Vatican butler and papal intrigues

people in st peter s square

If you think papal intrigue is a thing of the past – then read about a Vatican scandal under Pope Benedict XVI. This involved the arrest by the Vatican of a butler to the Pontiff who had leaked sensitive documents. Read my account from the time!

Paolo Gabriele has been very swiftly convicted of leaking sensitive documents, which he gained access to as the butler to Pope Benedict XVI. The trial has thrown up some unwelcome details about how the Vatican operates – especially the existence of a very cramped prison within its walls. Gabriele claimed his cell was so small that he couldn’t extend his arms – his light was also kept on 24 hours for days on end.

Gabriele has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment within the Vatican – though a papal pardon is expected. The butler claimed he stole and photocopied the documents to counter corruption he saw within the church. Needless to say the Catholic hierarchy has accused him of a serious breach of confidence. The media, meanwhile, suspects that Gabriele did not act on his own. The scale of what he did suggests the involvement of others.

In the background is a less than decorous jockeying for position among cardinals eager to succeed the old pope when he dies. Some see Gabriele as part of a wider plot as a struggle for the succession brews. The butler handed the documents he took to journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi who brought out a book on the back of what he read. What emerges is a small city state seething with intrigue and the man most hated is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone – the Vatican Secretary of State. He may have been the target of whatever has been going on here.

When the sentence of 18 months imprisonment was read out – it began with the words: “In the name of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who reigns in glory, and invoking the Holy Trinity.” To us, of course, this seems very strange. But go back to the medieval period and church courts would have been commonplace. Church prisons certainly existed. Gabriele should count himself lucky that church torture and death sentences are not used these days.

One thought on “Vatican butler and papal intrigues

Leave a Reply