VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican’s number 2 accused the media on Monday of trying “to imitate Dan Brown” in their coverage of the VatiLeaks scandal and said the Roman Catholic Church’s latest travails were part of the Devil’s attempt to destabilize it.
The interview with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who ranks second only to Pope Benedict in the Vatican’s hierarchy, was the latest attempt at damage control by senior Vatican officials since the leaks scandal began in January.
In a rare interview with the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana, Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, accused the media of “intentionally ignoring” the good things the Church does while dwelling on scandals.
“Many journalists are playing the game of trying to imitate Dan Brown,” said Bertone, referring to the best-selling author of novels such as “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons”.
“They (journalists) continue to invent fairytales and repeat legends,” he said.
The scandal involves the leak of sensitive documents, including letters written to Pope Benedict whose butler, Paolo Gabriel, was arrested last month after a large number of stolen documents were found in his home.
Bertone said the media were full of “pettiness and lies spread in these days,” adding that “outside Italy people have a hard time trying to understand the vehemence of some Italian newspapers”.
He said the Church was “an unequivocal reference point for countless people and institutions around the world” and added: “This is why there is an attempt to destabilize it”.
Bertone branded as false the image of the Vatican as a place of intrigue and power struggles, saying: “The truth is that there is an attempt to sow division that comes from the Devil”.
At a briefing with the Vatican’s chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, an Italian reporter contested Bertone’s portrayal of the media, telling him that the leaks scandal started with a letter in which an archbishop complained to the pope about corruption in the Vatican.
Several leaked documents allege corruption in the Vatican’s business dealings with Italian companies that were paid inflated prices for work in the Vatican, rivalries among cardinals, and clashes over the management of the Vatican bank.
Lombardi said that while he did not want to make “generalized condemnations”, he believed that some of the coverage of the Vatican was “not founded on objectivity”.
Earlier this month Lombardi acknowledged that it would take time to restore trust within the walls of the Vatican and to heal the damage to the Church’s reputation caused by the leaks scandal and the subsequent arrest of the pope’s butler.
Gabriele was arrested on May 23 and has been interrogated several times by a Vatican magistrate who must decide whether he should stand trial on charges of aggravated theft.
Bertone said no cardinals were suspected of involvement in the leaks scandal.
He also denied allegations by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the former head of the Vatican bank, that he was ousted because he wanted the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), to be more transparent.
Bertone repeated the Vatican’s position that Gotti Tedeschi left after a no-confidence vote by the bank’s board because he was a divisive and inefficient manager.
Next month, MONEYVAL, the Council of Europe’s monitoring mechanism on money laundering and terrorism financing, will discuss a draft report on whether the Vatican, a sovereign city state surrounded by Rome, is complying with international standards.
The MONEYVAL rating and recommendations are used by other organizations, such as the OECD, which refers to it when deciding whether to place states on its so-called white list - a clean bill of health which could help the Vatican move on from a spate of scandals over the last 30 years.
Bertone said the bank had been much maligned and that its board was working “to recover the esteem it deserves at the international level”.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy