Vatican Investigates Leaks

Thursday, 22 Mar 2012 04:33 PM

By Edward Pentin

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The Vatican very rarely authorizes internal enquiries, but it has now decided to undertake a thorough investigation of all its departments after a series of unauthorized leaks to the Italian media of confidential internal documents.

The leaks, which appeared in newspaper reports in January and February, alleged corruption, mismanagement, and internal conflicts among senior officials in the Secretariat of State.

vatican.jpg
The Vatican has authorized an investigation into a series of leaks.
(Getty Images)
Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, made the announcement on March 17, reporting that an investigation was “under way at various levels.” He added that slander was “at the root” of the unauthorized disclosures which he described as a “deplorable and sad affair.”

“The hope is that an atmosphere of trust will be pieced back together,” Vian wrote. “ The Pope, constantly informed, is saddened, however is serene and looking to the future.”

The “Vatileaks” disclosures have included alleged cronyism and waste in the Vatican procurement process; some resistance to bring the Vatican’s financial laws into line with international standards; and the disclosure of a confidential letter, referred to by an Italian Cardinal, which contained a threat to assassinate the Pope (this story was dismissed as “nonsense” by the Vatican’s chief spokesman). However, the documents’ authenticity has not been denied by the Vatican.

In his March 17 article, Vian included comments from Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the “Substitute” at the Secretariat of State and the third most influential figure in the Roman Curia after Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Becciu, whose responsibilities include the day-to-day running of the Vatican, began by issuing a robust defense of Roman Curia officials. Although he has only been “Substitute” since May last year, he said he found his colleagues “committed to serving the Holy See, devoted to the Pope, competent, taking pride in their work.”

A veteran Vatican diplomat who has represented the Pope in seven countries, Becciu was keen to counter an image of the Curia that has built up in recent weeks — as a place of careerism and plotting — by saying the reality is “far from such stereotypes.”

He recalled a speech Pope Paul VI gave in 1963 in which the late Pontiff described the Curia's proper function as “the guardian or echo of divine truth” whose duty is “to listen and to interpret the voice of the Pope.” It is not “a gymnasium of hidden ambitions and deaf rivalries, as others accuse,” Paul VI said.

He also recalled Benedict XVI’s appraisal of the Curia in 2005 in which the Pope praised the “skill and professionalism of the work done here” and stressed how the “love for Christ, for the Church and for souls plays a part in our professionalism.”

“We do not work — as many say of the work — to defend a power. We do not have a worldly, secular power. We do not work for prestige, nor do we work to expand a business or the like. In reality, we work so that the pathways of the world are opened to Christ. The purpose of all of our work, with all of its ramifications, is actually ultimately so that his Gospel — as well as the joy of Redemption — may reach the world,” Benedict XVI said.

Archbishop Becciu echoed the Pope’s sentiments by saying work that takes place in the Secretariat of State is “disinterested and good, both among the clergy and the laity.” He went on: “In recent years someone said to me that they were ashamed to admit that they worked in the Vatican and I replied: “raise your head and be proud.” The few who have been unfair “shouldn't obscure this positive reality,” he said.

Becciu, who was appointed last year by Cardinal Bertone, used strong words against those responsible for the leaks. He called on them to examine their conscience, saying it is “slander” and “cowardice” to profit from a “privileged situation” by publishing documents whose confidentiality which they “were expected to respect.”

Italian Vatican observers believe the leaks were used to “settle scores” inside the Vatican, and that they were driven by officials who wish to see changes in the Secretariat of State. The main target of these leaks, they argue, is Cardinal Bertone whom they want removed.

But others have dismissed the episode as a “storm in a teacup” as they see the revelations as relatively minor and as having no effect on the Church’s future.

Until these disclosures, the Vatican was relatively free of leaks, especially compared to the pontificate of John Paul II whose frequent travels and admitted disinterestedness in governing led to a number of important decisions being leaked.

The Vatican’s investigation will be carried out on three administrative levels and within “each organism of the Holy See,” Archbishop Becciu revealed.

“The hope is that this pieces our work back together: mutual trust, which of course presupposes seriousness, loyalty, fairness," he said, adding that Benedict XVI has offered encouragement to look to the future.

Said Becciu: “His daily witness of serenity and determination is an inspiration to us all.”

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin —
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