Update | By Martin Michaels
Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, former head of the Vatican Bank, became the latest whistleblower against the Holy See last week after he was found possessing a trove of incriminating financial documents for the Bank, including 47 binders containing money transfers, financial records and confidential internal reports. The documents reportedly indicate excessive financial abuses within the Vatican, although the exact allegations have yet to be released. Tedeschi was dismissed from his position in May after a tumultuous three-year stint as the Vatican’s financial head.
The embattled banker was one of the main contributors to the earlier “Vatileaks” scandal, working covertly to expose financial malfeasance and corruption. Now, Tedeschi reportedly fears for his life but remains committed to exposing Vatican corruption, saying, “I have paid for my transparency,” according to Russia Today. Italian authorities maintain possession of the seized documents and have yet to return them, despite urgent Vatican requests. “We have faith that the prosecutors and Italian judicial system will respect our sovereignty—recognized internationally—with regard to these documents,” the Vatican said in an official statement.
(Mint Press)— The Vatican publicly acknowledged the presence of the “Vatileaks documents”, arguably the most incriminating public scandal since widespread reports of sexual abuse first shook the Catholic world in the 1980’s. Calling the leaked book of documents “criminal,” Pope Benedict XVI has criticised his personal butler, the main individual responsible for leaking documents to the press. Now under intense public scrutiny, the Catholic Church is adopting more transparent practices in an effort to comply with international financial regulations.
The trove of documents, mostly personal correspondence between Pope Benedict XVI and Italian citizens, revealed extensive financial corruption in the Catholic church. The letters were given to the Wikileaks site by Paolo Gabrielle, the personal butler for the Pope. While it is unclear when the documents were made available to Wikileaks, Gabrielle was arrested late last week on suspicion of stealing private papal documents. Several of these documents were found in his possession at the time of his arrest.
The extensive accusations leveled against the church began in January of this year when the first documents showing Vatican corruption were revealed. While many financial malfeasances were detailed in the documents, the misuse of papal charity funds is of particular concern for Catholics and public critics.
In one case, Brune Vespa, a prominent talk show host in Italy was found to have given 10,000 euros to the papal charities in exchange for a private audience with the Pope.
The Vatican has made modest gestures at reform, inviting 35 ambassadors to the Papal state for a tour and group discussion earlier this month. The event is part of a broad transparency campaign designed to make more Church actions visible to the public. Elsewhere in Strasburg, France, the Council of Europe committee reviewed the Vatican’s compliance with international regulations to fight money laundering, according to a report by Russia Today.
Writing in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, Church historian Alberto Melloni commented on the latest incident, saying, “Never has the sense of disorientation in the Catholic Church reached these levels, but now there is something even more – a sense of systemic disorder.”
The proliferation of the Internet and advanced networking has made information widely available, unlike during previous papacies. As author Gianluigi Nuzzi notes in a recent article by The Independent, “During the papacy of John Paul II paedophilia was not pursued like it has been today. This pope has removed 50 priests. John Paul II covered it up.”
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church
The “Vatileaks documents” mention the major sex scandals that have taken place in previous decades. Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ religious order, is mentioned by name having previously abused his seminarians sexually. Fathering three children with two women, Pope Benedict described Maciel’s case, “while not grave, it is serious and pressing.” Maciel passed away in 2008 and is just one instance of numerous sexual scandals by the church.
The unwillingness to fully investigate allegations of pedophilia by Vatican leaders led to public outcry early in the 1980’s when victims began reporting their abuse. While numerous allegations of sexual abuse have been reported globally, the bulk of the cases have been concentrated in the United States and Ireland.
Major lawsuits began to accrue as allegations mounted against the church during the 1980’s and 1990’s. According to a 2004 report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, from 1950 to 2002, a total of 10,667 individuals made claims of sexual abuse by clergy members. Of these cases, the church has verified 6,700 accusations against 4,392 priests.
The accusations have resulted in some $2 billion in legal settlements by the church, according to a recent New York Times article. Although thousands of priests have been found guilty of sexual abuse by Vatican investigations, only 70 have been given prison sentences since 1985, according to a 2002 Christian Science Monitor article. The majority were reassigned to a new post or resigned.
While not as a big a scandal as the previous sex allegations, Gabrielle’s Vatileaks documents have tarnished the image of Vatican leadership across the Catholic world. The event has elicited a strong response against Paolo Gabrielle, who now faces serious charges for his decision to share classified church documents.
Paolo Gabrielle, the butler, the whistleblower
Speaking about the actions of the Gabrielle, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Vatican Undersecretary of State, commented saying, “The pope was not merely robbed of letters. Violence has been done to the consciences of those who turn to him as Vicar of Christ, an assault has been made on the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter. In many of the documents published we find ourselves in a context we presume to be of total trust. When a Catholic speaks to the Roman Pontiff, he is duty bound to open himself as if he were before God, partly because he feels that he is guaranteed absolute confidentiality.”
Although the letters produce incriminating evidence against several papal officials, only Gabrielle has been detained by Vatican authorities, according to an article by The Daily Beast.
Awaiting trial for charges of “aggravated theft,” Gabrielle could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted. The accused has been granted a legal team and has met with his lawyers several times since his detention Thursday of last week.
The harsh sentence is not atypical for Wikileaks collaborators, some of whom are detained without being charged with a crime. For example, Julian Assange, founder of the Wikileaks project in 2006, has been under house arrest for 541 days without charge but faces extradition for a supposedly unrelated rape and sexual assault committed in Sweden.
Assange loses extradition appeal
Fighting charges that he claims are fabricated, Assange lost his appeal against extradition in the British Supreme Court on Tuesday in a 5-2 ruling. Since the onset, Assange has maintained his innocence, rejecting all accusations claiming, “I am clearly the victim of a smear campaign,” in an ABC news statement.
According to its website, “WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth.”
Wikileaks has published numerous documents, including classified diplomatic cables, emails, photographs and video, incriminating foreign governments. Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army soldier put Wikileaks on the map in 2007 with the release of a video showing U.S. servicemembers knowingly killing civilians and journalists in Iraq.
Despite legal setbacks, Assange and his team have continued their crusade for freedom of information, publishing documents from anonymous sources and conducting interviews. The group’s work highlighting widespread corruption in Middle East dictatorships helped spark the Arab Spring uprisings in early 2011.