Bring on the butler jokes

Espionage is not a joking matter (nor is it anywhere as exciting as it is portrayed on the screen) and stealing from the Pope—while not the biblical, damning sin against the Holy Spirit—is certainly a grave sin against the Holy Father. But there an element of humor in the story of the “Vatileaks”, as seen in some of the headlines following an arrest in the matter:

• The (Pope’s) butler did it? 
•  Yep, the Pope’s butler did it
•  In Vatican Whodunit, a Punch Line of a Suspect

However, the situation is quite sensitive and serious. The BBC News reports:

Italian media have named the arrested man as Paolo Gabriele, a personal butler and assistant to the Pope and one of very few laymen to have access to the Pope’s private apartments.

The select few who are allowed to enter the Pope’s private study include four nuns and two secretaries, as well as the butler.

[Quick note: Maureen Dowd’s head just exploded trying to process the fact that a man—not any of the four nuns!—was the person accused of the crime.]

Italian media reports said that a stash of confidential documents had been discovered at his flat, within the walls of the Vatican.

The news of the arrest comes just a day after the president of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was ousted by its board.

The official reason for his departure was his failure to fulfil the “primary functions of his office”, the Vatican has said.

But, according to reports, he was also suspected of being involved in the leaking of the documents. …

The leaked documents include a letter to Pope Benedict by the Vatican’s current ambassador to Washington alleging cronyism, nepotism and corruption among the administrators of Vatican City.

Others concern “poison pen” memos criticising Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope’s number two, and the reporting of suspicious payments by the Vatican Bank.

The New York Times reports:

The letters, which have made their way into the Italian news media in recent months, draw a portrait of an ancient institution in chaotic disarray behind its high, stately walls, where various factions vie for power, influence and financial control in —

Uh, I thought this report was about the Vatican, not the White House. 

Since so many documents have been leaked from the Vatican this year, there were some doubts expressed that the butler arrested on Friday was the true — or only — source. “It doesn’t seem likely that he is the only one responsible for VatiLeaks because many of the documents that came out didn’t ever pass through the pope’s apartment where he works,” said Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert for the Italian daily Il Foglio. “His arrest seems more the Vatican’s desire to find a scapegoat.”

Cardinal Bertone has emerged as a central, contentious figure in the VatiLeaks drama. Many critics, including some inside the Vatican, see him as a poor administrator who as the Vatican’s C.E.O. has struggled to manage the scandal-ridden papacy of a German intellectual with little interest in day-to-day affairs of state. Vatican observers say that many of the leaked documents are aimed at undermining the cardinal’s influence.

There are reports that the Pope’s numerous golfing excursions, fund raisers, and long vacations have drawn the ire of—oh, wait, sorry. I’m still stuck on the White House connection.  First, it could well be that Benedict XVI is a “poor administrator”, although it seems to me that the Pope, for the most part, simply cannot win when it comes to media blame gaming. If he governs with an iron fist—or even just a firm hand—he will undoubtedly be portrayed as a power-hungry, arrogant man obsessed with secrecy and control; if he leaves the day-to-day matter to underlings who fail him, he will be labeled “out of touch”, lax, and, well, a “poor administrator”. I’ve noticed that President Obama cannot keep the tongue of Vice President Joe Biden under control for a single day, let alone for weeks or months at a time. Is he a “poor administrator”? (Recent reports do indicate the POTUS has long possessed a natural, laid back leadership style.)

Finally, Catholic World News notes:

Earlier this week the Vatican had warned that the public release of confidential documents was a criminal activity. Pope Benedict had set up a special commission, composed of 3 senior cardinals, to investigate a succession of embarrassing leaks. The May 25 arrest came as a result of that commission’s work, Father Lombardi said.

Going by the usual slow standards of the Vatican, the investigation was conducted at nearly warp speed, again indicating the seriousness of the information that has been leaked and compromised. No word, however, if the Pope plans to set up  a special commission to investigate reports that certain Catholic politicians in the United States have been actively supporting pro-abortion groups and abortion “rights”, the HHS mandate, and “same sex marriage”. Even if it tooks months to identify and deal with the politicians in question, it seems like a worthwhile endeavor in light of the scandal caused by those “Catholic” political leaders. 

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About Carl E. Olson 1230 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.