Rome , June 12 2012
Vatican Scandals: a never-ending story
events move fast, and it is difficult for public attention to remain fixed on a
particular event, no matter how grave or dramatic. And yet the recent Vatican
Saga, a not unfamiliar story of corruption, scandal, potential violence and
political infighting does deserve a closer look, if nothing else for its possible developments.
centuries of experience, the people of Rome have developed tremendous insight --
a veritable sixth sense -- in guessing, ahead of time, when there is trouble brewing on the right bank of the Tiber, under the massive
dome of St. Peter's Basilica. The Holy See is usually able to control its image
with the Italian public, thanks mainly to an extremely respectful and
obsequious .media and press, as witnessed, for example by the limited publicity
the paedophilia scandal had in Italy even when it was front-page news
the past few weeks, however, have shocked even the jaded and usually lethargic
Roman public, and could indicate the existence of a crisis situation in the Vatican with
many possible future scenarios ,
which risks tarnishing the Vatican's
image, even in Italy.
of the Pope's closest lay collaborator
(the Pope's "Butler",
part of the official "family"), barely twenty-four hours after the abrupt
dismissal of a respected Italian banker, who had been personally called upon by
the Pope to lend transparency and
respectability to the "I.O.R." (Istituto per le Opere Religiose --
Institute for Religious Operations), in
a certain sense the Vatican's Central Bank, were, in themselves, episodes dramatic enough to cause comment and
unease. These events appeared even more remarkable because they occurred in the
wake of the exhumation of the remains of a well known outlaw, who, some three
decades ago, had terrorised Rome as
leader of the "Banda della Magliana" and who for unexplained reasons was buried in a crypt in
one of the holiest of the many Roman churches, and, therefore,
in Vatican territory. It was rumoured that the exhumation could also shed light
on another of the Vatican's
grim mysteries: the unsolved disappearance, in 1983, of e teen age girl,
Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of a high Vatican
official. To top all this off, a book has been published -- becoming an instant bestseller in Italy -- which contains the certified text of correspondence -- often
rancorous -- among the Cardinals, and even some letters from the Pope himself.
The arrest of the "Pope's Butler" is connected to this event, even though doubts are being expressed as to whether he is actually being used as a scapegoat or
whether others, including high ranking Church figures, have also been involved
in the leaks.
In discussing Vatican
affairs it is always difficult to resist the temptation of delving deep into
the past. The roots of these recent troublesome happenings, however, have to be
traced back over three decades, to the unexpected death of
Pope John Paul I, in the winter of 1978, after one of the briefest pontificates
in history (33 days).
which in the public imagination is strongly
connected to the violent, and as yet mysterious deaths, in the ensuing years, of two Italian bankers
(Roberto Calvi in 1982 and Michele Sindona in 1986) who were very close to
Vatican finances has left its mark, to the point that, in the public media, even some eminent
"Vaticanists" have gone as far as expressing concern about the very survival
and physical well-being of the two
figures concerned, as well as of the Pope himself, who could be the target rather than the mover of this
latest unrest in that most secretive and
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in a series of scandals involving the
Vatican and its financial institution, not rarely accused of hiding money-laundering operations, raises some legitimate questions on the possible resignation of Benedict XVI (the
last Pope to resign was Celestine V, in 1294) or other likely upheavals in a stagnant regime which has been distancing itself from the Roman Catholic faithful, especially
outside of Italy.
the Pope's advanced age and failing health would probably make his resignation
unnecessary, and all these recent events within the Vatican are actually
tied in with a forthcoming Conclave, from which the next Pope will
emerge. A fierce "electoral" battle is going
on, which will become more and more
vicious as the time approaches. The choice is severe: the Cardinals may bow to
the weight of authority carried by the
present, mainly Italian, curia and choose to prolong the highly conservative conduct of Vatican
Affairs, or they could take as brave a step as their predecessors did in 1978
and opt for a more modern Church, for the implementation of basic decisions
taken in the Ecumenical Council, Vatican II, and, above all, for the choice of transparency (a Vatican version
of "glasnost") not only in financial
matters, but also in an attempt to
dispel doubts and rumours
about the closely interconnected "mysterious"
happenings mentioned above (to which more can be added).
Vatican observers, it is evident that a battle has been engaged between the
ageing, weakened Pope (who, unlike his predecessor, does not arouse
much affection or loyalty), and his long time Secretary of State,
Cardinal Bertone, who, in the eyes of the "progressives" embodies all the potentially sinister and certainly negative
traits of the more traditionalist, and mainly Italian, sector of the Curia.
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I am a former, now retired, senior Italian diplomatic officer. I have spent many years (over 25) in Central Asia (sixteen in Afghanistan).