Pope’s butler case: Show trial or Vatican transparency?
The trial of Pope Benedict XVI’s butler, which ends on Saturday after just four hearings, has split experts between some who say it is Vatican transparency in action and others who detect a whitewash.
The world’s tiniest state has for the first time opened its doors for the biggest trial of its modern history to a small group of journalists, who have then relayed the content of the courtroom drama to their colleagues.
Cameras have however mostly been kept out, the courtroom tucked away behind the Vatican walls is off limits to the general public and the brief trial of Paolo Gabriele for aggravated theft has been relatively limited in scope.
Vatican expert Marco Politi defined the trial as “nebulous” and said that the charge of aggravated theft against Gabriele for leaking confidential Vatican papers to an Italian journalist covered up for harsher truths.
“The core of this story is the betrayal and the unprecedented leak of documents that reveal conflicts within the Curia, instances of corruption that have not been clarified, battles over the Vatican bank,” Politi said.
“The court is closing its eyes and not going deeper,” he said.
For all the brevity of the trial, Gabriele’s defence has been stronger than many experts had predicted and he has accused Vatican gendarmes of mistreatment during his detention — a charge quickly denied by the papal police.
Some Catholic publications have sprung to the Vatican’s defence, with the weekly Famiglia Cristiana accusing certain media outlets of having turned Gabriele into a “martyr” and of believing his every word “like molten gold”.
Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre has appeared keen to keep the trial limited to the charges and not allowing broader discussions that could help understand Gabriele’s motivations or explore his network of contacts and sources.
Dalla Torre at the first hearing threw out a request from the defence to include in the documents of the trial a secret report into the “Vatileaks” scandal compiled for the pope by a group of cardinals in a parallel inquiry.
The judge said that report had “no relevance” to the case at hand.
He also separated Gabriele’s case from that of Claudio Sciarpelletti, a Vatican computer technician accused of abetting the crime and a case that could shed more light on how Gabriele came to obtain the documents he passed on.
Gianluigi Nuzzi, the journalist Gabriele is accused of leaking documents to has hardly been mentioned at the trial and there are no charges against him.
As the trial concludes, it is not clear how Gabriele could have obtained such a vast number of documents including originals spanning several years. [More]