Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, has been living a rollercoaster since Wednesday – sliding downward with an incredible speed.
The 46-year-old, who is described as shy and private, helped the Pontiff get dressed, served his food and held his umbrella. This all changed when he was accused of leaking sensitive documents to the media. The scandal has come to be called ‘Vatileaks’.
The documents included letters by an archbishop who was transferred to Washington after blowing the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption and cronyism, a memo that portrayed a number of cardinals in a negative light, and documents alleging internal conflicts about the Vatican bank.
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, once a candidate for the papacy and the former archbishop of Milan, wrote in an Italian newspaper that the Pope has been “betrayed” just as Jesus was 2,000 years ago. Church leaders should “urgently win back the trust of the faithful,” Martini wrote, adding that the Catholic Church would have to emerge from the latest scandal cleaner and stronger.
Mr. Gabriele was arrested on Saturday and was formally charged on Sunday with stealing confidential papal documents. Pope Benedict’s aides say he is “saddened and pained” by the scandal and the arrest of his butler, but he didn’t make any reference to either of those incidents in his two appearances on Sunday.
“I feel very sad for the Pope. This whole thing is such a disservice to the Church,” Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus charity group who is also a member of the board of the Vatican bank, told Reuters. The bank’s president has been suddenly dismissed over what the board called “a fundamental failure to perform his basic responsibilities”.
Anderson was one of those who voted no-confidence against Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the Italian president of the Vatican bank. Tedeschi has been a critic of lack of transparency in the bank and says that is the reason he has been fired.
Anderson rejected his accusations, saying “categorically, this action by the board had nothing to do with his promotion of transparency. In fact, he was becoming an obstacle to greater transparency by his inability to work senior management.”
According to a memorandum of the meeting that ousted Gotti Tedeschi that was obtained by Reuters, he had shown “progressively erratic personal behaviour” and failed to defend the bank “in the face of inaccurate media reports”.
WHERE IT ALLBEGAN
Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who first leaked some of the documents in January and aired them on a television show, published his book “His Holiness” earlier last week. He says he did not pay for any of the information, but obtained them from people loyal to the Church who wanted to expose corruption.
These are among the most turbulent times in the recent history of the Catholic Church. Its principle of secrecy has come under attack yet again. Gabriele could be imprisoned for 30 years if proven guilty. It is seen as very unlikely that the ‘holy’ men of The Vatican will take the opportunity to scrutinise their affairs.