Vatican leaks scandal looms large at meeting to elevate new cardinals

February 19, 2012

c. 2012 Religion News Service
VATICAN CITY (RNS) It isn't anywhere on the official agenda, but as Roman
Catholic leaders meet in Rome this weekend, looming in the background will
be a recent string of Vatican leaks that reveal a bitter power struggle
among the hierarchy.

In recent weeks, several confidential memos and documents by senior
Vatican officials have appeared in the Italian media. The leak is "unprecedented
in recent history," says Massimo Faggioli, a church historian at the
University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

The scandal started in late January when an Italian television program
showed letters written to Pope Benedict XVI by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano,
the Vatican's U.S. ambassador, asserting widespread corruption and waste in
the Vatican procurement process. Vigano, who at the time was secretary
general of the office that oversees Vatican City, begged Benedict not to send
him to the United States. His removal would cause "disarray and
discouragement" in those who shared his anti-corruption struggle, Vigano said.

Later, an Italian newspaper published a series of documents relating to the
Vatican bank. The documents showed that a recent push by the Vatican to
bring its financial laws in line with international standards had met with
internal resistance.

For decades, the Vatican bank has been accused of shady dealings, and its
management is currently under investigation by the Italian judiciary for
alleged money laundering.

Under Benedict, the Vatican has started internal reforms aimed at
including the Holy See in a European list of financially transparent countries.
In one of the leaked documents, Cardinal Attilio Nicora, who heads the
newly established Vatican financial watchdog, worried that proposed amendments
to the laws could be seen as a "step back" from reform.

The Vatican leak that has garnered most international attention involved
an alleged conspiracy to kill Benedict "within 12 months." An Italian
newspaper published a confidential letter to the pope, describing how an Italian
cardinal had spoken about the plot during a visit to China.

The Vatican chief spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, dismissed the claim as
"nonsense" but confirmed that the document, as well as others leaked
recently, was authentic.

The Vatican has tried to present the leaks as an effort to stymie
Benedict's drive to reform the church. "If someone thinks they can discourage the
pope and his collaborators," Lombardi said on Vatican Radio on Tuesday
(Feb. 14), "they're deluding themselves."

The next day, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, wrote that
Benedict pursues his "innovation and purification" of the church despite "the
knowledge that the enemy comes in the night to sow weeds."

But this interpretation isn't shared by all Vatican observers. Andrea
Tornielli, Vatican analyst at the Italian daily La Stampa, says that the string
of document leaks are the consequence of a power struggle inside the
Vatican. The real target of the document leaks, says Tornielli, is Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state.

According to Tornielli, recent reports are being used to "settle the
scores" inside the Vatican.

For others, though, identifying the target of the leaks isn't so easy.
"It's a tempest in a teapot," says Rev. John Wauck, a professor of
communications at the Santa Croce University in Rome.

"The documents' contents are not earth-shattering," Wauck said. "There is
an Italian faction interested in evoking changes at the Secretariat of
State," but the leaks will not have any effect on future church developments,
according to Wauck.