsive weeks in recent Vatican history and threw the Holy See into chaos as it tries to show the world it is serious about complying with international norms on financial transparency.

The Vatican's tumult began last weekend with the publication of a book of leaked documents of correspondence between Pope Benedict XVI and his private secretary. The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, is accused of being the key mole in the Vatican's inquisition.
The Vatican's tumult began last weekend with the publication of a book of leaked documents of correspondence between Pope Benedict XVI and his private secretary. The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, is accused of being the key mole in the Vatican's inquisition.

VATICAN CITY // The Vatican's inquisition into the source of leaked documents has resulted in the arrest of the pope's butler, but the investigation is continuing into a scandal that has embarrassed the Holy See by revealing power struggles, intrigue and corruption in the highest levels of the Catholic Church governance.

The detention of butler Paolo Gabriele capped one of the most convulsive weeks in recent Vatican history and threw the Holy See into chaos as it enters a critical phase in its efforts to show the world it is serious about complying with international norms on financial transparency.

The tumult began last weekend with the publication of a book of leaked Vatican documents including correspondence, notes and memos to the pope and his private secretary. It peaked with the inglorious ouster on Thursday of the president of the Vatican bank.

And it concluded with confirmation yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI's butler was the alleged mole feeding documents to Italian journalists in an apparent bid to discredit the pontiff's No 2.

"If you wrote this in fiction, you wouldn't believe it," said Carl Anderson, a member of the board of the Vatican bank which contributed to the whirlwind with its no-confidence vote in its president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. "No editor would let you put it in a novel."

The bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, issued a scathing denunciation of Mr Gotti Tedeschi in a memorandum. In it, the bank, or IOR by its Italian initials, explained its reasons for firing Mr Gotti Tedeschi: he routinely missed board meetings, failed to do his job, failed to defend the bank, polarised its personnel and displayed "progressively erratic personal behaviour." Mr Gotti Tedeschi also was accused by the board of leaking documents himself: The IOR memorandum said he "failed to provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last known" to be in his possession.

Mr Anderson said the latter accusation was independent of the broader "Vatileaks" scandal that has rocked the Vatican for months. Mr Gotti Tedeschi has not commented publicly about his ouster or the reasons behind it. He also hasn't been arrested, avoiding the fate that befell Mr Gabriele. The 46-year-old father of three has been in Vatican detention since Wednesday after Vatican investigators discovered Holy See documents in his apartment. Mr Gabriele, the pope's personal butler since 2006, has often been seen by Benedict's side in public, riding in the front seat of the pope's open-air jeep during Wednesday general audiences or shielding the pontiff from the rain. In private, he is a member of the small papal household that also includes the pontiff's private secretaries and four consecrated women who care for the papal apartment.

The "Vatileaks" scandal has seriously embarrassed the Vatican at a time when it is trying to show the world financial community that it has shed its reputation as a scandal-plagued tax haven.

Vatican documents leaked to the media in recent months have undermined that effort, alleging corruption in Vatican finance as well as internal bickering over the Holy See's efforts to comply with international norms to fight money laundering and terror financing. The Vatican in July will learn if it has complied with the financial transparency criteria of a Council of Europe committee, Moneyval - a key step in its efforts to get on the so-called "white list" of countries that share financial information to fight tax evasion.

The Vatileaks scandal began in January when Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi broadcast letters from the former No 2 Vatican administrator to the pope in which he begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in higher contract prices. The prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican's US ambassador.

Mr Nuzzi, author of Vatican SpA, a 2009 volume laying out shady dealings of the Vatican bank based on leaked documents, last weekend published His Holiness, which presented a trove of other documents including personal correspondence to the pope and his secretary - many of them painting Benedict's No 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light.

Mr Nuzzi has said he was offered the documents by multiple Vatican sources and insisted he didn't pay for any of them. Mr Gabriele was in Vatican custody and unavailable for comment. No known motive has come to light as to why Mr Gabriele, if he is found to be the key mole, might have passed on the documents. Nuzzi declined to comment Saturday on whether Mr Gabriele was among his sources.

Cardinal Bertone, 77, has been blamed for a series of gaffes and management problems that have plagued Benedict's papacy.