Giorgio Bongiovanni

San Giovanni di Polcenigo-PN (Italy)
31st May 2012

Vatican Has Long History Of Intrigue And Controversy

VATICAN CITY, June 1 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict is fighting the worst crisis of his papacy, but his problems are only the latest in a long history of controversies and intrigue in the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

The "Vatileaks" scandal, in which the pope's private papers are alleged to have been pilfered by his own butler, pales in comparison to the scandals of centuries past when popes were accused of violence, nepotism and sexual excesses.
Pope Benedict has angrily charged that "totally gratuitous" accounts in the media "offer an image of the Holy See which does not correspond to reality."

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the third-ranking official in the world's smallest state, bemoaned the "distorted image" presented of the Vatican and said the internal debates revealed by the documents were perfectly normal in any organisation.
"We are not mummies," he said with the kind of historical allusion that seems to come naturally in the corridors of the world's oldest continually operating institution.

But the allegations have caused a sensation round the world and defied Vatican attempts to play down their importance.
Italian newspapers have devoted pages and pages to the crisis, often with graphics showing the exact layout of the pope's apartment or a bird's-eye view of Vatican City, although written reports have often been highly speculative in the face of the Holy See's deep secrecy.
Although it is rare, leaking confidential documents is nothing new. Secret papers from the First Vatican Council of 1869-1870, which defined the doctrine of papal infallibility, ended up in German newspapers.
A highly sensitive papal commission report approving artificial birth control was leaked in 1967, a year before Pope Paul VI rejected its findings and issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae upholding an earlier ban on contraception.

The privacy of the pope's own apartment has also been violated before. In 1958, papal doctor Riccardo Galeazzi-Lisi managed to snap pictures of Pope Pius XII on his deathbed and sell them to gossip magazines in Italy.
"I was not surprised at all when I heard about it," Frank Coppa, a Church historian at St John's University in New York, said about the "Vatileaks" scandal.

Intrigue seems encouraged by the Vatican's organisational model, which borrowed from Renaissance royal courts and shields its inner workings from outside scrutiny.
A remnant of the time when the popes were also temporal rulers over Rome and parts of Italy, the tiny city-state is headquarters for the 1.2-billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, the world's largest. As the Catholic saying goes, "the Church is not a democracy."

"The Vatican has an unmatched capacity to draw a veil of secrecy over its doings," said Thomas F.X. Noble, a papal history expert at Notre Dame University in Indiana.
"It lacks the kind of transparency that we associate with government and corporations in the modern world."
A case in point is the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, which - despite recent progress in embracing the Internet and livening up its drab format - waited almost a week before mentioning that papal butler Paolo Gabriele had been arrested for stealing documents that allege corruption in awarding infrastructure contracts.

In recent decades, the culture of secrecy helped mask the clerical sexual abuse of minors and the quiet reassignment of predator priests. It has also prompted charges that the Vatican bank laundered money and secretly funded projects abroad.
But all this is nothing compared to more ancient scandals.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Renaissance popes bribed their way into office, openly kept mistresses and families and appointed young nephews as cardinals.

Alexander VI, whose pontificate from 1492 to 1503 is generally agreed to have been the worst ever, was said to have presided over more orgies than Masses.
He came from the notorious Borgia family, who have been accused of adultery, rape, incest and murder. Alexander is said to have died from eating a poisoned apple.

Sixtus IV built the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican archives during his 1471-1484 pontificate, but also made six of his nephews cardinals and was involved in a murder plot.
One of the nephews, Julius II, was patron to renowned artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael between 1503 and 1513 and commissioned St Peter's Basilica.

But the budgetary wizardry he used to finance it backfired disastrously. He raised funds by selling indulgences to reduce punishment for sinners, a practice that so shocked Martin Luther that he broke with Rome and launched the Protestant Reformation. (Editing by Barry Moody and Jon Boyle)


In Vatican Whodunit, a Punch Line of a Suspect

Published: May 25, 2012

ROME ? A mysterious source named Maria. A room furnished with a single chair where sensitive Vatican documents are turned over to an investigative journalist at regular meetings. The arrest of the pope?s butler. Perhaps the greatest breach in centuries in the wall of secrecy that surrounds the Vatican.
An on-again-off-again scandal that the Italian press has called VatiLeaks burst into the open on Friday with the arrest by Vatican gendarmes of a man, identified in news reports as Paolo Gabriele, the pope?s butler, who the Vatican said was in possession of confidential documents and was suspected of leaking private letters, some of which were addressed to Pope Benedict XVI.
The arrest follows by a day the ouster of the president of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, amid conflicts over how to bring the secretive institution in line with international transparency standards and days after the publication of a sensational book, ?Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI,? in which the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, aided by ?Maria,? discloses a huge cache of private Vatican correspondence, many revealing clashes over the management at the Vatican bank and allegations of corruption and cronyism.
The letters, which have made their way into the Italian news media in recent months, draw a portrait of an ancient institution in chaotic disarray behind its high, stately walls, where various factions vie for power, influence and financial control in the twilight years of Benedict?s papacy.
?Of course there are problems, big problems,? said Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican expert for the Italian daily La Stampa and its Web site, Vatican Insider. ?What is happening now shows that there?s a crisis.?
It was not clear whether the bank president?s ouster and the arrest of the man found with confidential documents were directly related, although Mr. Nuzzi?s book includes various memos from Mr. Gotti Tedeschi about the Vatican bank.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, declined to identify the person who was arrested, saying only that he was not a priest or member of a religious order and that he had been detained for further investigation. (This year, the pope called for investigations into the leaks by the Vatican police and a committee of cardinals.)
But Italian news media reported that he was Mr. Gabriele, 40, and a butler in the papal household. Some publications even showed images of him holding a white umbrella above the pope and pouring him wine at dinner.
The twist that ?the butler did it? was fully worthy of a whodunit that began earlier this year when documents began appearing in the Italian press. In one, a Sicilian cardinal, writing in German in order to be more stealthy, said he had heard in China about a bizarre plot to kill the pope. At the time, Father Lombardi called the accounts ?delirious and incomprehensible.?
In another letter from 2011 that appeared in the Italian press this year and is also published in Mr. Nuzzi?s book, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigan?, then the deputy governor of Vatican City, wrote directly to Benedict. In it, he argued that transferring him to another post would impede his efforts to fight ?corruption and abuse? in various Vatican offices, sending the wrong signal about in his efforts to rein in cronyism in the awarding of contracts for construction work at the Vatican.
Nevertheless, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, named Archbishop Vigan? papal nuncio to Washington, where he has had to contend with multimillion-dollar lawsuits against American dioceses over the sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church, according to Mr. Nuzzi?s book.
At a news conference this week, Mr. Nuzzi said he believed that his source had been motivated by ?courage, as well as the unbearable complicity with people that are committing the most serious crimes.?
He added: ?I think that 20 years ago this book would have never come out. There are documents that hint at relations between states, and that?s why I think they are very relevant; they are not private documents regarding the Holy Father or one of the cardinals.?
The release of documents in which  Vatican officials discuss one of the great unsolved mysteries in Italy, the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee led to the reopening of a criminal investigation.
The book also provides a unique window into the nexus between Italian banking and media power and the Vatican. In one letter from last Christmas, Bruno Vespa, Italy?s most well-known television host, sent a check for $12,500 to the pope?s private secretary, Msgr. Georg G?nswein, ?a small sum at the disposal of the pope?s charity,? and asked when he could have a private audience. The director of Italy?s Intesa San Paolo bank, Giovanni Bazoli, sent a $32,000 check, ?with my most deferential salutations.?
Other letters addressed to Monsignor G?nswein are written in obsequious baroque Italian, in which everyone from Jesuits to officials in the government of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to Mercedes-Benz directors responsible for maintaining the popemobile write seeking favors, recommendations and most of all, the pope?s ear.
But other documents hint at more complex dealings. In one letter, Mr. Gotti Tedeschi defends himself to Monsignor G?nswein after he and another Vatican bank official had been placed under investigation by Rome magistrates in September 2010 for having failed to adequately explain the origins of funds transferred from one account held by the Vatican bank to two others it holds.
Since so many documents have been leaked from the Vatican this year, there were some doubts expressed that the butler arrested on Friday was the true ? or only ? source. ?It doesn?t seem likely that he is the only one responsible for VatiLeaks because many of the documents that came out didn?t ever pass through the pope?s apartment where he works,? said Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert for the Italian daily Il Foglio. ?His arrest seems more the Vatican?s desire to find a scapegoat.?
Cardinal Bertone has emerged as a central, contentious figure in the VatiLeaks drama. Many critics, including some inside the Vatican, see him as a poor administrator who as the Vatican?s C.E.O. has struggled to manage the scandal-ridden papacy of a German intellectual with little interest in day-to-day affairs of state. Vatican observers say that many of the leaked documents are aimed at undermining the cardinal?s influence.
That clash has played out most visibly in the controversy over the Vatican bank, which has struggled to comply with international standards to stop money laundering. Defenders of Mr. Gotti Tedeschi see him as trying to improve the transparency of the Vatican finances, while they see Cardinal Bertone as trying to impede his efforts.
In a statement on Thursday, the Vatican said simply that the five-member board of the Vatican bank had voted no confidence in Mr. Gotti Tedeschi ?for not having carried out functions of primary importance for his role.?
Others familiar with the Vatican bank said that Mr. Gotti Tedeschi had not been fully involved in its oversight because he maintained his full-time job as the head of Italian operations for Spain?s Banco Santander in Milan.
On Friday, Reuters reported that Mr. Gotti Tedeschi had said, ?I have paid for my transparency,? while the Ansa news agency reported that he was torn between ?telling the truth and not disturbing the pope.?
Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting.


Vatican leaks: No respite for Pope Benedict as more documents published

Butler Paolo Gabriele believed to be one of 20 whistleblowers trying to oust pontiff's prime minister, Tarcisio Bertone
Pope Benedict XVI may have been hoping for some respite from the scandal which has engulfed his papacy, with a visit this weekend to Milan, where he celebrated an outdoor mass for a million faithful and took in a performance of Beethoven's ninth at La Scala opera house.
For the 85-year-old pontiff, the three-day trip outside the Vatican walls was a break from the Vatileaks scandal, which has seen his butler, Paolo Gabriele, arrested on suspicion of disclosing dozens of embarrassing letters alleging corruption and nepotism at the Holy See.
Gabriele is believed to be one of up to 20 whistleblowers trying to oust Benedict's powerful prime minister, secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who has been accused of incompetence, covering up graft, and packing key Vatican posts with supporters.
The pope kept Bertone firmly at his side in Milan, sending a clear sign he is standing by his long-term collaborator, but the tension shows no sign of waning. On Sunday, La Repubblica published newly leaked Vatican correspondence with an anonymous covering note stating the whistleblowers still at large will not stop until Bertone ? and the pope's personal secretary Georg G?nswein ? are kicked out.
Gabriele, who was arrested in possession of crates of confidential letters addressed to the pope, has spent a week under guard in a "secure room" in the tiny city state and will be interrogated early this week. His lawyers are hinting he might name names.
"The Vatican is a hive of interests, different groups like Opus Dei and little transparency which heightens tension," said Gianluigi Nuzzi, the journalist who last month published the leaked letters in "Your Holiness", a book the Vatican describes as "criminal".
The stakes are high and time is short, since the winning side could have a huge say over who replaces the pontiff.
Letters published so far accuse Bertone of exiling a priest to a US post after he exposed graft at the Vatican and insinuate the cardinal was behind a gay whispering campaign against a newspaper editor.
But they also claim Bertone's biggest battles took place in Milan, involving high finance, a suicide, the Vatican's millions and the 77-year-old cardinal's alleged thirst for empire building outside the Holy See. "Bertone wanted to extend his authority beyond the Vatican and tighten his grip on Milan," Nuzzi told the Guardian.
In March 2011, Bertone abruptly fired Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the head of the Istituto Toniolo, a wealthy, religious foundation that controls the city's Cattolica university, an institution so influential three of its professors were appointed as minister in Mario Monti's technocrat government last November.
Bertone reportedly told Tettamanzi, a powerful former archbishop of Milan, he had Benedict's backing to sack him, but a furious Tettamanzi wrote directly to the pope demanding to know if Bertone had gone behind his back.
"This was a real clash of the titans," said Nuzzi of the battle, which ended with Tettamanzi resigning.
Next, Bertone allegedly ordered the head of the Vatican bank to bid for Milan's bankrupt San Raffaele hospital, founded by Don Luigi Verze, a confidant of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who enjoyed close ties to the Italian secret services. Wiretaps reveal he may have been linked to an alleged arson attack on a business rival.
By the time the Vatican bank chief, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, checked the hospital's books, the senior accountant had killed himself, debts of ?1.5bn were reported and a fraud inquiry was under way. Fearing what he would uncover, the Vatican banker refused to invest.
Lost in the news last week of the butler's arrest was the announcement that Gotti Tedeschi had been ousted by the board of the Vatican bank, a move seen by many as Bertone's revenge for his disobedience. Ironically, before he defied Bertone, Gotti Tedeschi had been among the cardinal's key appointments, one of many that reportedly rankled the Vatican's career staff of bureaucrats and diplomats.
Another criticism of Bertone is that he enjoyed too many foreign trips, yet while at home the Vatican stumbled from one gaffe to another. In 2007 the new archbishop of Warsaw withdrew an hour before his investiture when the Vatican realised he had spied for the communist police. After Benedict U-turned over bringing into the church a Holocaust-denying bishop, he was forced to admit a simple internet check would have revealed the man's credentials.
Italy's senior archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, stood at Bertone's side during this weekend's Milan papal visit, but in 2009 he was part of a group of senior churchmen who visited Benedict at his summer retreat reportedly to beg him to dump Bertone. The pontiff refused.
Two years later, the head of the Jesuits, Adolfo Nicol?s, wrote to the pope enclosing a letter he had received complaining of "paralysing fear" inside the Vatican, where "money plays a key role."
"I don't think Bertone is a thief, he is just not up to the job," said one Vatican analyst, who decline to be namedspeaking on condition of anonymity.
Bertone's foes may have been further riled after a list of new cardinals appointed this year contained several allegedly pro-Bertone figures, increasing his influence in the college of cardinals when it votes for Benedict's successor.
But despite the growing dissent, it is unlikely Benedict will drop Bertone. Abandoning the man he entrusted in 2006 to run the Vatican bureaucracy while he focused on doctrinal issues would only weaken the pope's authority.
"I would like to renew my trust and my encouragement to my closest collaborators and all those who every day, with faith, a spirit of sacrifice and in silence help me to perform my ministry," Benedict said at his weekly public audience last week, a clear sign that for now at least, Bertone is staying put.
Meanwhile, Vatican investigators are debating whether to ask magistrates to haul in Nuzzi for interrogation after he declined to name his sources. "What crime have I committed?" said Nuzzi. "I am not interested in where the letters came from, just the news they contain."

Pope's failure to reform Curia

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict in 2005, epithets like "God's Rottweiler" and "Panzerkardinal" suggested he would bring some German efficiency to the opaque Vatican bureaucracy, the Curia.
Instead, as the "Vatileaks" scandal has revealed, the head of the Roman Catholic Church can't even keep his own private mail secret. His hand-picked deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, faces a "monsignors' mutiny" by prelates in the halls of power.
Benedict's papacy has been marked until now by controversies over things he has said and done, such as his criticism of Islam at Regensburg in 2006 or his 2009 decision to readmit four excommunicated ultra-traditionalist bishops to the Church.
Now a goal he has failed to achieve -- gain control over the Curia -- has come back to haunt him. Leaks of confidential documents on everything from Vatican finances to private papal audiences make his papacy look weak and disorganized.
"We've almost forgotten that reform of the Curia was part of Benedict's program at the start," recalled Isabelle de Gaulmyn, who was Vatican correspondent for the French Catholic daily La Croix at the time.
"Seven years later, the Curia has never seemed as opaque, ineffective, closed and badly governed as it is today."
The "Vatileaks" scandal has revealed, among other issues, the infighting behind the sacking of the Vatican bank president. The pope's own butler has been arrested on suspicion of stealing documents that have since been leaked to the media.
The target seems to be Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state (prime minister), whose critics accuse him of playing politics and blocking their efforts to stamp out corruption and cronyism in Vatican management.
The Curia, a centuries-old bureaucracy dominated by Italian clerics, is essential to the success or failure of a papacy because it can effectively cancel or water down papal decisions if they go against long-standing interests or traditions.
Its name comes from the Latin word for a royal court and its jumble of overlapping departments, commissions and tribunals seems more suited to an intrigue-filled Renaissance monarchy than a modern and transparent democratic government.
The institution that gave the world the word "nepotism" is not always a model meritocracy either. Some officials are talented and dynamic while others are bureaucrats who seem to owe their posts more to connections than capabilities.
Each department has an advisory board of cardinals and bishops and those who sit on several boards can create powerful links that cut across department lines to influence policy.
Pressure for reform grew during the long reign of Pope John Paul. He announced changes in the 1980s to give local bishops more say in central policy-making, but focused more on his travel and preaching and did not really implement it.
Benedict was seen as the best man to reform it since he had been a Curia member since 1981 and reportedly knew it inside out. Now the task looks set to be handed on to his successor.
"I'm not sure anyone has ever really controlled it, or can control it," Thomas F.X. Noble, history professor at Notre Dame University in Indiana, said of the bureaucracy housed on the Vatican grounds and in office buildings nearby.
The Curia has held its own in Church power terms despite two non-Italian popes and the growing majority of Catholics from the developing world.
In February, the last time Benedict named new cardinals, 10 of the 18 who can vote for the next pope were Curia officials. That boosted their faction to 35 percent of the votes in the next conclave, meaning they will play an important role in the election and could try to win the papacy back for Italy.
Supporters of the tradition of Italian popes say only they know the culture well enough to control the Curia.
The crisis, which hurts Benedict's image as a leader just as he drives an increasingly conservative line in Church policy, is as much a result of the pope's diffident management style as of the institutional dysfunction of the Curia itself.
"He's a solitary scholar and he's not interested in the bureaucracy," said Chester Gillis, professor of theology at Georgetown University in Washington. "His real ambition seems to be to finish the third volume of his book."
Benedict, a leading Catholic theologian in his own right, has devoted considerable time in office to writing a major study entitled "Jesus of Nazareth" rather than administering the Church. The first two volumes appeared in 2007 and 2011.
His stern reputation stems from his long tenure as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), where he cracked down on liberal trends such as liberation theology.
But his CDF work focused on his own specialty, theology. "It was not about managing the Church," Gillis noted.
When he was elected pope, Benedict brought along several trusted CDF colleagues, including Bertone.
Bertone's critics call him an autocratic power-broker, a role the Curia lends itself to because its structure suits a Renaissance monarchy more than modern democratic governance.
There are no cabinet meetings among heads of departments, or dicasteries, and information circulates mostly on a need-to-know basis. Decisions with major implications for the Church are not always discussed with other departments that might be affected.
Benedict did start reforming the Curia in early 2006, downgrading its department for interfaith dialogue into a sub-department of the culture ministry and sending its experienced head away to be nuncio (ambassador) in Cairo.
But he restored it as a full department the following year after his Regensburg speech in September 2006, which suggested Islam was violent and irrational, sparked protests by Muslims in several Islamic countries.
Some Curia officials had vetted the speech but not warned him of its diplomatic dangers. At Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland earlier that year, Benedict added the word Holocaust to his speech after journalists saw an advance text and told his aides Jews would be offended if he did not clearly mention it.
Benedict's aides apparently did not prepare him for the wave of sharp protests from Catholics, Jews and even German Chancellor Angela Merkel to his surprise decision in 2009 to readmit four rebel bishops to the Church after a 21-year schism.
The shocked pope had to write a long letter explaining the step and admit nobody in the Curia had done an Internet search for him and seen one bishop was a notorious Holocaust denier.
The Vatican has also reacted slowly and defensively to the clerical sexual abuse scandal shaking national churches around the world, giving the impression it puts its institutional interests ahead of the children molested by priests.
The cumulative effect of such incidents over the years and revelations of Vatican mismanagement now has been to cast Benedict's as "a tin ear papacy," said Christopher Bellitto, a Catholic Church historian at Kean University in New Jersey.
"This all seems to be a power game that matters only to the power players," he said. "It seems to be a Church hierarchy further distancing itself from the people in the pews."
(Reporting By Tom Heneghan; Editing by Jon Boyle)