(Crux) Let’s be clear. If anyone thinks a Vatican criminal trial is like an episode of “Law and Order,” with dramatic courtroom confessions, barbed verbal crossfires between attorneys, and surprise bombshell revelations, here’s a news flash: This is a different animal altogether.
For the most part, the Vatican follows rules established by a 19th century Italian version of criminal procedure, which does not envision trial by jury but instead a more active role for judges. They aren’t just referees, like in American trials, but they conduct their own examinations of witnesses. Since the main point of a trial is building an evidentiary record to serve as the basis for a decision, the presiding judge spends a painstaking amount of time repeating back witnesses’ answers to questions, trying to get consensus on pretty much every word.
In other words, it’s about as scintillating most of the time as watching paint dry.
On what amounted to the first full day of the Vatican’s latest major criminal trial, after a preliminary motions hearing in July and an opening day Sept. 7 that was quickly suspended due to the emergence of new evidence, Tuesday’s hearing was consumed by the testimony of the defendant ostensibly at the heart of the case: Giuseppe Profiti, a lay Italian financier and academic who served as both the president of the papally-sponsored Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital and the president of a foundation directing the hospital from 2008 to 2017.
Profiti, who spent almost six hours on the stand Tuesday, stands charged with misappropriation of funds along with another Italian layman, Massimo Spina, who served as treasurer of the foundation during Profiti’s tenure. The indictment pivots on the claim that when Profiti and Spina decided to use roughly $500,000 of the foundation’s fund to help renovate a Vatican apartment belonging to Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the former Secretary of State under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, they acted illegally because such expenses aren’t authorized by the foundation’s statutes. [More]