Vatican leaks scandal widens as authors investigated, others suspected

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Book cover phtoo courtesy of Amazon

Book cover phtoo courtesy of Amazon

Italian author Gianluigi Nuzzi holds an Italian copy of his new book, "Merchants in the Temple," in Rome on Nov. 5, 2015. Religion News Service photo by Rosie Scammell

Italian author Gianluigi Nuzzi holds an Italian copy of his new book, “Merchants in the Temple,” in Rome on Nov. 5, 2015. Religion News Service photo by Rosie Scammell

VATICAN CITY (Reuters)  A leaks scandal rocking the papacy widened on Wednesday (Nov. 11)  as the Vatican put two Italian journalists under investigation and said it suspected other Holy See officials had helped two arrested for stealing documents.

The latest twist in the scandal came in a statement about the two journalists who wrote books based on the leaks. It said they were being investigated on suspicion of “complicity in committing a crime.”

The leaks are one of the biggest internal scandals to hit the papacy of Pope Francis and are reminiscent of the “Vatileaks” furor that preceded the resignation of former Pope Benedict in 2013. The Italian media have dubbed the latest episodes “Vatileaks II.”

“Investigators are also looking into the role of people who, because of their office positions (in the Vatican) may have cooperated in obtaining the confidential documents,” spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in the statement, indicating that the scandal looked set to widen soon.

Book cover phtoo courtesy of Amazon

Book cover phtoo courtesy of Amazon

On Nov. 2, the Vatican announced the arrests of a high-ranking Holy See official and an Italian woman who works in public relations for allegedly leaking the documents to the authors of two new books.

Those arrested were members of a commission Francis set up several months after his election in March 2013 to advise him on financial and administrative reforms in the Holy See.

The commission completed its work last year and handed its report to the pope, who subsequently made changes in Vatican administration. They included establishing a new economic ministry and increasing power for Vatican financial regulators.

The books by the two authors, “Merchants in the Temple” by Gianluigi Nuzzi and “Avarice” by Emiliano Fittipaldi, depict a Vatican plagued by mismanagement, greed and corruption and where Pope Francis faces stiff resistance from the old guard to his reform agenda.

The Vatican has condemned the books because it says they were based on stolen documents and give only a “partial and tendentious” version of events.

Last Sunday, the pope said the leaks were “deplorable” and vowed that they would not distract him from continuing financial and administrative reforms.

The Vatican‘s decision to investigate Nuzzi and Fittipaldi for suspicion of complicity in theft, however, could end up slowing down its investigation.

The Vatican is a sovereign city-state and the two journalists are Italian citizens. Unless the journalists agree to be questioned by the Vatican, the Holy See would have to ask Italian investigators to do it, a complicated and lengthy diplomatic process.

The Vatican has accused the authors of trying to reap financial advantages from receiving stolen documents. Both authors have rejected the accusations, saying they were just doing their jobs.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella)

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  • Betty Clermont

    As shown by these two books, this pope’s “reform” was replacing the old crooks with his own crooks. “Increasing power for Vatican financial regulators” means men appointed by this pope will be watching other men appointed by this pope. Any questionable transactions will be adjudicated by other men appointed by this pope while the final decisions will be made by this pope.

  • Larry

    “The Vatican has accused the authors of trying to reap financial advantages from receiving stolen documents.”

    But they are not denying that anything in the books in question was untrue or misrepresented.

  • samuel johnston

    Hi Larry,
    Exactly.

    “The Vatican has condemned the books because it says they were based on stolen documents and give only a “partial and tendentious” version of events.”

    No material defense, only legalistic and procedural objections.
    It is past time to convert the Vatican into a mere tourist attraction. The secret society and it’s pretend “state” status, is an embarrassment for all concerned.
    The Holy Roman Empire is DEAD!