Stolen papers. Venom. Arrests. In the Roman curia, it’s war. The ouster of the president of the bank. The maneuvers of Cardinal Bertone. The pope’s false friends.
There’s method in this madness. Since the butler of His Holiness ended up in jail, the scene has suddenly changed. At center stage is no longer the dispute over the contents of the stolen papers. It’s the thieves. Intent on scheming in the shadow of a venerable white robe.
“With justice eliminated, what are kingdoms if not a great band of thieves?” The phrase is from Saint Augustine, but it was Benedict XVI who cited it in his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” of 2005. He didn’t know that seven years later it would become the public image of the Vatican. A citadel devastated by thievery, with no corner left inviolate, not even that “sancta sanctorum” which the private desk of the pope should be.
The real or presumed thieves of Vatican papers have declared in chorus to the newspapers, under anonymity, that they acted precisely out of love for the pope, to help him clean house. And it is true that none of the wrondoing laid bare in the documents involves his person. But it is even more true that everything falls upon him, inexorably.
The pope theologian of the great homilies, of the book on Jesus, is the same one who reigns over a curia adrift, a den of “egoism, violence, enmity, discord, jealousy,” all of the vices he stigmatized in last Sunday’s homily for Pentecost and in so much more of his fruitless prior preaching.
It is the same pope who wanted as his secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and continues to keep him at his post, in spite of the fact that he sees more and more evidence of his inadequacy every day.
In the Vatican today, the boundary between illicit acts and those of simple mismanagement has become very slender, almost nonexistent.
The glaring proof is showing up right now. Pontifical butler Paolo Gabriele has just been arrested for the theft of documents from the papal apartment, while within and around the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican bank (IOR), a clash of unprecedented violence has come to a head, registered with equal brutality first in an official statement from the Holy See itself and then in an internal document deliberately leaked to the press, so that the world would know that the president of the IOR, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, had received a vote of no confidence from the other members of the bank’s supervisory board.
And he had lost his support, the document said, because of his manifest incapacity to perform his role, for culpable ignorance of his duties, for “increasingly bizarre” personal behavior, and also, naturally, because of his suspected release of confidential documents – in short, because of a total of nine accusations shot through and through with a tone of insult, put to a vote and approved one by one by the board of renowned advisers: the German Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz of Deutsche Bank, the American Carl Albert Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, the Spaniard Manuel Soto Serrano of Banco di Santander, and the Italian Antonio Maria Maroccco, a notary in Turin and the latest member to be added to the board.
The first three, in 2009, had given determined support to the appointment of Gotti Tedeschi as president of the IOR. And they had continued to give their support until a short time ago, when there were already bitter disputes between Gotti Tedeshci and the director general of the bank, Paolo Cipriani, a power player of the old guard. For six months, the two have not been on speaking terms.
The statement with the announcement of the challenge to Gotti Tedeschi ended by saying that the next day, Friday, May 25, there would be a meeting of the commission of cardinals that oversees the IOR, the only one that could turn the motion of the board members into an executive order.