Unprecedented leaks of suppressed documents has placed the Vatican in the midst of a widening scandal. A trove of documents that were provided to an Italian investigative journalist last year has proved to be a continuing embarrassment. The so-called 'Vatileaks' has been dismissed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state who is second only to the Pope himself, who said that it came as a result of journalists "pretending to be Dan Brown." This was widely understood to be a reference to the author of the popular and wildly speculative best-seller 'The DaVinci Code' that provided readers with novelized corruption and high jinks at the Vatican. Cardinal Bertone also cryptically blamed the "devil".
Cardinal Bertone himself may be the target of the leaks.
Italian journalist Gianlugi Nuzzi, the author of a series of sensationalistic books about the Vatican, was reportedly vetted for months before being given the documents by an unknown source known as "Maria", the Daily Beast reports. Author Nuzzi began revealing the information in the documents in his TV show The Untouchables last year, before publishing full details in a book that was published last month, Sua Santità—Le Carte Segrete di Benedetto XVI.
The documents are 30 faxed memos from Pope Benedict's personal office to other offices at the Vatican. While some are of only slight interest, others hint at scandals that led to further investigations and speculation. The documents appear to show that officials at the Vatican who tried to scour out corruption at the Vatican Bank were put off the trail.
For example, while he was deputy-governor of the Vatican City (2009-2011), Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano discovered and reportedly tried to stop to corruption, cronyism, nepotism, and the awarding of contracts to friends of officials at inflated prices. However, when he brought evidence of these events to the attention of Pope Benedict, Vignano was removed from office.
Scandals that have emerged since the onset of Vatileaks are causing a swirl of rumor and speculation. There is the case of Mafia boss Enrico De Pedis, who was reportedly buried alongside the bodies of former Popes and cardinals following his death in 1990 in exchange for a payment of 1 billion lire ($660,000). While rumors about De Pedis had existed for decades, a note recently leaked from the Vatican press office suggested that mobster Pedis may have played a role in the disappearance of a Vatican employee's 15-year-old daughter, Emanuela Orlandi.
Soon after that revelation, Father Gabriel Amorth, a widely acclaimed exorcist, said he believed Emanuela had been involved in depraved sex parties, and her remains were buried with De Pedis. Adding to the mystery, investigators opened the tomb and determined that the bones discovered do not belong to the deceased mobster De Pedis.
Other Mafia ties involve Father Ninni Treppiedi and Sicilian mafioso Matteo Messina Denaro. Reportedly, millions of Denaro's euros were laundered through Treppiedi's former parish in Aclamo, the richest parish in Sicily. Denaro is still at large and is the most wanted man in Italy.
Another scandal involves the former Vatican Bank president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, The urbane Tedeschi was given a vote of no confidence in May, ostensibly because he leaked the offending bank documents. However, Tedeschi says he was attempting to reform the bank and clear out corruption. He now fears for his life.
In May, Vatican authorities finally arrested the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, who is now behind bars in a Vatican jail. The arrest made worldwide headlines, even while conspiracy theorists still do not accept the official story. One theory holds that butler Gabriele would not have had access to some of the documents, and high ranking cardinals may have been behind the leak. So far, journalist Nuzzi has refused to say anything about the person who gave him the Vatileaks documents.
The leaks have drawn the attention of institutions outside of the Catholic Church. For example, for the first time ever the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report said the Vatican city is an area "of concern" with regard to money laundering, while the Milan branch of JPMorgan Chase bank closed the Vatican's bank account at the end of March, and cited a lack of transparency and insufficient information concerning money transfers.
Journalist Nuzzi has told Der Spiegel magazine that the target is not Pope Benedict. He argues that the German pontiff is actually a revolutionary who wants to clear out the Augean stables at the Vatican bank. Nuzzi said that the leaks show a lack of leadership on Benedict's part. Some observers note that the target of attacks appears to Cardinal Bertone, who has been accused of cronyism and refusing to deal with corruption.
Bertone is the head of the Vatican Curia, an ancient bureaucracy long dominated by Italian clerics. Theories abound that the Pope can do little, despite leading the Church. The level of stress appears to be increasing. According to Business Insider, a letter was sent in February to the highest Vatican officials of a plot to assassinate Pope Benedict.