Vatileaks, Part 2: Two Arrested Over Leak of Vatican Documents

Vatileaks, Part 2: Two Arrested Over Leak of Vatican Documents

Letters from the Journal of Robert Moynihan, #53, 2015
November 2, 2015, Monday, Feast of All Souls

“Radix omnium malorum cupiditas est” (“The love of money is the root of all evils”). —St. Paul, First Letter to Timothy, 6:10; a more idiomatic understanding of this phrase is, “For every possible kind of evil can be motivated by the love of money,” meaning, greed can lead to any number of different kind of evils, not that all evil is rooted in the love of money


And here we go again…

More arrests in the Vatican over leaked documents…

November in Rome begins with the news that two people who have worked in the Vatican have been arrested by Vatican police on the charge of leaking confidential Vatican documents, especially regarding Vatican finances, to journalists.

In a statement early this afternoon in Rome, the Vatican said the two — a laywoman, Doctor Francesca Chaouqui and a Spanish monsignor, the Rev. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda (ph — had been questioned over the weekend, and that prosecutors for the Holy See had upheld the arrests.


The news comes on the eve of the publication of two new books about the Vatican’s finances, which promise astonishing revelations based on secret documents.

Therefore, many are speculating that these arrests are directly related to the publication of these two books, that is, that the two people arrested are suspected by the Vatican of being the sources for at least some of the documents about to be made public.

The two books are:

(1) Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s Merchants in the Temple. Nuzzi was the author of the famous 2012 book, His Holiness, detailing corruption and political intrigue in the Vatican of Pope Benedict. That book sparked the so-called “Vatileaks scandal,” and, some say, was one of the reasons for Benedict’s historic resignation.

(2) Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi is releasing Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church. Fittipaldi writes for L’Espresso newsweekly, the magazine that Sandro Magister also writes for, and which recently published the letter by 13 cardinals warning Francis about his family synod. (Interestingly, Magister is out today with an article in which he says he warned against the hiring of both Chaouqui and Vallejo Balda, whom he says is a member of the Prelature of Opus Dei.

So we seem to be entering into a new phase of the “Vatileaks” scandal.

We might call it “Vatileaks, Part 2.”

Both books are coming out later this week, on November 5 — so stay tuned.

Here is a link to an AP article which gives further background.

Vallejo Balda is a Vatican employee; Chaouqui had served on a commission set up by Pope Francis in 2013 as part of his effort to bring about reforms in the finances of the Holy See.

The Vatican said Vallejo Balda was being held in a jail cell inside Vatican City — the cell is located just a few steps from the Domus Santa Marta where the Pope lives — and that Chaouqui released because she had cooperated in the investigation.

In the case that was called “Vatileaks,” the removal and publication of documents from Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s private desk led in 2012 to the arrest and trial of the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, and of a Vatican computer technician, Claudio Sciarpelleti.

In 2013, a new Vatican law made it a crime to leak confidential documents and information.

In recent days, reports in the Italian press have said that the Vatican’s police force was investigating to see who had tampered with the computer of a top Vatican prelate who deals with financial matters.

The Vatican on Monday confirmed that there was an investigation into the tampering, but declined to say if that incident was related to the two arrests.

All of this suggests that the “Vatileaks scandal” that occurred under Pope Benedict is entering a new phase under Pope Francis.

Here is a link to an article from three years ago which may help to put some of this in perspective. The central paragraph is this one: “The book’s real value lies in the fact that the ‘Paoletto’ affair [‘Paoletto,’ which means ‘Little Paul,’ refers to the butler, Paolo Gabriele] is presented within the context of a number of other events which may not be linked to the Paolo Gabriele case from a judicial point of view, but they formed the breeding ground for the Vatileaks scandal. Although the former papal butler’s sentence established that there were no accomplices or instigators involved, to believe that ‘Paoletto’ was the only bad apple in a basket full of shiny, healthy apples, is simply not realistic. Romeo’s book included chapters on the Boffo case (which could be considered the opening chapter of the ‘Vatican wars’); the case of the Vatican Secretary of State, Carlo Maria Viganò; the saga surrounding the Toniolo Institute, the ‘safe’ of Rome’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart which caused a clash between the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the then Archbishop of Milan, Dionigi Tettamanzi; the Vatican bank scandal and the abrupt dismissal of its president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi.

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2 comments on “Vatileaks, Part 2: Two Arrested Over Leak of Vatican Documents

  1. New books allege mismanagement, excess at the Vatican

    By Anthony Faiola and Stefano Pitrelli
    Washington Post
    November 3 ’15

    The Vatican faced fresh accusations of mismanagement, excess and resistance to change as details from two new books emerged Tuesday, a day after the Holy See announced the arrest of two insiders on suspicion of leaking internal information.

    The allegations in the books suggest a mix of formidable forces confront Pope Francis as he seeks to reform a Vatican bureaucracy long shrouded in secrecy and charged for years with being inefficient and lacking in transparency.

    The Washington Post obtained an early copy of “Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church” by Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi of L’Espresso, which delves into the details of suspect accounts in the Vatican Bank, big spending by cardinals and the “saint making factory” of the Holy See.

    In one incident, Fittipaldi outlines a 23,800 euro ($26,400) helicopter ride in 2012 by former Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone who was pushed aside by Francis. He also documents how a religious foundation paid to refurbish Bertone’s home.

    He also cites continuing problems at the Vatican bank, which became the subject of a massive clean up effort that started under Benedict XVI and kicked into high gear under Francis.

    “The Vatican Bank hasn’t been cleaned up like we thought,” Fittipaldi, a journalist at L’Espresso, said in an interview with The Washington Post. The Italian magazine he works for has been responsible for some of the biggest leaks on the Vatican this year, including an early draft of a papal encyclical on the environment in June. ”There are [bank accounts] of Italian entrepreneurs under investigation by Italian authorities still hiding inside.”

    He cites, for instance, an account at the Vatican Bank originally under the name of Lorenzo Leone, a deceased Italian bureaucrat who Fittipaldi said had allegedly amassed an illicit fortune while managing an Italian insane asylum. Earlier this year, Italian authorities were surprised, Fittipaldi said, to find out about the existence of the account containing 8 million euros and which was still being used by Leone’s relatives.

    Fittipaldi cites internal documents as showing that most of the St. Peter’s Pence offerings sent to the Vatican from parishes around the world — which totaled 378 million euros, or 415 million in 2013 — wound up in an account mostly used to cover the functioning of the Holy See’s bureaucratic machine and was not used for charitable reasons.

    Fittipaldi’s book also trudges up some older scandals, including details into the spending of Cardinal George Pell, a conservative Australian brought on by the pope to spearhead economic reforms.

    Between July, 2014 to January, 2015, Fittipaldi, citing documents from the Vatican’s accountability office, alleges the cardinal spent 501,000 euros ($551,000) — computers, staff, business class tickets, clothing, housing, tailor made upholstery and “luxurious furniture.” In another chapter, he outlines the “saint making factory” at the Vatican, and how some parishes have paid up to $482,693 to push forward the candidacy of local saints.

    Also emerging this week is “Merchants in the Temple,” by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, whose 2012 book on a “Vatileaks” scandal rocked the papacy of Benedict XVI by detailing behind-the-scenes power struggles revealed in documents stolen by Pope Benedict’s butler.

    Nuzzi’s new book, “Merchants in the Temple,” draws on documents, interviews and recordings of Francis speaking in closed-door meetings, according to Chiarelettere, his Italian publisher.

    The pope is quoted as dressing down top financial officials, saying “costs are out of control,” and demanding transparency after finding “unofficial budgets” that detailed funds allegedly misused by Vatican officials, according to the publisher. The book also looks at alleged attempts to sabotage Francis’s reforms, describes the apparently lavish lifestyles of some cardinals and claims to document the misuse of money collected in church offerings.

    “If we don’t know how to safeguard our money, which can be seen, how can we safeguard the souls of the faithful, which cannot be seen?” Francis is quoted as saying at a meeting of his hierarchy, according to Chiarelettere. The book also purports to unveil the full explanation behind Benedict’s surprising decision to retire in 2013.

    The Associated Press and Italy’s Corriere della Sera obtained an early copy of the book due out Thursday. AP said the tome focused in part on the difficulties faced by an eight-member commission set up by Francis to study reform of the Roman curia – or the bureaucratic body of senior clerics that runs Vatican City. It documents, outlet said, millions of euros in lost revenue, the scandal of the Vatican’s saint-making machine, greedy monsignors and a sophisticated break-in at the Vatican.

    It also appears to capture candid moments in the pope’s reform crusade. According to Corriere della Sera, it cites a meeting in 2013 shortly after Francis had become pope when he expressed shock at the state of Vatican accounting.

    In the meeting, the book says, Francis showed alarm at a letter from the Vatican auditors citing the almost total absence of transparency in the budget, both of the Holy See and the office of Vatican governance.

    “Too much leeway has been left to the managers,” Francis is quoting a saying. “We need to better clarify the finances of the Holy See and make them more transparent.”

    The revelations emerged a day after the Vatican announced it had arrested Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda, a 54-year-old senior Vatican bureaucrat, and Francesca Chaouqui, a 33-year-old Italian public relations maven known in some circles as “the pope’s lobbyist,” on suspicion of disseminating internal documents. The Vatican suggested that the leaked information in the two books out this week were linked to the two suspects.

    Chaouqui, the Vatican said, was released after agreeing to cooperate with an investigation while Balda was still being detained.

  2. Vatican scandal heats up with book exposing waste, resistance to Pope

    Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
    Published Tuesday, November 3, 2015

    The Vatican’s new leaks scandal intensified Tuesday as a book detailed the mismanagement and internal resistance that has been thwarting Pope Francis’ financial reform efforts.
    Citing confidential documents, it exposed millions of euros in potential lost rental revenue, the scandal of the Vatican’s saint-making machine, greedy monsignors and a professional-style break-in at the Vatican.

    “Merchants in the Temple,” by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, is due out Thursday but an advance copy was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Its publication, and that of a second book, come days after the Vatican arrested two members of Francis’ financial reform commission in an investigation into stolen documents.

    The Vatican on Monday described the books as “fruit of a grave betrayal of the trust given by the pope, and, as far as the authors go, of an operation to take advantage of a gravely illicit act of handing over confidential documentation.”

    “Publications of this nature do not help in any way to establish clarity and truth, but rather generate confusion and partial and tendentious conclusions,” the Vatican said.
    The arrests and books mark a new phase in the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal. The saga began in 2012 with an earlier Nuzzi expose, peaked with the conviction of Pope Benedict XVI’s butler on charges he supplied Nuzzi with stolen documents, and ended a year later when a clearly exhausted Benedict resigned, unable to carry on.

    With the scandal still fresh, Francis was elected in 2013 on a mandate from his fellow cardinals to reform the Vatican bureaucracy and clean up its opaque finances. He set out promptly by creating a commission of eight experts to gather information from all Vatican offices on the Holy See’s overall financial situation, which by that time was dire.

    Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, a high-ranking Vatican official affiliated with the Opus Dei movement, and Francesca Chaouqui, an Italian public relations executive, were both members – and now are accused in the leaks probe.

    Chaouqui was quoted by Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Stampa Tuesday as saying she had nothing to do with the leaks and that she had tried to prevent Vallejo Balda from revealing Vatican secrets.

    Nuzzi’s book focuses on the work of the commission and the resistance it encountered in getting information out of Vatican departments that have long enjoyed near-complete autonomy in budgeting, hiring and spending.

    “Holy Father, … There is a complete absence of transparency in the bookkeeping both of the Holy See and the Governorate,” five international auditors wrote Francis in June 2013, according to Nuzzi’s book. “Costs are out of control.”

    Citing emails, minutes of meetings, recorded private conversations and memos, the book paints a picture of a Vatican bureaucracy entrenched in a culture of mismanagement, waste and secrecy.

    It might not be far off the mark given that Francis has repeatedly and publicly warned the Roman Curia against engaging in “intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality” and acting more like a royal court than an institution of service. Last Christmas he delivered an infamous dressing down of his closest collaborators, citing the “15 ailments of the Curia” that included living “hypocritical” double lives and suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s.”

    That said, the book is clearly written from the point of view of the commission members, sympathetic to their plight and setting up an “us against them” narrative of the new reformers battling the Vatican’s entrenched Old Guard, without addressing why the Old Guard might have had reason to distrust them.

    The book cites a memo listing six priorities when the commission began work, starting with the need to get a handle on the Vatican’s vast real estate holdings. Nuzzi cites a commission report that found that the value of the real estate was some 2.7 billion euros (dollars), seven times higher than the amount entered onto the balance sheets.

    Rents were sometimes 30 to 100 per cent below market, the commission found, including some apartments that were given free to cardinals and bureaucrats as part of their overall compensation or retirement packages. The book says that if market rates were applied, homes given to employees would generate income of 19.4 million euros rather than the 6.2 million euros currently recorded, while other “institutional” buildings which today generate no income would generate income of 30.4 million euros.

    The No. 2 priority on the commission’s list was to get a handle on the management of bank accounts for the Vatican’s “postulators,” the officials who spearhead candidates for sainthood. The process – which involves painstaking research into the “heroic” deeds of saintly candidates and the search for miracle cures – has always been steeped in secrecy.
    After the Vatican’s saint-making office told the commission it had no documentation about the postulators’ funding or bank accounts, the commission had the postulators’ accounts frozen at the Vatican bank, Nuzzi said.

    In an indication of the controversy that the commission’s work engendered, Nuzzi recounts a previously little-known incident: a March 30, 2014, break-in at the commission’s offices and theft of commission documents. The burglary was clearly an inside job, as the thieves knew exactly which locker to target to get the documents.

    Finally, Nuzzi recounts the tale of Monsignor Giuseppe Sciacca, the No. 2 in the Vatican City State administration, who wanted a fancier apartment. Top-ranking Vatican cardinals often enjoy enormous apartments, with some commanding upward of 400 square metres apiece. When Sciacca’s neighbour, an elderly priest, was hospitalized for a long period, Sciacca took advantage of the absence to break through a wall separating their residences and incorporated an extra room into his apartment, furniture and all, Nuzzi recounts.

    The elderly prelate eventually came home to find his possessions in boxes, and died a short time later, the book says. Francis, who lives in a hotel room, summarily demoted Sciacca, forcing him to move out.

    The second book, “Avarice,” by La Repubblica Vatican reporter Emiliano Fittipaldi, details financial malfeasance at the Vatican, citing among other documents reports by independent auditors.

    Among the revelations, Fittipaldi wrote in Tuesday’s paper that a foundation to support the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital in Rome paid 200,000 euros toward the renovation of the former Vatican No. 2’s sprawling apartment, under an agreement that the apartment would be used also for hospital functions. Former Vatican secretary-of-state Tarciso
    Bertone came under fire last year for the apartment, described as a “mega-penthouse,” in contrast to Francis’ vision of a “poor church.”

    Fittipaldi also said 378,000 euros donated in 2013 by churches worldwide to help the poor, the so-called Peter’s Pence, wound up in an off-the-books account that had been used in the past to pay Vatican department expenses.

    “Avarice” will be published on Thursday.

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