Vatileaks, Ctd.

Do you remember Vatileaks? Maybe? Well, we have an update for you. The Pope’s butler–the very man who once dressed the Roman Pontiff–has commenced his trial today. Accused in May of stealing Papal documents and sharing them with an Italian journalist, Paolo Gabriele now faces up to four years in prison. Along with private correspondence and other classified documents, Gabriele nabbed a 16th century copy of the Virgil’s Aneid, a 100,000 Euro check and a gold nugget. (It’s unclear if Gabriele would be facing charges had he merely faxed over a slew of letters and memos, rather than stolen materials outright.)

For his efforts, it’s worth revisiting a few of his revelations. Borgia-style Vatican corruption, he found, is alive and well. From the Daily Beast:

Dino Boffo, the former editor of the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, [asked] a high-ranking cardinal and the pope to intervene against editor Gain Maria Vian of the rival Catholic newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, who had leaked allegations that Boffo had harassed the wife of his gay lover. There are also letters from Italian public figures like Bruno Vespa, a well-known television journalist—like an Italian Mike Wallace—whose note with a donation of €10,000 donation to the church included a peculiar postscript: “When can I have a private audience?” One document outlines the trail of a €100,000 white truffle, donated by a prestigious Italian in exchange for a papal favor, which ended up in a soup-kitchen pasta lunch for the homeless.

Closer to home, Gabriele’s findings revealed systemic problems in the American diocese too. At one point the Vatican had $10 million sent to a federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., to bail out the heavily indebted Church. Indeed, getting sent to work in America, with its roiling pedophilia scandal and meddlesome nuns, was a form of high punishment. After one Cardinal uncovered corruption in the Vatican accounting office he was shipped to America for three years.

If nothing else, Gabriele’s trial should remind us how (necessarily, I suppose) resistant to transparency and open discourse the Vatican remains. Yesterday, the Times reported that Vatican newspaper bluntly disavowed a Harvard historian’s recent discovery of a Coptic text that suggests Jesus may have had a wife. L’Osservatore Romano called it an “inept forgery” and a “fake,” without bothering to wait for the carbon testing the document is undergoing in mid-October.

Simon van Zuylen-Wood

Simon van Zuylen-Wood is a writer for Philadelphia Magazine.