Vatican Diary / Herranz, an Inquisitor of Proven Experience
June 21, 2012
The cardinal who heads the commission of investigation into the leaking of documents was also robbed of confidential papers himself once. They concerned Opus Dei, and were given to the media in order to damage the organization. As for the resignation of the pope, he has revealed...
They are three cardinals, they are over the age of eighty, they are spry yet reserved, they know the Roman curia very well, and their names are Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi. It is to them that Benedict XVI has entrusted the task of getting to the bottom of the leaking of confidential documents that has hit the Vatican in recent months.
Their work is proceeding in parallel with the judicial investigation formally underway in Vatican City-State, which has so far seen the questioning – and jailing as a suspect – only of the pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, charged at the moment with aggravated theft.
The commission, however, has a broader mission and more room for maneuver with respect to the Vatican magistracy. And it is made up of three cardinals because in this way it has the freedom to question, if need be, even their peers.
The commission was announced last March 16 in an interview with the substitute of the secretariat of state, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, published in "L'Osservatore Romano" and initialed by its director, Giovanni Maria Vian:
"The secretariat of state has arranged for a thorough investigation involving all of the agencies of the Holy See: conducted on the penal level by the promoter of justice of the Vatican tribunal, and on the administrative level by the secretariat of state itself, while a higher commission has been charged by the pope with shedding light on the entire affair."
A notification from the secretariat of state made public last April 25 by the press office of the Holy See then communicated that "following the recent disclosure on television, in the newspapers, and in other media of documents covered by official secrecy, the Holy Father has arranged for the constitution of a commission of cardinals, for an authoritative investigation to shed full light on such episodes."
"His Holiness," the text continued, "has called to be part of the aforementioned commission of cardinals, which will act by pontifical mandate on all levels, cardinals Julian Herranz, who has been designated as head, Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi. The commission of cardinals met this April 24 to establish its method and calendar of work."
Of the three cardinals, two have long experience in the Roman curia: the Slovak Tomko, who turned 88 on March 11, was secretary general of the synod of bishops from 1979 until 1985, when he became prefect of "Propaganda Fide," where he stayed until 2001; the Spaniard Herranza, who turned 82 on March 31, was in 1983 the secretary and from 1994 to 2007 the president of the pontifical council for legislative texts; while De Giorgi, who will turn 82 on September 6, when he left the leadership of the diocese of Palermo at the end of 2006 established himself in Rome and continued to work with various dicasteries until he reached the age of 80.
The pope received them as a group on Saturday, June 16, but the president of the commission – it emerged – had already had a chance to report to the pontiff. And on Monday, June 18, Father Federico Lombardi, after recalling that the commission has the pontifical mandate to carry out hearings at every level and without impediment, revealed that as of now it has carried out an average of four or five hearings a week, hearing from a total of 23 persons, including Gabriele himself. These are – explained Father Lombardi – superiors and employees at the Vatican, clergy and lay, as well as other persons not employed at the Vatican.
On that occasion, Father Lombardi categorically rejected an article in an Italian newspaper according to which the investigations have produced the names of ringleaders and accomplices.
Lombardi's denial was not the first, nor will it be the last concerning the work of the commission. And in fact, beyond the news reported by the Vatican spokesman, nothing really reliable has leaked out from the work of the three cardinals, who were likely chosen in part for their scant loquacity. The president of the commission, Cardinal Herranz, has long been known for his proverbial confidentiality.
A confidentiality that, however, did not prevent him from writing a book of memoirs a few years ago that, while not violating any secret, offers a great deal of new and unusual information.
The book is "Nei dintorni di Gerico," 480 pages, printed by the Opus Dei publishing house Ares in January of 2006, two years after John Paul II had made Herranz a cardinal, thus allowing him to participate in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI.
In effect, Herranz has been a member of Opus Dei since 1949, before receiving a degree in medicine with a specialization in psychiatry. Ordained a priest in 1955, he earned a degree in canon law and since 1960 has been residing in Rome, where he lived for 22 years at the side of founder Josemaria Escriva, canonized on October 6, 2002, and for 27 years in the service of pope Wojtyla. Thus the subtitle of the book is "Ricordi degli anni con san Josemaria e con Giovanni Paolo II" (who had not yet been beatified at the time).
In some articles and books, Herranz is also referred to by his complete surname, Herranz Casado. In reality, for years now official publications and the book just mentioned have omitted the second part of his surname. In complete accord with what happened with the sainted founder whom Opus Dei now calls simply Escriva, omitting the de Balaguer.
The book contains a myriad of curious tidbits. At least two of them are also of great relevance with respect to the "Vatileaks" phenomenon and the debates that have stemmed from it.
In past weeks, in fact, there has again been talk in the media of the possibility – currently remote – or expediency of Benedict XVI resigning according to the norms provided by canon law. Herranz recounts how at the end of the Wojtyla pontificate, he was asked about the question of resignation and in the book supplies the contents of a personal note composed on December 17, 2004 "after a conversation" with Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the pope's secretary at the time and today the cardinal of Krakow.
Herranz reveals on pages 451-452 of the book:
"As for the eventuality of resigning for reasons of health, I wrote in that note – and now it seems to me opportune to make it known, as an example of the obedience and heroic prudence of John Paul II: 'He (Fr. Stanislao) limited himself to commenting that the pope – who personally is very much detached from the office – lives in abandonment to the will of God. He entrusts himself to divine Providence. Moreover, he is afraid of creating a dangerous precedent for his successors, because someone could be exposed to maneuvers and subtle pressure on the part of those who wanted to depose him."
Concerning the leaking of confidential documents, Herranz shows in his book that "Vatileaks" is not a novelty in the annals of Rome, although not in the massive dimensions seen now.
On pages 300-301, he recounts how in the summer of 1979 "the information on the transformation of Opus Dei into a personal prelature and the letter of accompaniment," sent from Opus to Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio "and the objects of confidential study by the Holy See, had been sent by someone – person or institution – to bishops and to the press of various countries throughout the world, presenting them in a biased and tendentious manner."
With regard to this episode, Herranz adds cryptically:
"In these pages of memories I do not want to provide any more information on this point, following the advice that was given to us by the Father [editor's note: Escriva] in a 'tertulia' on June 14, 1972. And that is: "From the beginning, in the earliest years, I took opportune measures so that no one might hold rancor or look with little kindness upon certain entities that, in an organized way, have made us suffer greatly, in silence. In Opus Dei, we strive not to be lacking in charity with anyone. I have always prayed to the Lord, with every fiber of my soul, using a stark phrase: that I never be the hangman of any person, of any initiative that acts or emerges to serve God. We know how to excuse. To forgive. We are an affirmation: we do not like what is negative."
It is difficult to think that Cardinal Herranz, in his new post as head of the commission of cardinals to investigate a leaking of documents much greater than the one he saw thirty years ago, has forgotten the "tertulia" of his Saint Josemaria.