Vatileaks scandal exposes secrets of Pope’s empire
Pope Benedict XVI wakes every morning between 6:30 and 6:45 a.m. in the papal apartment on the third floor of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, which overlooks St. Peter’s Square. After bathing and shaving, he makes his way to his private chapel, where at 7:30 he celebrates the first mass of the day. After a time of private prayer in the chapel, at around 8:30 he joins Msgr. Georg Gänswein, his personal secretary, and a small circle of his closest collaborators for breakfast. The pope’s preference is decaffeinated coffee, bread with butter and jam, and, once in a while, a slice of tart.
We know all of these details because the Vatican has sprung a leak. For centuries one of the tightest organizations in the world, with a code of honor to rival that of the Sicilian Mafia, it has been turned inside out in the past six months. A gusher of highly confidential letters to the pope and his closest associates, many of them originally in code, has poured into the Italian media and into a book, Sua Santità by Gianluigi Nuzzi, which became an instant bestseller. The leaks are just one in a string of scandals to rock the Vatican this year—the latest, in early June, involved the ouster of the head of the Vatican bank, who possessed documents that apparently showed the Church circumventing European money-laundering regulations. To combat the spate of bad publicity, the Vatican has gone as far as hiring a former Fox News reporter, who happens to be an Opus Dei numerary, to be one of its official PR flacks. But whether the pope and the Vatican establishment can recover their credibility is now a matter of serious doubt.
The target of the most damaging leaks is the most important and powerful figure in the Vatican besides the pope: the 77-year-old secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone. The leaks have been loudly condemned by the Vatican, and the man blamed for them—the pope’s butler—may end up going to jail for years. But if the ambition that motivated the leaks was the sacking of Cardinal Bertone, they may yet succeed. Bertone’s name recurs in letter after secret letter, as he plots to oust rivals as varied as the editor of the bishops’ daily newspaper and the man sent in to clean up the Vatican’s finances. Though Benedict is said to have turned down the cardinal’s offer of resignation in late June, the informed consensus now is that Bertone’s days are numbered. Though he may limp on into 2013, the leaks have done their corrosive work.
When he was elected pope in 2005, Benedict could hardly have imagined such a brutal turn of events. For nearly 30 years, a tiny, painfully shy German cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger lived a few steps from St. Peter’s, in an apartment whose bookish austerity was mitigated by two cats and a grand piano at which he would relax by playing Mozart sonatas. He was Pope John Paul II’s trusted hard-line enforcer of theological issues. When the Polish pope finally died, Ratzinger could have looked forward to a well-deserved retirement. Instead, in April 2005, he was elected pope and propelled to instant, worldwide fame. From then on, every step he took and every public word he spoke would be news. In compensation, within the Apostolic Palace that became his new home, he could expect perfect discretion, total secrecy. But someone in his household had other ideas. [More]
Newsweek/The Daily Beast