It is difficult to make sense of the the affair - secular newspapers certainly have some good copy involving scandal, leaks, corruption, and a chance to have a dig at "The Vatican", though they have not really come up with any convincing attack. After a quite extensive search the other day, I was unable to find any real information about the actual content of the leaks - I have not ordered a copy of Gianluigi Nuzzi's book, though I might not be able to resist the temptation to pick up a copy in Rome next week.
As an answer to prayer, John Allen posted the necessary article earlier today, Pondering the 'what,' not the 'who,' of Vatileaks. This sets out the basic information. (Sandro, the magisterial vaticanista, also has a helpful article on The Hunt for Thieves in the Vatican)
It is all very much an Italian affair. To take just one instance, Archbishop Vigano was tasked with cleaning up certain financial aspects of the Vatican's operations. He was more thorough than he was meant to be, made enemies in the process, and got moved to be the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington. If you want to understand Vatican politics, bear in mind that this post - to what would in most countries be considered a high honour - was in fact a demotion.
It will take some time to get those working in the Vatican to realise that they have to adopt generally accepted standards of transparency in financial affairs. In the meantime, there will be backstabbing, counter allegations, attempts to smear people, and a gradual and painful recognition that some things do actually have to change.
We PBI (poor bloody infantry) the footsloggers in parishes and lay apostolates can basically get on with our lives and our work. The whole affair is one more reason for me to thank God that I have not been called to serve in the curia. I don't think I would last a fortnight without punching someone fairly senior in the face.
What is abundantly clear is that the Holy Father himself is not implicated, whatever the insinuations of the press. The affair is important enough in Vatican terms to have elicited a reference in Wednesday's General Audience address. The Holy Father said: “Events in recent days regarding the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness to my heart.” He went on to make the point, obvious to informed Catholics though we always need to be reminded of it, that we are sustained by “the firm conviction that despite human weakness, despite the difficulties and trials, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, has never diminished – and the Lord will never fail to give His aid in sustaining the Church on her journey.”
Another news item, from La Stampa's Vatican Insider, dishes the dirt on how Blessed John Paul II was spied on by the priests closest to him. Even with information on the level of what he had for breakfast, how much alcohol he drank, who supplied his underwear, and what medication he had in his bathroom cabinet, the commies were unable to find anything to pin on him.
Two things always come to my mind in these sort of scandals. First is that St John Fisher and St Thomas More were willing to go to the block on Tower Hill (District and Circle line - opposite the Tower of London, look for the Cross in the middle of the garden) for the authority of the Pope despite the fact that during their lifetime there had been Popes such as Alexander VI, Leo X and Julius II who were not exactly shining examples of Christian morality. We are greatly blessed that the Popes of our lifetime are holy men.
The second is one of my favourite quotations from the Blessed John Henry Newman. In chapter 7 of his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, he wrote:
Now, the Rock of St. Peter on its summit enjoys a pure and serene atmosphere, but there is a great deal of Roman malaria at the foot of it.Still true today.