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Pope Benedict’s ex-butler, the man responsible for leaking a large trove of top secret Vatican documents, has been convicted following an incredibly swift trial, raising the eyebrows of not just conspiracy theorists. Paolo Gabriele was found guilty of theft and remanded to house arrest. Although the formal sentence was three years, it was reduced to only eighteen months, and Vatican reporters expect him to eventually receive a papal pardon. The trial lasted only a few days before a decision was reached.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “Newspaper commentators asked if Gabriele had cut a deal with the Vatican, agreeing not to divulge much of what he knew in exchange for a papal pardon and continued unemployment in a low-profile job in the city state.” This is not only because Gabriele had such a surprisingly lenient sentence, but also because questions were left unanswered.
Other than Gianluigi Nuzzi, the Italian journalist who used some of the material for his best-selling book published in May, as well as a Vatican computer expert who was also indicted, no one else has been directly incriminated in the case. The scale and importance of the documents have led to much speculation regarding other Vatican officials and a possible cover-up, according to the Tribune. Many doubt that Gabriele could have acted alone in such a feat.
Gabriele testified, “My intention was to find someone trustworthy with whom to share my state of mind and my perplexity regarding a situation that was unbearable, not only for me but for many inside the Vatican.” The man who admitted to wrongdoing for the sake of exposing corruption seems to be involved in a lightning-fast cover-up. It makes little sense.
The leaked information implicates the church in allegations of corruption, “financial misdeeds within the Vatican, as well as infighting and widespread tensions.” There’s also the mismanagement of sexual abuse cases and allegations of which the church has been accused of in recent times. It is not insignificant that these allegations come in the heels of other Vatican scandals. An extremely high-profile, yet secretive trial can only further damage the reputation of the Catholic Church.
In its haste to sweep any further unpleasantness under the rug, the Vatican has created a mountain out of a molehill for itself. Rather than using the trial to demonstrate a system of fairness and transparency, the church acted in the most incriminating manner possible. What could have been used as an opportunity to show a genuine push for change was instead swept over, for the entire world to see.