Vatican slams leak of documents

2012-05-20 14:29

Vatican City - The Vatican on Saturday denounced as "criminal" a new book of leaked internal documents that shed light on power struggles inside the Holy See and the thinking of its embattled top banker, and warned that it would take legal action against those responsible.

Pope Benedict XVI has already appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the "Vatileaks" scandal, which erupted earlier this year with the publication of leaked memos alleging corruption and mismanagement in Holy See affairs and internal squabbles over its efforts to comply with international anti-money laundering norms.

The publication on Saturday of "His Holiness," by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, added fuel to the fire, reproducing confidential letters and memos to and from Benedict and his personal secretary which, according to the Vatican, violated the pope's right to privacy.

Vatican spokesperson the Reverend Federico Lombardi said in a statement on Saturday the book was an "objectively defamatory" work that "clearly assumes characters of a criminal act." He said the Holy See would get to the bottom of who "stole" the documents, who received them and who published them. He warned the Holy See would seek international co-operation in its quest for justice, presumably with Italian magistrates.

The Vatican had already warned of legal action against Nuzzi after he broadcast letters in January from the former No 2 Vatican administrator to the pope in which he begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in higher contract prices. The prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican's US ambassador.

Leaked documents

Nuzzi, author of "Vatican SpA," a 2009 volume laying out shady dealings of the Vatican bank based on leaked documents, said he was approached by sources inside the Vatican with the trove of new documents, most of them of fairly recent vintage and many of them painting the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light.

Much of the documentation is fairly Italy-centric: about a 2009 scandal over the ex-editor of the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, a never-before-known dinner between Benedict and Italy's president, and even a 2011 letter from Italy's pre-eminent talk show host Bruno Vespa to the pope enclosing a check for €10 000 for his charity work - and asking for a private audience in exchange.

But there are international leaks as well, including diplomatic cables from Vatican embassies from Jerusalem to Cameroon. Some concern the conclusions of the pope's delegate the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order in a memo to the pope last fall. (He warned that the financial situation of the order, beset by a scandal over its paedophile founder, "while not grave, is serious and pressing.")

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the head of the Institute for Religious Works, otherwise known as the Vatican's bank, gets significant ink, with reproduced private memos to the pope with his take on the Vatican's response to the global financial crisis and how to handle the church's tax exempt status amid Italian government efforts to crack down on tax evasion.

The bank has been trying for some two years to remedy its reputation as a shady tax haven beset by scandals, which include the collapse of Italy's Banco Ambrosiano and the death of its head, Roberto Calvi, who also helped manage Vatican investments and was found hanging from London's Blackfriars Bridge in 1982.

In a bid to show it has mended its ways, the Institute for Religious Works this week invited ambassadors from 35 countries in for a tour and a chat with its managing director as part of a new transparency campaign. The tour came on the same day Holy See representatives were in Strasbourg discussing the first draft of a report from a Council of Europe committee on the Vatican's compliance with international norms to fight money laundering and terror financing.

British Ambassador Nigel Baker, who went on the Institute for Religious Works tour, later blogged that the Vatican's reputation depends on showing that its institutions are transparent. "Plenty still needs to be done. But the Holy See needs to stick to its guns. It is in their interest, and ours," he wrote.

  • Garth - 2012-05-20 15:01

    Rotten from the top down!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-20 17:07

      Rotten from the bottom up !!

      lenzi.marques - 2012-05-21 00:46

      @ anthony. Dude you are Jewish. mind your own business.

  • Morne - 2012-05-20 15:46

    I thought they were meant to do 'God's work'? I obviously need to consult my Bible again to see where Jesus or God instructed anybody to open bank accounts or even their own banks to 'spread the Gospel'. In fact, I wonder (actually seriously doubt) if Jesus himself, the son of God, was as inaccessible as the pope is (to his followers). No wonder people today view religion and religious views and beliefs as a joke...

      Hannes - 2012-05-20 16:43

      They have not done God's work since their founding in 312AD. Unless you call murdering over 50 million people during the inquisition, their brutal attempts to prevent the Bible being revealed to common people and their support of extremists like Hitler, Mussolini and Franco and accept the head honcho's (Pope's) statement that, as God's sole representative on earth he has the right to amend, negate or append anything that God has ordained according to the Bible.

      Morne - 2012-05-20 17:16

      Exactly Hannes. As a 'believer' (but not in the cheap sense religion is sold today) I am disgusted. In the Bible it is written how disgusted Jesus was when he went to a temple/church and saw how they turned the 'House of God' into a flea-market 'selling religion' rather than preaching or inspiring people. Can you imagine what that view be today? 'Believers' have no foot to stand on today when religion is discussed or debated - and I am not surprised. No wonder my own family hates me for denouncing the so-called 'church' of today.

  • spartanx93 - 2012-05-20 15:55

    Just another day for the largest mafia on earth.

  • JustSaying - 2012-05-20 16:05

    The Catholic Church much really bemoan it's loss of influence. A few hundred years ago that journalist would have been terribly tortured at the very least! At least that has changed..... And you gotta love "vatileaks" : )

  • zaatheist - 2012-05-20 19:45

    The Catholic Church is the Mafia in frocks, rotten to the the core of their shrivelled toxic and twisted hearts.

  • Lauden Kirk - 2012-05-21 07:36

    What would Jesus do?? Mr pope

  • Ryno - 2012-05-21 08:30

    the church of mammon

  • Pdevillet - 2012-05-21 09:21

    never be better time to be an atheist i hope they all go bankrupt

      Pdevillet - 2012-05-21 16:30

      and for the thumb down,continue to give money to this morons in funny hats for a seat in lalaland,i can't understand the logic

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