Woman in Vatileaks trial got messages via confession box, new book says

Francesca Chaouqui
Francesca Chaouqui poses with her book "In Peter's name" during an interview with Reuters on Feb. 6, 2017, in Rome. Photo by Max Rossi/Reuters

ROME (Reuters) The woman convicted of helping leak Vatican documents says in a new book that an official in a key office of the Holy See left her secret messages in the confession box of a Rome church during the trial.

The episode is one new element in the book “In Peter’s Name,” by Francesca Chaouqui, who got a 10-month suspended sentence at the end of a sensational eight-month trial dubbed “Vatileaks 2” last July.

She describes a Vatican where infighting and resistance to Pope Francis’ reforms are rife.

Asked for a comment on the book, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said: “We’re not losing sleep over it.”

Much of the financial information in her book has already been reported in two books published in 2015 that contained information leaked by a Vatican official. Chaouqui was convicted of being an accessory.

She writes that, during the trial, a “friend” in the Secretariat of State, the Vatican‘s administrative nerve center, left her messages on scraps of paper in San Luigi dei Francesi church, which is often crowded with tourists viewing paintings by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

“They were left in the confession box to keep me informed of what was happening in the Vatican and they helped me cope,” she writes.

Chaouqui, an Italian aged 35, writes that one of the messages informed her that her house was going to be searched.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday (Feb. 6), she declined to say if the source was a cleric but added that he was still feeding her information.

She was free during the trial but the other key defendant, Spanish Monsignor Angel Lucio Vallejo Balda, who was the No. 2 at a Vatican financial office before his arrest, was held in a Vatican jail cell.

Chaouqui’s sentence was suspended because she had just given birth. Balda served more than half of an 18-month sentence before the pope commuted it and ordered him freed. The two Italian journalists who wrote books based on the leaks were cleared.

During the sometimes bizarre trial, the spotlight was often on the relationship between Chaouqui and Balda. Once colleagues, they spent much of it hurling insults and accusations at each other.

He claimed she was an ambitious and manipulative social climber who seduced him before turning on him when she did not get a permanent position in the Vatican. She said she had never slept with him and that he had confided that he was gay.

In the interview, she said some in the Vatican had tried to smear her as “that little whore who slept with a priest,” adding: “I don’t have to go to bed with prelates. I have the necessary courage, intelligence and competence to do what I want by using my brains and not my intimate parts.”

Last week, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, former Vatican spokesman, and Massimiliano Menichetti, a journalist from Vatican Radio, published a book called “Vatileaks 2,” a day-to-day recounting of the trial.

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  • The other 2 books revealed that of the half billion in charitable donations annually, the pope gives only 20% to charity; the Italian gov’t still considers the Vatican a risk for money laundering, and that fraud is still rampant. “Until we have significant prosecutions of financial crimes, a convincing annual financial statement, and an audit with teeth, reminders of the work left to be done are always useful,” wrote Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr about Chaouqui’s book.

  • I am reminded of the Scripture which states that God desires truth in the innermost parts. Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by Him. Would that all those who name the Name of Christ emulated the teachings of the Master, Catholic and Protestant alike.

  • Thank you for coming into agreement with me Ms. Clermont. I have been struggling with my own issues surrounding certain irregularities in the Bishrophic of Raleigh. I was confirmed in the Catholic Church a few years ago and I love Her; she is an ancient and venerable branch of the Body of Christ. However I have no stomach for duplicity. Please pray for me that I might know peace even in the midst of controversy and censure on the part of some with the Church’s hierarchy. May I have the moral courage to continue to say “not my will but Thine be done”. Peace be with you. Lisa Peppel

  • “I don’t have to go to bed with prelates. I have the necessary courage, intelligence and competence to do what I want by using my brains and not my intimate parts.”

    Mic drop.

  • And also with you. I will hold you in my prayers. I, too, love the Catholic faith but have no stomach for duplicity.

  • Thank you kindly for your Christian Love in prayer. I have served the Lord as an intercessor for decades and know the cost of entering in for the sake of another. Your willingness to pray is a very special gift of encouragement for me. May you be richly blessed with “every good and perfect gift” from our Heavenly Father. Have a wonderful day.

  • I am aware of the personal cost to intercessor’s and applaud your courage and self-sacrifice. Your blessing means so much to me. I hope you have a wonderful day, too.