Trial of pope's butler starts with setback for defense

VATICAN CITY Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:08pm EDT

1 of 13. Pope Benedict's former butler Paolo Gabriele (R), accused of stealing and leaking the pontiff's personal papers, sits at the start of his trial at the Vatican September 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict's butler, accused of using his access to the pope to steal papers that he thought would expose Vatican corruption, suffered a blow on Saturday's first day of his trial when judges refused to admit evidence from the Church's own investigation.

Gabriele's arrest in May, after police found confidential documents in his apartment inside the Vatican, not only threw a spotlight on allegations of malpractice but also pointed to a power struggle at the highest levels of the Church.

The 46-year-old Paolo Gabriele, an unassuming man who served the pope his meals and helped him dress, looked pale at his first public appearance since May. He smiled as he chatted with his lawyer but often staring into space during a hearing that lasted just under two and a half hours.

His lawyer, Cristiana Arru, had asked the court to allow as evidence the results of an inquiry by a commission of three cardinals who questioned Vatican employees, including prelates, about the leaks of the documents to Italian media.

But chief judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, sitting before a crucifix and with a large, framed picture of Benedict looking down from the wall, said the commission answered only to the pope and had "no relevance" to the Vatican City's penal code.

According to an indictment issued in August, Gabriele told investigators he had acted because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church" and wanted to help root it out "because the pope was not sufficiently informed".

Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police force, told the court that 82 boxes of evidence had been seized in Gabriele's apartments in the Vatican and in the papal summer residence.

Arru had wanted to see the commission's transcripts in the hope that they could help to explain her client's motives.


Instead, trial evidence will be based solely on the results of the investigation by a Vatican prosecutor and Vatican police.

The trial is being held under a 19th-century criminal code, so Gabriele did not enter a plea and did not speak. He is expected to testify when the trial resumes on Tuesday.

In a mostly procedural session, the court split off the case of Claudio Sciarpelletti, a Vatican computer expert charged with helping Gabriele who was not present in court.

The session was attended by eight police witnesses. The other four witnesses, including the pope's private secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, were not present but are expected to give evidence next week. Gabriele's family also did not attend

Dalla Torre, wearing a black robe with gold epaulettes and a white, ruffled cravat, said he hoped to wind up the proceedings next week. It was not clear when the verdict would come.

The self-styled whistle-blower, who wore a smart light grey suit and light grey tie, could be jailed for four years.

Gabriele, who has said he saw himself as an "agent of the Holy Spirit", is widely expected to be found guilty because he has confessed.

"He has done harm by leaking this information because there will always be somebody who will take advantage of these things to denigrate the Church," said Rome resident Sergio Caldari in Saint Peter's Square.

Another local onlooker, Giovanni Maisto, said he was hopeful that the trial could mark "a new dimension of openness and transparency" in the Church's affairs.

Gabriele, a father of three who lived a simple but comfortable life in the city-state, told investigators after his arrest that he believed a shock "could be a healthy thing to bring the Church back on the right track".


His capture capped nearly five months of intrigue and suspense after a string of documents and private letters found their way into the Italian media.

It was the latest embarrassment for a Church still reeling from the scandal of worldwide sexual abuse by members of its clergy.

The most notorious of the letters were written to the pope by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, currently Vatican's ambassador to Washington, who was deputy governor of the Vatican City at the time.

In one, Vigano complains that when he took office in 2009, he discovered corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.

Vigano later wrote to the pope about a smear campaign against him by other Vatican officials who were upset that he had taken drastic steps to clean up the purchasing procedures.

Despite begging not to be moved, Vigano was later transferred to Washington by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, effectively the Vatican's prime minister.

Since the papal state has no prison, Gabriele would serve time in an Italian jail, though the pope is widely expected to pardon him.

Television cameras, tape recorders and computers were not allowed into the court, a small, wood-paneled room with an ornate papal emblem on its ceiling.

The eight journalists allowed to cover the hearing were even blocked from bringing their own pens inside for fear that they could contain hidden recorders or cameras.

(additional reporting by Gavin Jones and Eleanor Biles; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Comments (7)
DeanMJackson wrote:
The “power struggle” going on within the Vatican is not what the media is telling you. The real “power struggle” has to do with Moscow’s infiltration of the Vatican by at least the Pontificate of John XXIII. This dating for the infiltration is good, since it coincides with the inexplicable refusal to release the Third Secret of Fatima by no later than 1960.*

Why would Communists worry about releasing what to them would be a silly superstition? The fact that the “silly superstition” mentioned the infiltration of the Catholic Church by what the document called “Satanic” forces would have been enough to keep the “inconvenient” document sealed. There was no way such a document was going to see the light of day, since its release would compel a closer examination of the Vatican by independent observers, possibly compromising Moscow’s recent usurpation of the Holy See.

However, thanks to the recent Vatican “power struggle” breaking into the open, Communists within the Holy See were forced to reveal their presence by the incredulous appointment of the Marxist-oriented, liberation theologist Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller to head up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the purpose for the appointment to plug the damaging leaks from the Vatican. This is the man that the supposedly “conservative” Pope Benedict knows he can trust 100% to prevent any more embarrassing leaks from the Vatican…a Marxist-oriented, liberation theology enthusiast. Does this make sense to you?

This explains the Vatican’s inexplicable, and relatively new policy (fifty years old or so), of passing onto other parishes priests that sexually abuse children, ensuring (1) that the number of such sex crimes would increase geometrically; and (2) encourage pedophiles to join the seminaries. Now, such a policy could not be kept under wraps for long (as the Vatican well knew), since the massive number of crimes would have eventually reached a critical mass, exploding into the news headlines as they did. Only an INTENTIONAL Vatican policy of encouraging child sex crimes by priests explains the Vatican’s behavior these last fifty years. Believers in Christ wouldn’t subject children to sexual abuse, but Communists would in order to weaken the Catholic Church.

Those of you not familiar with the true events taking place within the “former” USSR these past 21 years will naturally ask, “Wouldn’t the Moscow network within the Vatican have fallen apart as soon as the collapse of the USSR took place in late 1991?”

For the answer to that question, first Google: “Bulgaria protestant communist agents” and “Bulgaria orthodox communist agents”.

Bulgaria is the only nation to have created (belatedly) a Files Commission looking into Communist-era agents still in power there. Guess what they found? Communist-era agents still in control of the government, media, Churches and other institutions (and the Files Commission is only chartered to investigate from 2003 onwards).

If Files Commissions had been created in all not-so-former East Bloc nations/USSR republics, then we’d get the same results as Bulgaria: That Communist agents are still in control there too.

What this means is that the “collapse” of the USSR in late 1991 was a strategic ruse, as predicted by KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn (Golitsyn actually correctly predicted that East Bloc nations/USSR would first “liberalize” before they “collapsed”) , the only Soviet-era defector to still be under protective custody in the West, proving (1) the collapses of the USSR/East Bloc were strategic ruses; and (2) that all other Soviet-era defectors who followed Golitsyn were still loyal to their respective Communist intelligence agencies, since all of them provided incorrect intelligence on the future of the USSR/East Bloc.

Beginning to get the wider picture now?

Now you know why the Russian electorate in 1992 failed to create a de-Communization program in order to ferret out Communist agents still in power? If the “collapse” of the USSR had been real, such a de-Communization program would have been immediately implemented.

The above also explains why the Russian electorate are only electing Soviet-era Communist Party members for President/Prime Minister. If the “collapse” of the USSR had been real, the Russian electorate would never have elected such Quislings back into power.
Forty years later in 2000, the Vatican released a four-page forgery, not the one-page, approximately 25-lined document that had been read by a select few before 2000.

Sep 29, 2012 4:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
There are other issues involved in celibate clergy priests than sexuality, actually, but I would take some time to go into it here and I would have to spend a lot of time trying to find verifiable sources.

But one argument I can think of that makes a lot of sense with or without sources,(and I have seen an ancient reference)is this: The Church prior to Gregory the Great had a problem with married men founding religious communities and even calling them monasteries. When they died they could consider them their own patrimony and hand them and their occupants to the control of their own children. This issue also intersects with the fact that they might even start to create custom made theologies that only their own communities truly understood. That theology could be very unchristian if allowed to grow unsupervised. If all the Catholic Christian communities (there were no other orthodoxies at the time of Gregory the Great) took on a life of their own and essentially wrote their own religions, Christianity would have taken on the character of religion as it’s practiced in India with every town, village and region having something like a god or goddess of it’s own, and traditions that became very localized. It would also be impossible to control the use of significant money devoted to these localized owner controlled franchises of “faith”. You have to be very naive not to appreciate what unregulated religious ideology can produce because it very easily becomes the superstition so many accuse it of being. And it could become very rich and powerful and accountable to no one but itself. Need any mention of modern examples? Roman Catholicism is one of the few religions that has managed to create an organization that is so large and so coordinated.

“Religion” is the most dangerous stuff known to man. Politics is a close second (or maybe the first (anyone have an objective scale?), but they can create monsters because they are the stuff potential monsters (human beings) are very fond of creating.

Sep 29, 2012 11:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
AZreb wrote:
The cards (cardinals) are stacked against the butler from the get-go.

Sep 29, 2012 11:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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