The words "I quit" were barely out of Pope Benedict's mouth when cries of "Why?" ["Perche?" Surely. Ed.] Were heard throughout what we used to call Christendom. It didn't take long for Vaticanistas to start reading the entrails, but understanding what really precipitated the Pope's resignation will -- like miracles -- take a little longer.
The last 48 hours has seen three events which, taken together, may add up to an explanation. (Note the use of the indefinite article.) From Walt's perch in the belfry of St. Valentine's Church, the tips of three icebergs can be seen. (Or could it be three tips of one huge berg?)
I. German attorney Ernst von Freyberg has been named president of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), which is the proper name of the Vatican's bank. The appointment will be among the last of Benedict XVI's reign. The announcement (on page 2 of L'Osservatore Romano of 16/2/13) also says "the other four members of the board of supervision maintain their positions."
Also confirmed in their positions were the four prelates who comprise the commission that presides over the IOR. They are cardinals Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, Odilo P. Scherer, and Telesphore P. Toppo. But wait (I almost hear you say), that's only three. The fourth, who also happens to be keeping his position as president of the commission, is none other than Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State.
So what, I definitely hear you ask. Well... The anonymous writer of the report in Chiesa asks if it were truly necessary to renew the members of the commission of cardinals right on the heels of the announcement of the Pope's resignation. Wny not wait, he wonders, for the election of the new pope, who in any case will have the power to change the commission if he so wishes.
II. There has been another significant personnel change, involving Bertone's Secretariat of State.
Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, an undersecretary of the Vatican's Foreign Ministry since 2009, was this week issued with Kevlar vestments and a steel (not the gun but the cute hat) and sent to Colombia as the new Papal Nuncio (ambassador). Colombia is not the end of the Catholic world, but it's 1000s of miles from Rome, which seems to be the point.
The Vatican's senior spokesthingy, Father Federico Lombardi, said today that the transfer had been in the works for months, and had nothing whatever to do with item III on Walt's list, which is...
III. The leak to the Rome daily La Repubblica of the contents of a confidential report into the Vatileaks scandal. Three cardinals -- Julian Herranz (Spanish), Salvatore De Giorgi (Italian), and Jozef Tomko (Slovak) -- were asked by Pope Benedict to investigate the leaking last year of a series of Vatican documents which seriously undermined his papacy.
The leaked papers included private letters to the Pope complaining of corruption and cronyism in the awarding of Vatican contracts. Allegations of money-laundering at the Vatican's bank -- there's the connection -- were reignited.
Who was behind all this? Was it just crooked financiers bent on enriching themselves with the Church's money? Sadly, no.
According to the Rome newspaper, the cardinals reported to the Holy Father several factions within the Vatican, including "a cross-party network united by sexual orientation", were breaking commandments, including the sixth (Thou shalt not commit adultery) and seventh (Thou shalt not steal).
The stealing mentioned was in reference to "mismanagement" at the IOR, and the sixth commandment is often referenced when speaking of homosexuality.
La Repubblica said the 300-page report alleges the gay network convened in a handful of locations in and around Rome, including a sauna, a beauty parlor, university housing being used by a provincial Italian archbishop, and a villa. "For the first time, the word homosexual was pronounced," the newspaper said, referring to a meeting when the cardinals reported their findings to the Holy Father.
Could this be true? Really?! Let's ask Father Lombardi. Oh. He says we shouldn't expect anyone from the Vatican to confirm or deny the allegations. "We're not going to run after all the speculation, the fantasies or the opinions that will be expressed on this issue," he said in a statement published by the Guardian. "And don't expect the three cardinals to give you interviews, either, because they have agreed not to answer [questions] or give information on this issue."
In fact, Father Lombardi won't even admit that the report exists. Kind of like theThird Secret of Fatima.