Puccini meets Watergate in ‘Vatileaks’ scandal

National Catholic Reporter

Feb. 27, 2012

By John L Allen Jr


ROME — Perhaps only the Vatican could invent a scandal that manages to be almost comically silly and overblown, then suddenly ugly and mean, and finally deadly serious, all wrapped into one wildly complicated Italian melodrama.

Think Puccini meets Watergate, and you’ll have some inkling of the climate in Rome in mid-February.

Beginning in late January, supposedly confidential Vatican documents began appearing in the Italian press, with fresh revelations at one stage coming almost every day. As the leaks mounted, so did official frustration; a Vatican spokesman publicly slammed the “disloyalty” of it all, while the Vatican newspaper compared the leakers to a bunch of “wolves.”

One sure sign a scandal has made the big time is when a single word is enough to conjure it up, like “Watergate” or “Enron.” In this case, the Vatican’s own spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, supplied the sound bite. By comparing the current mess to the Wikileaks saga, Lombardi inadvertently gave birth to “Vatileaks.”

As of this writing, nobody really knows who’s behind the avalanche of secret documents, or what their motives are for putting them into play. Most observers concur, however, that it’s not about whistleblowers trying to promote reform, but rather personal and political axes being ground.

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