VatiLeaks Puts the Pope in Publicity Hell

June 19th, 2012

Published on The Daily, by Barbie Latza Nadeau, June 16, 2012.

Another week, another set of Vatican leaks. Barbie Latza Nadeau on how the Holy See’s spinmeister is coping with allegations of a disappeared hacker and a ‘pathological’ banker. It’s been more than three weeks since the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested for allegedly stealing secret documents from the papal desk, and the details spilling from Vatican City are as murky as smoke from burning incense.  

The heavily filtered “facts” of Gabriele’s arrest are channeled from the hallowed Holy See through sporadic press briefings held by Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s Jesuit spokesman, who sits at an expansive high table above reporters in the blue velvet press room inside the Holy See Press Center. The briefings often contain sarcastic micro-sermons on the interpretation of truth among the Vatican press corps, and Father Lombardi generally begins the Q&A sessions by wielding press clippings of what he considers the biggest offenses when it comes to accurate reporting. “There is a way of doing journalism that does not reflect the reality of the actual situation,” he lectured last week. “I am constantly amazed.”

In many ways, Lombardi’s job is more about battling rumors than revealing actual information. He often answers questions with condescending half-laughs and never allows himself to be pushed into a corner. When the going gets tough, he simply ends the briefing. And so it was last week when the latest gossip swirling around the VatiLeaks intrigue was swatted away like a pesky Roman tiger mosquito … //

… To counter the flow of negative information, the Vatican has been working hard to discredit Gotti Tedeschi as inept and potentially certifiable. In another letter leaked to the press, which the Vatican denies leaking, a noted psychoanalyst who had been brought in by the Vatican bank directors to “evaluate stress levels” had written a letter to the Vatican bank’s general director, Paolo Cipriani, describing Gotti Tedeschi’s behavior at the company Christmas party last year as “consistent with a pathological disorder.” The Vatican said it regretted the leaking of the psychological evaluation, but Lombardi remained adamant that it wasn’t their doing. Why anyone else would want to discredit Gotti Tedeschi remains yet another unanswered question on a list of many.

Meanwhile, the papal butler remains under investigation, reportedly cooperating with the Vatican authorities who have interrogated him in the presence of his lawyers. Lombardi says he now faces up to eight years in prison for stealing the papal papers. His trial may be held this summer, but undoubtedly will be closed to the press. Information will come at Lombardi’s discretion.

Lombardi says no others have been implicated in the crime and that there is “ample evidence” to convict the butler, assuring reporters that he will keep them abreast of the situation as events dictate. But even with the butler locked away, a steady stream of documents has been finding its way to the front pages of the Italian papers.

“Don’t you have something more interesting to write about?” asked Lombardi at a recent briefing. That, of course, will ultimately be up to him. (full text).


VatiLeaks Strikes Again: Was the Butler Framed? June 4, 2012;

Vatican Banker Running Scared: Gotti Tedeschi Could Turn Whistle-Blower, June 10, 2012;

IL CASO: Vaticano, il corvo colpisce ancora lettere contro Bertone e Gaenswein, 03 giugno/june 2012;

the document dump: The Pope’s Butler Silenced in VatiLeaks Investigation, May 30, 2012;

VatiLeaks Exposes Internal Memos of the Catholic Church, May 24, 2012;

JPMorgan Chase Closes Vatican Bank Account, May 21, 2012;

liturgy recommendations.

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