January 30, 2019
By Chico Harlan
WikiLeaks, the tell-anything anti-secrecy organization, on Wednesday took aim at one of the world’s most secretive institutions, the Vatican, releasing a small collection of documents about a power struggle involving Pope Francis, a leading traditionalist cardinal, and a medieval Catholic order of knights.
The documents offered little new about a fight that two years ago was widely covered in the media. Their contents seem especially paltry at a time when the Vatican is embroiled in full-fledged scandals on multiple continents. But the release represented the first time WikiLeaks has turned its spotlight on the often-acrimonious internal affairs of the Holy See, and some Vatican watchers wondered whether more damaging secrets might start to escape the city-state’s walls.
“The fact itself, WikiLeaks entering the internal affairs of the Vatican, is an alarm bell,” said Marco Politi, a veteran Vatican watcher. “The subject itself is not interesting. These are old diatribes, old fights. But the important thing will be the next step. Will there be a subsequent WikiLeaks [release] on something not previously revealed? Should WikiLeaks pull out stuff regarding pedophilia or banking scandals, then we would be onto something new.”
Though the Vatican has been burned by leaks in the past — mostly notably when a trove of confidential documents was released in 2012 with help from then-Pope Benedict XVI’s butler — the city-state is famed for its airtight hold on information, including its paperwork on cases involving sexual abuse.
A Vatican spokesman noted that WikiLeaks had previously touched on church affairs, in 2010 — but the documents leaked then were cables from the U.S. Embassy, describing diplomatic relations with the Holy See. WikiLeaks Editor in Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said Wednesday was the first time the organization released documents about the Vatican “conflict between the different factions.”
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