“…have brought sadness to my heart.”

May 30, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI leads a prayer as he begins his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 30. At right is Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the pope’s personal secretary (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Benedict spoke publicly on May 30 for the first time about the “Vatileaks” scandal which in recent weeks has seen published dozens of private documents from his own apartments.

In his brief remarks, the Pope first expressed his sadness, then noted that, despite his sadness, his faith in Christ, and in Christ’s care for His Church, has not been shaken, but remains firm.

“Events in recent days regarding the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness to my heart, though (I have) the firm conviction, that despite human weakness, despite difficulties and trials, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, and the Lord will never fail to give His aid in sustaining the Church on her journey,” Benedict said, speaking to crowds in St. Peter’s Square who had gathered for his ordinary Wednesday General Audience.

The Pope then made two observations: (1) that there have been many exaggerations and false reports in the media about this case (some Italian papers have printed stories which refer to the Holy See as a “nest of vipers”); and (2) that he himself still has deep trust in the work of his collaborators and advisors in the Curia.

“Nevertheless, some entirely gratuitous rumors have multiplied, amplified by some media, which went well beyond the facts, offering a picture of the Holy See that does not correspond to reality,” the Pope said. “I would like therefore to reiterate my confidence and my encouragement to my staff and to all those who, day in and day out, faithfully and with a spirit of sacrifice, quietly help me in fulfilling my ministry.”

Unanswered Questions

The key figure thus far in this case is Paolo Gabriele, 46, the Pope’s valet or butler. Gabriele appears to have betrayed the Pope’s trust by copying and disseminating secret Vatican documents from the Pope’s own apartments. He is now being held under arrest in a holding room inside Vatican City, and is being questioned. He has told Vatican officials that he is willing to cooperate with them, leading some Italian papers to speculate that, in the end, charges against him may even be dropped, and he may never go to trial. However, it must be emphasized that there still remain many things about this case that are unknown or unclear.

Did Gabriele begin to copy documents years ago, starting in 2006, at the time he began to work closely with the Pope, or only more recently? We do not know.

Was there from the beginning a plan to publish the documents? Or were the documents at first collected merely for personal use, and only recently did the idea develop to turn the documents over for publication? If there was a plan from the beginning, was there anyone else involved with the plan? Was there someone else, or more than one person, who told Gabriele to look for documents on particular subjects? And if so, what was the criteria used in selecting the documents? We don’t know.

Were some documents perhaps gathered by other, unknown people, then handed over to Gabriele, whose “parallel archive” in this scenario became a kind of central collection center?

Did Gabriele, in short, work alone, or not? And if he did not work alone, who were his collaborators, advisors, supporters, accomplices?

And how many documents, precisely, did he steal? At first there were reports in the Italian press that “stacks” and “boxes” of documents were found when Vatican police raided his home, just outside St. Anne’s Gate. Then, Gariele’s attorney issued a statement saying that this was simply not true. So were there “stacks” of documents found, or not? We simply do not know.
These are just some of the unanswered questions in this case. There are many more.

The Pope, up to now, has come out of this unprecented, confusing situation as a man who, at every opportunity, seeks the truth. In this sense, thus far, the Pope himself has not been harmed by the “Vatileaks” affair.
But, the Curia has not come out of the scandal as well as the Pope has. The Curia has come across as a quite human place of powerful, sometimes mean-spirited, cross-currents and interest groups.

Benedict’s Credibility Strengthened

In this sense, the effect of this “Vatileaks” scandal thus far, whether planned or not, may have been to diminish the dignity and authority of the Pope, of his Curia, and of the Church as a whole. But that may not be the final result of this story.

The odd things about human affairs is that they can sometimes turn out differently than the planners of events intend. And in this case, there is already emerging something entirely different than what seems likely to have been the original intent. Instead of isolating the Pope even further, leaving him alone and impotent, the “Vatileaks” affair is winning sympathy and support for the aging Pope.

And therefore, if Benedict continues in the way he has up until now, steadily, patiently, wisely, speaking with authority, with eloquence, with charity but in truth, this strange case may actually end up giving him an even larger and more attentive audience, so that his words, in our troubled 21st century world, may find their way into hearts, and bear fruit.


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