VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Call it Conspiracy City. Call it Scandal City. Call it Leak City. These days the holy city has been in the news for anything but holy reasons.
"It is a total mess," said one high-ranking Vatican official who spoke, like all others, on the condition of anonymity.
[Dan Brown alert!]
Senior church officials interviewed this month said almost daily embarrassments that have put the Vatican on the defensive could force Pope Benedict to act to clean up the image of its administration - at a time when the church faces a deeper crisis of authority and relevance in the wider world.
Some of those sources said the outcome of a power struggle inside the Holy See may even have a longer-term effect, on the choice of the man to succeed Benedict when he dies.
From leaked letters by an archbishop who was transferred after he blew the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption and cronyism, to a leaked poison pen memo which puts a number of cardinals in a bad light, to new suspicions about its bank, Vatican spokesmen have had their work cut out responding. [I have learned about this in a long time but I do not want to blog about it.]
The flurry of leaks has come at an embarrassing time - just before a usually joyful ceremony this week known as a consistory, when Benedict will admit more prelates into the College of Cardinals, the exclusive men's club that will one day pick the next Roman Catholic leader from among their own ranks.
"This consistory will be taking place in an atmosphere that is certainly not very glorious or exalting," said one bishop with direct knowledge of Vatican affairs.
The sources agreed that the leaks were part of an internal campaign - a sort of "mutiny of the monsignors" - against the pope's right-hand man, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. [Because Bertone has been a pain in the ass for a very long time ever since he became Secretary of State. I have heard this for a long time also and now the reports are true. His authoritarian "rule" and over maneuvering started with the "revelation" and "explanation" of the Third Secret of Fatima which he even organized a press conference for. Vaticanistas were buzzing about this. I even heard that Bertone is even trying his hand in the papal liturgies which irked Mons. Guido Marini. ]
Bertone, 77, has a reputation as a heavy-handed administrator and power-broker whose style has alienated many in the Curia, the bureaucracy that runs the central administration of the 1.3 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church. [Bertone, it seems, is on the line to be replaced as news of his attitude reached the Holy Father. The problem is, no one is yet ready to take his post since a career diplomat is needed for the post. I think Cardinal-designate Fernando Filoni is being groomed. Remember that Filoni used to be the papal nuncio to the Philippines.]
He came to the job, traditionally occupied by a career diplomat, in 2006 with no experience of working in the church's diplomatic corps, which manages its international relations. Benedict chose him, rather, because he had worked under the future pontiff, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in the Vatican's powerful doctrinal office. [Which explains why the Pope needed a career diplomat to replace him. But according to Vaticanistas, Bertone has learned how to be a diplomat, somewhat, but the greater problem with him is that he meddles in the affairs of other Sacred Congregations.]
"It's all aimed at Bertone," said a monsignor in a key Vatican department who sympathizes with the secretary of state and who sees the leakers as determined to oust him. "It's very clear that they want to get rid of Bertone." [Which I can name two cardinals who wanted him out too. These two clashed with him on issues about the SSPX and the liturgy.]
Vatican sources say the rebels have the tacit backing of a former secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, an influential power-broker in his own right and a veteran diplomat who served under the late Pope John Paul II for 15 years. [Sodano has his own agenda. Reportedly, it took him a long time to even vacate his old quarters in the Secretariat of State! Because Sodano feels he still is in position.]
"The diplomatic wing feels that they are the rightful owners of the Vatican," the monsignor who favors Bertone said.
Sodano and Bertone are not mutual admirers, to put it mildly. Neither has commented publicly on the reports.
The Vatican has been no stranger to controversy in recent years, when uproar over its handling of child sex abuse charges has hampered the church's efforts to stem the erosion of congregations and priestly recruitment in the developed world. [Ratzinger blew the whistle to John Paul II. Sodano, meddled in the affairs of Ratzinger when the investigation turned its attention to Boston's Cardinal Law and Marcial Maciel!]
But the latest image crisis could not be closer to home.
It began last month when an Italian television investigative show broadcast private letters to Bertone and the pope from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former deputy governor of the Vatican City and currently the Vatican ambassador in Washington. [Now there is the reason why he was transferred.]
The letters, which the Vatican has confirmed are authentic, showed that Vigano was transferred after he exposed what he argued was a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to contractors at inflated prices. [And it is just the tip of the iceberg. Does NEOCATECHUMENICAL WAY ring a bell?]
As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state's gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure, which are managed separately from the Italian capital which surrounds it.
In one letter, Vigano writes of a smear campaign against him by other Vatican officials who were upset that he had taken drastic steps to clean up the purchasing procedures and begged to stay in the job to finish what he had started.
Bertone responded by removing Vigano from his position three years before the end of his tenure and sending him to the United States, despite his strong resistance. [Bertone is a power-broker. He makes sure no one gets to the pope's door without him knowing about it.]
Other leaks center on the Vatican bank, just as it is trying to put behind it past scandals - including the collapse 30 years ago of Banco Ambrosiano, which entangled it in lurid allegations about money-laundering, freemasons, mafiosi and the mysterious death of Ambrosiano chairman Roberto Calvi - "God's banker."
Today, the Vatican bank, formally known at the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), is aiming to comply fully with international norms and has applied for the Vatican's inclusion on the European Commission's approved "white list" of states that meet EU standards for total financial transparency.
Bertone was instrumental in putting the bank's current executives in place and any lingering suspicion about it reflects badly on him. The Commission will decide in June and failure to make the list would be an embarrassment for Bertone.
Last week, an Italian newspaper that has published some of the leaks ran a bizarre internal Vatican memo that involved one cardinal complaining about another cardinal who spoke about a possible assassination attempt against the pope within 12 months and openly speculated on who the next pope should be.
Bertone's detractors say he has packed the Curia with Italian friends. Some see an attempt to influence the election of the next pope and increase the chances that the papacy returns to Italy after two successive non-Italian popes who have broken what had been an Italian monopoly for over 450 years. [The College of Cardinals is now full of Italians. Smell the hand of the mafia or masons in this? Well, I do. Look in Manila. Right Reginald?]
Seven of the 18 new "cardinal electors" -- those aged under 80 eligible to elect a pope -- at this Saturday's consistory are Italian. Six of those work for Bertone in the Curia.
Bertone, as chief administrator, had a key role in advising the pope on the appointments, which raised eyebrows because of the high number of Italian bureaucrats among them.
"There is widespread malaise and delusion about Bertone inside the Curia. It is full of complaints," said the bishop who has close knowledge of Vatican affairs.
"Bertone has had a very brash method of running the Vatican and putting his friends in high places. People could not take it any more and said 'enough' and that is why I think these leaks are coming out now to make him look bad," he said.
Leaked confidential cables sent to the State Department by the U.S. embassy to the Vatican depicted him as a "yes man" with no diplomatic experience or linguistic skills and the 2009 cable suggests that the pope is protected from bad news. [As I said, Bertone is THE gatekeeper than even Msgr. Ganswein and Marini cannot control. He is very powerful. Hmmm... The image of Grima Wormtongue of the LOTR books comes to mind. LOL!]
"There is also the question of who, if anyone, brings dissenting views to the pope's attention," read the cable, published by WikiLeaks.
The Vatican sources said some cardinals asked the pope to replace Bertone because of administrative lapses, including the failure to warn the pope that a renegade bishop re-admitted to the Church in 2009 was a well-known Holocaust denier.
But they said the pope, at 84 and increasingly showing the signs of his age, is not eager to break in a new right-hand man.
"It's so complicated and the pope is so helpless," said the monsignor.
The bishop said: "The pope is very isolated. He lives in his own world and some say the information he receives is filtered. He is interested in his books and his sermons but he is not very interested in government."
(Editing by Jon Boyle and Alastair Macdonald)
This news has been making the rounds in traditional communities and I was afraid the MSM would take a hold of this. And it just did.
Now with how things are going in the Vatican, we really need to offer our prayers and sacrifices for the Holy Father!
UPDATE: FEBRUARY 14, 2012, 10:00PM
The Holy See issues its response!
Vatican City, 14 February 2012 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a note written by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Frederico Lombardi S.J. and released late yesterday afternoon by Vatican Radio, concerning the recent leaking of a series of Vatican documents.
"Nowadays we must all have strong nerves, because no one can be surprised at anything. The American administration was affected by Wikileaks, now the Vatican too has its disclosures, its leaked documents, which tend to create confusion and bewilderment, and to throw a bad light on the Vatican, the governance of the Church and, more broadly, on the Church herself.
"We must, then, remain calm and keep our nerve, make use of reason, something which not all media outlets tend to do. The documents in question are of different kinds and importance, drawn up at various times and for differing situations. One thing is the discussion of the improved economic management of an institution such as the Governorate, which has many different activities; another are notes on current juridical and legislative questions, about which it is quite normal that there should be contrasting opinions; quite another are delirious and incomprehensible reports about plots against the Pope's life. [So, Fr. Lombardi sets the record straight by admitting most and denying one leak.] Yet, putting them all together helps to create confusion. [I agree. The lumping of the leaks into one report create that impression.] Serious reporting should be capable of distinguishing the issues and understanding their differing importance. It is obvious that the economic activities of the Governorate have to be managed wisely and rigorously. It is clear that the IOR and financial activities must be correctly integrated into international anti-recycling norms. These are of course the Pope's instructions. At the same time, it is evident that the story about a plot against the Pope, as I said immediately at the time, is nonsense, madness, and does not deserve to be taken seriously. [What?! Any plot whether absurd or far-fetched it might be must always be treated seriously!]
"There is something very sad in the fact that documents are dishonestly passed from the inside to the outside in order to create confusion. Both sides bear responsibility: firstly the suppliers of documents of this kind, but also those who undertake to use them for purposes that certainly have nothing to do with pure love of truth. We must, therefore, stand firm, not allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by the vortex of confusion, which is what ill-intentioned people want, and remaining capable of using our reason.
"In a certain sense - according to an ancient expression of human and spiritual wisdom - the emergence of more powerful attacks is a sign that something important is at stake. The series of attacks against the Church on the issue of sexual abuse has been justly met with serious and profound commitment to far-sighted renewal; not a myopic response but purification and rehabilitation. We have now taken control of the situation and are developing a powerful strategy of healing, renewal and prevention, for the good of society as a whole. [I certainly hope the same can be said about financial impropriety and liturgical abuse! kaching-ka-ching, Sobre! Swswhwshwhwhshwsshhhh!] At the same time, there is a serious commitment to ensure authentic transparency in the working of Vatican institutions, also from an economic perspective. New norms have been issued and channels have been opened for international monitoring. And yet a lot of the recently leaked documents tend to discredit precisely those efforts. This, paradoxically, constitutes another reason to continue them with determination, not allowing ourselves to be cowed. If many people insist on attacking us, the issue is obviously important. Whoever thinks he is discouraging the Pope and his collaborators in their commitment is mistaken.
"As for the issue of the supposed power struggles in view of the next conclave, I would invite everyone to note that all the Pontiffs elected during the last hundred years have been people of exalted and unquestioned spiritual merit. Cardinals have naturally sought, and still seek, to elect someone who deserves the respect of the people of God, someone who can serve humankind in our time with great moral and spiritual authority. Reading these events as an internal power struggle depends to a large extent on the moral coarseness of those who provoke them and those who see them as such, people often incapable of seeing anything else. Fortunately, those who believe in Jesus Christ know that - whatever may be written in today's newspapers - the true concerns of those with positions of responsibility in the Church are the serious problems facing the men and women of today and tomorrow. Not for nothing do we also believe in, and speak of, the assistance of the Holy Spirit".
Uhm... where's the answer about Sodano vs. Bertone? the power-tripping of Bertone?
Silence may mean Yes, Fr. Lombardi.