“Vatican court: Butler’s theft harmed pope, church” & related articles

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23 October 2012


Associated Press/Andrew Medichini, File – FILE – In this photo taken Wednesday, May, 23, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI, flanked by his private secretary Georg Gaenswein, top left, and his butler Paolo Gabiele, bottom …more

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican tribunal that convicted the pope’s ex-butler of stealing private papal correspondence sharply condemned the theft on Tuesday as causing “reprehensible” damage to the pontiff, the Holy See and the entire Catholic Church, and said investigations are continuing.

The three-judge tribunal issued its written explanation of how it reached its Oct. 6 verdict against Paolo Gabriele, who was convicted of aggravated theft and sentenced to 18 months in prison, currently being served under house arrest.

The Vatican spokesman, who had spoken previously of the “concrete” likelihood that Gabriele would be pardoned by the pope, backed off that assertion Tuesday after the written verdict was released, saying only it that a pardon was “possible.”

Gabriele confessed to photocopying papal documents and giving them to an Italian journalist, saying Pope Benedict XVI wasn’t being informed of the “evil and corruption” around him and that he believed that 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 he had thought he was doing the right thing by leaking the documents. But they said Gabriele’s crime was a “reprehensible” violation of trust that damaged the pope himself and the rights of the Holy See, the Vatican City state and the entire Catholic Church.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, noted that the investigation into Gabriele remains open and that prosecutors could charge him with other crimes.

The judges said Gabriele betrayed the good name of all the people involved in the case and also the secrecy that is owed to the pope in his role as a sovereign — a hint at the direction Vatican prosecutors might go if they pursue further charges.

Lombardi repeated that Benedict has the authority to pardon Gabriele. On Oct. 6 Lombardi had said a papal pardon was “concrete, likely” — though on Tuesday he would only say it was “a possibility” and that it wasn’t known if or when a pardon might be granted. He said his choice of words Tuesday was intentional.

Prosecutors have a few more days to decide whether or not to appeal the sentence, as they can do in the Vatican. Gabriele’s attorney has decided not to appeal.

Once the deadline passes, Gabriele will begin serving his sentence in a Vatican detention facility, Lombardi said. Previously the Vatican had said he would serve it in an Italian prison, given that the Vatican doesn’t have a long-term detention facility. Keeping him at the Vatican, though, would keep Gabriele under the watchful eyes of the Vatican police and away from a general Italian prison population, where he might talk.

Italian author Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book, “His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI’s Secret Papers” convulsed the Vatican for months and prompted an unprecedented response, with the pope naming a commission of cardinals to investigate the origin of the leaks alongside Vatican magistrates.

A co-defendant, Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer expert in the Vatican secretariat of state, was accused of aiding and abetting Gabriele’s crime. Through his lawyer he has said he is innocent. His trial is due to start Nov. 5, Lombardi said.

In their ruling, the judges said there was no proof that Gabriele had any accomplices. Nevertheless, they noted that investigations are continuing “into the existence of other possible responsibilities in the leaks of reserved documents.”

They confirmed the conviction of aggravated theft, rejecting the defense claim that Gabriele was merely guilty of “misappropriation” and detailing the way he violated the trust that had been granted him due to his position.

“Gabriele was able to commit the crime because of his relationship of service to the Holy Father, which is necessarily based on trust that allowed the pope to leave in his care documents that he illegally approrpriated,” the judges wrote.

They said that while Gabriele himself may not have profited financially from stealing the documents, he obtained an “intellectual and moral” profit by doing so — a legal requirement to finding him guilty of theft.

Despite the violation, the judges said they could exclude that Gabriele was in general a criminal and, based on the length of his sentence, rejected the prosecutors’ request that he be barred from work in any Vatican public office.

Gabriele, a 46-year-old father of three, is a Vatican citizen and resident of the Vatican city state. Lombardi said he didn’t know if he was continuing to draw a salary or whether he would continue to be granted Vatican citizenship.


Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield


‘Simplistic’ Pope’s butler violated Pope’s right to ‘secrecy’

The Belfast Telegraph

6:03PM BST 23 Oct 2012

By  Nick Squires, Rome

The three judges on Tuesday released their legal explanation for why they found Paolo Gabriele, 46, guilty of aggravated theft and sentenced him to 18 months in detention.

The butler, a once-trusted confidant of Benedict XVI, had “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 in a 15-page ruling.

But they denied suspicions of a wider conspiracy at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church, insisting that he was of “simplistic” intellectual capacity and that the plot had not involved senior figures in the Vatican.

Ever since the scandal broke early this year, the Vatican has been at pains to portray Gabriele as a misguided loner who received no backing from cardinals, bishops or other senior insiders.

The judges, who found Gabriele guilty on Oct 6 at the end of a week-long trial, said that by stealing compromising documents, some of them from the desk of the Pope himself, he had done “reprehensible” damage to Benedict, the Vatican and the entire Catholic Church.

In the hope of exposing the “evil and corruption” that he saw in the Vatican, he passed the documents on to an investigative journalist who published them in a book that became a bestseller in Italy.

Gabriele is currently serving his sentence under house arrest in the Vatican apartment he shares with his wife and three children.

He had been expected to receive a swift pardon from the Pope but that has not yet been granted and Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, backtracked on a previous prediction that the pardon was all but guaranteed.

If he is not pardoned, Mr Gabriele will serve out the rest of the sentence in a specially outfitted cell in the barracks of the Vatican gendarmerie, the city state’s tiny police force.

The Vatican had previously said it had no such facility and that he would be sent to an Italian prison.

Investigations into the theft of documents, dubbed Vatileaks, were continuing, Father Lombardi said, without offering further details of who might be under suspicion.

The Vatican announced that the only other person so far arrested in the scandal, a computer expert in the secretariat of state, will go on trial on Nov 5 charged with aiding and abetting.

The trial of Claudio Sciarpelletti, who has proclaimed his innocence, is expected to be even briefer than that of the butler, as the Vatican tries to draw a line under the whole affair after months of damaging revelations.


Butler Gabriele sentence unlikely to end Pope scandal

BBC News, Vatican City

06 October 2012

By David Willey

Paolo Gabriele’s trial has hijacked the Vatican’s autumn religious news agenda

The 18-month prison sentence handed down by the Vatican City criminal court on Pope Benedict’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, may mark not the end but the beginning of a complex story of betrayal and discontent at the very heart of the Catholic Church.

Some of the hundreds of sensitive documents stolen from the Pope’s desk over an extended period found their way into the Italian mainstream media and into a bestselling book earlier this year.

Pope Benedict wanted closure on the Gabriele case and he got it, only hours before the start of the most important Vatican event of the year, which begins on Sunday.

He has called a three-week long Synod of Bishops from around the world to advise him on how to spearhead what the Vatican is optimistically calling “The New Evangelisation”.

This is code for a high-octane effort by the Catholic Church to counter the insidious spread of secularism within countries – particularly in Europe – that once confidently proclaimed themselves Catholic, but where Sunday mass attendance is now falling yearly to ever-lower levels.

The butler trial has hijacked the Vatican’s planned autumn religious news agenda and has concentrated world attention on yet another episode contributing to the credibility crisis affecting the Holy See.

Lucrative offers

Sunday’s edition of the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, predictably put a brief report on the butler trial at the bottom of its back page.

In theory, under a treaty signed between the Vatican and Italy in 1929, people convicted of crimes carried out in Vatican territory serve their sentences in Italian jails, as there are no suitable long-term detention facilities within Vatican City State.

The former butler is not expected to appeal against his sentence

But if Gabriele, a Vatican citizen, were to be transferred to a jail in Italy, he might be tempted by lucrative offers to reveal other details about what he learned while in the Pope’s service.

His lawyer has indicated that the former butler does not intend to appeal and is ready to serve his sentence by remaining under house arrest in his “grace and favour” apartment situated inside the walls of Vatican City.

However, a second embarrassing trial looms.

In about a month, the Vatican court is due to hear the case against Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer technician who worked in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State – the equivalent of the papal Cabinet Office.

He was originally charged with aiding and abetting Mr Gabriele in his theft of documents, but the Vatican judges decided to hold his trial separately.

Mr Sciarpelletti has called as one of his witnesses the first upper-level cleric – other than the Pope’s personal secretary – to give evidence in the Vatileaks scandal. He’s an Italian monsignor in charge of documentation in the Secretariat of State.

The Vatican prosecutor is also considering further possible, and more serious, charges against both Paolo Gabriele and Claudio Sciarpelletti – including violation of state secrets and attacking state security. These would involve heavier punishments than for aggravated theft.

The newly-appointed Vatican communications strategist, Greg Burke, formerly a Fox News TV correspondent, admits that the Pope has personally been very upset about the Vatileaks scandal.

He told the BBC: “There are four or five people in the world who have the chance every day to talk to the Pope and get five minutes of him with no distractions. Paolo Gabriele could have done it that way. Instead, he went off and caused the scandal that it became.”


Pope ex-butler Paolo Gabriele guilty of theft

BBC News Europe

6 October 2012

Pope Benedict’s ex-butler Paolo Gabriele has been found guilty of stealing confidential papers and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Prosecutors had called for a three-year sentence but it was reduced because of “mitigating circumstances”.

Speaking before the verdict, he said he acted out of love for the Church and did not see himself as a thief.

The BBC’s Alan Johnston said there would very likely be an appeal, but this had not yet been confirmed by Mr Gabriele’s defence counsel.

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