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Vatican Corruption Exposed, Papal Butler Convicted

Jonathan Stoller-Schoff |
October 6, 2012 | 10:14 p.m. PDT


Pope Benedict XVI will likely pardon his former butler. (Catholic Church (England and Wales), Creative Commons)
Pope Benedict XVI will likely pardon his former butler. (Catholic Church (England and Wales), Creative Commons)
Paolo Gabriele, butler to Pope Benedict XVI, was convicted earlier today of hoarding confidential documents from the Vatican, and leaking them to an Italian journalist. He has been sentenced to 18 months of house detention by the court, but it is likely that the Pope will pardon him.

Gabriele insists that he acted out of love for the Catholic Church, in order to expose corruption. Of the over one thousand documents stolen by the papal butler, most of them had to do with the Vatican’s bank. After the leaking of the documents, the head of the bank was removed by the board. In the wake of the global financial crisis, the Vatican’s bank has been trying to shed its reputation as one of a corruption-ridden tax haven, and these documents do little to support that new image.

The Vatican has faced criticism and controversy since its founding, but during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, this constitutes one of the worst. There is an important question that results from this scandal: was the butler right to have exposed this corruption, or should he have served his proper duty in the job he agreed to do? 

It is always important to pursue what is right, and arguably it is more important in the Church, particularly in the global headquarters of the Catholic Church. Corruption in the Vatican should be exposed so that it can be corrected; just like any political scandal, the public must hold officials accountable. Countless examples of this can be found in muckraking journalism and even in the history of the Catholic Church. Indeed, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses that began the reformation was about righting the path of the Church.

However, the Catholic Church is not a democracy, and high ranked officials are not held accountable to the people by election or other means. It seems in this case, however, that the rule of God was not enough to keep the Vatican’s bank from tax dodging. Instead, Paolo Gabriele stepped in to expose the corruption, refusing to be a conduit of sin. Regardless of his obligations to the Church, he insisted that his first commitment was to God:

“What I feel most strongly inside myself is the conviction that I acted exclusively out of love, I would say a visceral love, for the Church of Christ and its visible representative”

People like Gabriele are the reason reform exists: they stand up for what is right in the face of opposition. Perhaps his methods were not the best, but they did no harm to anyone: he showed the world what was wrong, and what needed to be done. Thanks to him, the Vatican bank has a new level of accountability that may inspire reform in the future. 


Reach Contributor Jonathan Stoller-Schoff here.



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