Pope's butler very likely to get papal pardon
VERY MUCH as expected, a Vatican court on Saturday found the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, guilty of the theft of confidential documents from Pope Benedict XVI’s pontifical apartment. Likewise, as expected, it now seems almost certain that Gabriele will be granted a papal pardon.
Speaking just minutes after a Vatican City court had given Gabriele a suspended 18-month prison sentence, senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that there was a “concrete, very realistic” possibility that the pope would grant him a pardon.
In essence, Pope Benedict may decide that although Gabriele’s actions were wrong, he had acted out of genuine concern for the Catholic Church. Remember, too, that Benedict finds himself in an unusual position in this case, in that he is both the victim of the theft and the Supreme Arbiter, as head of the church and the Vatican.
Issuing the verdict, presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre said that the court had taken into account a series of mitigating circumstances including Gabriele’s lack of a criminal record, his Vatican service record, his confession and his “subjective, if erroneous conviction” that he had acted in the best interests of the church.
Asked by the judge if he considered himself guilty, Gabriele replied: “The thing that I feel most strongly within me is the conviction that I acted exclusively out of love, visceral love I would say, for the Church of Christ and its manifest leader . . . I don’t consider myself a thief.”
Even if this unprecedented trial has concluded, after just one week and four hearings, with a guilty verdict, it still leaves a number of questions unanswered.
Above all, was Gabriele really a misguided whistleblower, acting alone? In his summing up, the chief Vatican prosecutor, Nicola Piccardi, said that the court had uncovered no evidence to disprove Gabriele’s claim that he had worked alone. Not for nothing, Fr Lombardi was very keen to underline this point on Saturday.
Given, however, that the court showed little interest in investigating the role, if any, played in the affair by senior Holy See figures such as Cardinals Paolo Sardi and Angelo Comastri, whom Gabriele had named as “contacts”, a lingering doubt inevitably remains.
Is it not possible that Gabriele leaked confidential documents to the journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of His Holiness: The Secret Papers Of Benedict XVI, at the behest of senior Holy See figures critical of the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone?
What was the role of Gabriele’s two confessors, Don Paolo Morocutti and Don Giovanni Luzi, both mentioned in court?
What was the role of the trio of Vatican-linked laymen, Vincenzo Mauriello, Luca Catano and Enzo Vangeli, also mentioned in court?
Is it true that, among the huge quantity of documents found in Gabriele’s house, there were also the pope’s medical records?
For the time being, Gabriele remains under house arrest in Vatican City until such time as the pope issues his pardon. If and when he is pardoned, many believe that a position inside Vatican City, not the pontifical palace, will be found for him, in order to “protect” him from media harassment.
In the meantime, the Vatican trial of his alleged accomplice, computer technician Claudio Sciarpelletti, is scheduled for November. We may not have heard the last of Vatileaks just yet.