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Vatican Case Raises Questions Over Whether Butler Really Did It

The San Francisco Chronicle

Jeffrey Donovan, ©2012 Bloomberg News

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29 (Bloomberg) — The Vatican is conducting a widening probe into leaked documents that prompted the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI’s butler last week in a case local media have compared to an Agatha Christie novel.

The Vatican yesterday ruled out any involvement in the investigation of a cardinal or a woman, after newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Stampa reported that the butler hadn’t acted alone and that a cardinal, the Roman Catholic Church’s highest rank after the pope, was also among the suspects.

The pope is “aware of the delicate situation going on inside the Curia,” or the Holy See’s government, spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters. “No cardinal or woman is under investigation,” said Lombardi, who is due to brief the press again today after 12 p.m. in Rome.

Italian media have offered contradictory versions of the events behind the May 25 arrest of Paolo Gabriele, the butler found in possession of classified documents. The case has often been portrayed as part of a palace intrigue pitting loyalists of an increasingly isolated Benedict, 85, against Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s de facto prime minister.

“It’s right out of an Agatha Christie novel,” Rome daily Il Foglio said.
Vatican Bank

It began last week when Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was ousted as head of the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, or IOR. Gotti Tedeschi, who had been trying to bring the bank into line with global-transparency standards, was removed in a no-confidence vote by the IOR board for having failed “to carry out various duties of primary importance,” Lombardi said in a statement on May 24.

The next day, Gabriele was arrested in a case Lombardi said had nothing to do with Gotti Tedeschi, an executive with Banco Santander SA who also teaches financial ethics at Milan’s Catholic University.

Gabriele has so far been charged with “aggravated theft,” Lombardi said yesterday. Many secret Vatican papers came to light this month with the publication in Italy of “The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI,” a book by Gianluigi Nuzzi that aimed to expose Bertone’s growing influence.

The butler wasn’t acting alone and high-ranking clerics were also involved in the leaking operation as part of an attempt to protect the pope from Bertone’s machinations, Repubblica daily reported, citing an unidentified person involved in the effort. Gotti Tedeschi’s removal was also orchestrated by Bertone, the person was cited today as saying.

According to the IOR’s Supervisory Board, Gotti Tedeschi exhibited shortcomings in nine areas including not attending board meetings and poor communication with its members, lack of prudence in comments about the bank, failure to explain the “dissemination” of documents in his possession and “progressively erratic behavior.” The board made public its criticism in a nine-point statement on May 24.

Carl Anderson, an American who’s secretary of the board, has denied that Gotti Tedeschi’s dismissal had anything to do with the bank’s transparency efforts. “We confirm our decisive commitment to transparency, which isn’t under discussion,” he told La Stampa in an interview on May 26.

Moneyval, a Council of Europe committee that evaluates anti-money-laundering measures, is due to meet with Vatican officials in July to determine whether the city-state should be put on the EU’s financial-transparency “white list.”

The pope has so far not directly commented on the events of the last week. Buffeted by other crises including a global priestly pedophilia scandal, the pope told faithful in St. Peter’s Square on May 26 that “a wind is shaking the House of God” even as it’s “built on a rock.”

The investigation of the butler and the leaked papers is being overseen by a panel of cardinals “who are continuing their work, carrying out talks within the time required by the investigation,” Lombardi said yesterday. “They won’t let themselves be pressured by the media.”

–Editors: Andrew Davis, Jerrold Colten, Marco Bertacche

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeffrey Donovan in Rome at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at


Pope ‘hurt’ by arrest of butler in case of stolen documents

The Republic (Colombus, Indiana)

By Peter Mayer  dpa

First Posted: May 28, 2012 – 11:11 am

Last Updated: May 28, 2012 – 6:01 pm

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has been left “hurt” by the arrest last week of his butler on charges of stealing papal documents, the pontiff’s spokesman said Monday.

The 85-year-old Benedict “is conscious of the seriousness of the situation,” but is drawing strength from “the faith which characterizes him,” Father Federico Lombardi said.

Lombardi also denied media reports that the Vatican had placed other people under investigation since Paolo Gabriele’s arrest on Friday.

Gabriele, 46, a Vatican citizen, was formally charged with theft, after several documents was discovered in the flat he shares with his wife and three children.

Several Italian newspapers reported at the weekend that an Italian cardinal and a woman working in the papal household were also being treated as suspects.

But Lombardi described the reports as “pure fantasy.”

He also said that Gabriele’s arrest was not linked to the dismissal Thursday of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican bank, which is officially known as the Institute for Religious Works.

Gotti Tedeschi was ousted by the board for, among other things, reportedly failing to explain how documents in his possession were leaked to the media.

“The developments are distinct,” Lombardi said.

“Until (Vatican investigating) magistrates have shed complete light on this shocking event, no one can exclude scenarios such as conspiracies or organized plots,” said Sarah, one of the top African clerics at the Vatican.

Among the documents found in Gabriele’s flat were copies of letters sent to the pontiff that appeared in Italian newspapers in recent months, including several also contained in a book, “Santita” (Holiness), by investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi that went on sale in the country last week.

In some of the leaked documents, senior clerics wrote to the pontiff to alert him of cases of alleged cronyism and corruption in Vatican contracts.

The documents also indicated the possible existence of a power struggle involving clerics opposed to the Vatican’s second highest official, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and those loyal to him.

A senior Vatican cardinal said in an interview published Monday that Holy See investigators are trying to determine whether Gabriele had acted alone or was part of a wider conspiracy.

“Let’s hope … that the arrest is an isolated case and that there are no other traitors plotting against the Vatican,” Cardinal Robert Sarah told the La Repubblica daily.

“Until (Vatican investigating) magistrates have shed complete light on this shocking event, no one can exclude scenarios such as conspiracies or organized plots,” said Sarah, one of the top African clerics at the Vatican.

A Guinean who heads the Holy See’s department responsible for overseeing missionary work and relief operations, Sarah said he and his fellow clerics were “astonished and deeply saddened,” by last week’s arrest.

Since there are no prison cells in the Vatican, Gabriele is being held in one of the three so-called secure rooms in the offices of the Vatican Gendarmerie, the 150-man strong police force inside the walled city-state.

In his book, Nuzzi, identified his main source only by the name “Maria,” describing him as a Vatican employee who after more than 20 years of service had decided to blow the whistle on Vatican “hypocrisy.”


Vatican Allows That Butler Scandal Is Hurting Trust

The New York Times

Published: May 28, 2012


The Vatican acknowledged Monday that the newest crisis in Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy was damaging trust in the church, even as it tried to contain a scandal that has sent the Italian news media into a frenzy since the pope’s butler was arrested days ago and accused of leaking the pontiff’s confidential correspondence.

Italian news media have suggested that the butler, Paolo Gabriele, could not — and would not — have acted alone, and several newspapers suggested that a cardinal was the guiding force behind the dissemination of the documents.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, on Monday dismissed those news reports as “unfounded speculations” that were causing the church harm. “There is no cardinal under suspicion,” he said flatly.

“It is painful to see such a negative image” emerge of the Holy See, Father Lombardi told reporters hastily convened for a briefing. The scandals “put trust in the church and the Holy See to the test.” He added, “That’s why we must confront them directly and not hide.”

The arrest last Wednesday of Mr. Gabriele in connection with the illegal possession of confidential documents was the latest act in a scandal called Vatileaks, which has been punctuated by the periodic release of correspondence laying bare conflicts and clashes within the Holy See, including internal accusations of cronyism and corruption.

News of Mr. Gabriele’s arrest capped a turbulent stretch of days in which the president of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was dismissed by the bank’s board, which accused him of failing to do his job, acting erratically and not attending board meetings, according to a memorandum by the board published in the Italian news media over the weekend. The board also suggested that Mr. Gotti Tedeschi might have leaked some of the documents himself.

Mr. Gabriele, who has been the pope’s butler since 2006, is being held in a Vatican detention facility and on Monday morning he met with this wife and his lawyers. One lawyer, Carlo Fusco, said that his client would “cooperate fully” with Vatican magistrates investigating the leaked documents.


Q&A on the Vatican’s ‘butler did it’ story

The National Catholic Reporter

on May. 27, 2012

by John L Allen Jr


Given intense interest in the arrest of a papal butler charged with being at least one of the moles responsible for the Vatican leaks scandal, I’ll list below the five most common questions I’ve fielded, along with my best stab at a response.

1. Who is this guy?

Paolo Gabriele is a 46-year-old Italian layman, with a wife and three children, who’s worked in the papal apartment since 1998. Gabriele was hired by the personal secretary of Pope John Paul II, Stanislaw Dziwisz, today the cardinal of Krakow. Gabriele’s role was mostly to see to the pope’s clothing, to serve his meals, and to be on hand for other personal needs. He performed the same functions for John Paul and Benedict when they were on the road, travelling on the papal plane.

As such, Gabriele was one of just a handful of people who enjoy direct daily access to the pope, along with Benedict’s two priest-secretaries and the four consecrated lay women belonging to the Memores Domini community who do most of the cooking and cleaning. Benedict XVI, who puts great emphasis on fostering a family spirit among his closest aides, would doubtless see Gabriele as a member of his personal family.

Gabriele, known around the Vatican as “Paoletto” (“little Paul”), has the reputation of being a devout and fairly simple person, not someone who would ordinarily be suspected of involvement in high intrigue.

2. What’s the evidence against him?

Officials familiar with the case say it’s almost a slam-dunk, given that a search of Gabriele’s Vatican apartment turned up stacks of confidential documents along with equipment for making reproductions. Because the Vatican doesn’t have a jail, Gabriele has been detained in one of three secure rooms in the offices of the Vatican gendarmes, a space more often used to accommodate pick-pockets arrested for fleecing the large crowds of tourists on Vatican grounds before they’re turned over to Italian authorities.

When the Vatican leaks scandal first erupted earlier this year, at least three different Vatican inquests didn’t make much headway. This week, however, the Italian journalist who first rolled out several of the leaks on his prime-time TV show, Gianluigi Nuzzi, published a book called His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, collecting the previously leaked documents and adding new ones. Among the additions were apparently some documents that had never left the papal apartment, allowing investigators to narrow their search.

In terms of where things go from here, an investigation by a Vatican judge is currently on-going, which will end either in a decision to dismiss the charges against Gabriele or to bind him over for trial. Although initial news reports suggested that Gabriele might be charged with the crime of illegal possession of documents of a head of state, which under Vatican law carries a prison term of 30 years, the Vatican spokesperson said on Saturday that so far the plan is only to charge him with “aggravated theft.”

If Gabriele is eventually convicted, the Vatican would likely petition Italy to enforce any prison sentence, under diplomatic agreements that envision enforcement of one another’s laws.

For the record, some skeptics are saying that the evidence against Gabriele may be a little too strong. Given that everyone in the Vatican has known for some time that a ferocious mole-hunt was underway, some wonder how likely it is that the “deep throat” would actually keep such incriminating material in his own Vatican apartment. Under this hypothesis, there may be some innocent explanation for how the documents and equipment got into Gabriele’s apartment – for instance, that he was holding it for someone else.

3. If Gabriele did it, what were his motives?

The answer, for now, is that we simply don’t know. So far, three basic possibilities have emerged.

The “whistle blower” theory: In his now #1 best-selling book in Italy, Nuzzi referred to his source under the code name “Maria,” and depicted the person as motivated by a conviction that too many secrets had been amassed that needed to be brought into the open. So far, Nuzzi has not commented on whether or not Gabriele was that source, saying only that the individual worked “inside the Vatican.”

The “payoff” theory: Some have speculated that whoever is behind the Vatican leaks scandal was getting paid for providing the documents, either by news outlets or by someone else whose interests were served by the leaks. Most people who know Gabriele, however, say there’s little evidence that he’s had any sudden infusion of cash, and they also say he seemed an unlikely candidate to take payola.

The “put up to it” theory: Many observers believe that if Gabriele was the source of the leaked documents, he’s unlikely to have acted on his own. In part, that’s because some of the leaks seemed timed to inflict maximum damage, and it’s not clear that a simple assistant in the papal household would have such a sophisticated grasp of Vatican politics. According to this theory, someone higher up the food chain is the real director of the drama.

4. If this is really a plot, who’s the target?

Since the eruption of the leaks scandal in January, many observers have suspected that the ultimate aim is to undercut the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The Vatican has a president/prime minister structure, with the pope as the head of state and the secretary of state as the head of government. Bertone, a longtime friend and aide to Benedict XVI, has occupied that “prime minister” position since September 2006.

In terms of why Bertone would be targeted, once again there are three main theories.

The “power politics” theory: In Italian ecclesiastical circles, the job of secretary of state is often considered the ultimate prize – more sought-after, in some cases, than the papacy itself. According to this theory, the aim would be to sufficiently weaken Bertone that Benedict would feel compelled to remove him, opening the door for someone else to ascend.

The “payback” theory: Some believe that if there’s indeed a campaign against Bertone, its roots are in some contentious policy choice – perhaps the way he’s replaced the Italian bishops’ conference as the primary interlocutor with the Italian government, perhaps his attempted take-over of a major Italian Catholic hospital and university system, perhaps something else.

The “lost confidence” theory: According to this view, elements in the Vatican frustrated with what they perceive as a pattern of mismanagement under Bertone have lost confidence in him, and believe that the only exit strategy is to force him out. Elements of that supposed pattern, according to this theory, would be the holocaust-denying bishop affair of 2009, the scandals surrounding Italian journalist Dino Boffo in 2010, the handling of the sexual abuse crisis, and various other crises which have erupted on Bertone’s watch.

5. How bad is all this for the Vatican?

With respect to Gabriele, it’s too early to say how damaging his arrest may be for the Vatican, because we don’t yet know if others were involved or what his motives were. If Gabriele acted alone, and for relatively straight-forward reasons, than the worst of it may be over.

As far as the broader leaks scandal, it’s seriously damaging to the Vatican for at least three reasons.

In the outside world: The eruption of yet another scandal makes it virtually impossible to tell any other story that the Vatican might like to focus on – the suffering of Christian martyrs around the world, for instance, or Benedict’s call for a “New Evangelization.” In particular, the Vatican currently is hoping to be included on the “white list” of countries that comply with international norms in the fight against money-laundering and the financing of terrorism. The release of documents alleging corruption and cronyism in Vatican finances, even if spokespersons insist they’re exaggerated or inaccurate, doesn’t help make that case.

In the church: Perceptions of a crisis of governance in the Vatican reduce confidence across the system, so it becomes harder for the Vatican to convince bishops and other church leaders to follow their lead. Some might see that as a contribution to decentralization, but it also makes it more difficult for the Vatican to get the church moving in the same direction, or to exercise behind-the-scenes influence in a thorny local situation. Over time, it could also affect the Vatican’s ability to generate resources or to attract quality personnel.

In the Vatican itself: The Vatican is an institution that runs on trust. Personal relationships tend to drive how things get done, as opposed to flow charts or systems theory. The leaks scandal has poisoned the air, making it more difficult for Vatican personnel to know who they can really trust. If a member of the pope’s own household could be engaged in skullduggery, many may wonder if there’s anyone truly above suspicion.

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