Cardinals meet in shadow of scandal, discord & intrigue
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Roman Catholic cardinals gathering to choose a successor to “Pope Emeritus Benedict” will be worrying about a Vatican hierarchy hit by scandals, intrigue and betrayals befitting a Renaissance court.
As well as sexual abuse by priests around the world, the scandals closer to home involve the leak of Benedict’s personal papers, media reports of sexual misconduct in the Vatican, wiretapping, bureaucratic bungling and mishaps that many say could have been avoided.
The foreign cardinals who will choose the next pope have been particularly alarmed over the reports and might be inclined to pick someone not connected with the Vatican’s Italian-dominated central administration, Vatican insiders say.
“Our people want a holy man to be the pope,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. “People are looking for a shepherd,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston.
But in the back of their minds will also be the need to clean up the Curia, the opaque administrative apparatus that runs the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. In the weeks following Benedict’s shock decision to resign, Italian newspapers have run many stories about a secret report prepared for the pope by three cardinals who investigated the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal last year.
Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s butler, was convicted of stealing personal papal documents and leaking them to the media. He was jailed and later pardoned by the pope.
The documents alleged corruption in the Vatican and infighting over the running of its bank, which has been at the heart of a series of scandals in past decades.
According to one unsourced report, the secret report also touched on homosexual activity by some Vatican monsignors, leaving them and the Vatican open to blackmail.
The Vatican has accused the Italian media of spreading “false and damaging” reports, condemning some as deplorable attempts to influence the cardinal electors.
But on Thursday, the day the pope resigned, the Vatican acknowledged that some parts of an Italian magazine report about wiretapping in the Vatican were true.
It said “a few” phones had been tapped by magistrates investigating the leaks scandal but that the tapping was not as widespread as the magazine suggested.
The secret report on the leaks was given to Benedict, who decided to make it available only to his successor. But it is expected to be a topic of discussions at pre-conclave meetings that begin on Monday.
One Vatican official said the three elderly cardinals who wrote it “will use their discernment to give any necessary guidance” to fellow cardinals without violating their pact of secrecy about its specific contents.