The butler of Pope Benedict XVI has been sentenced for leaking confidential Vatican documents to the media in the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal.
Paolo Gabriele, 46, was found guilty by a Vatican City court of theft – in a trial lasting less than a week – and has been sentenced to 18 months’ prison.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi is quoted by the New York Times as saying today that it was “very likely” that the Pope would pardon the butler, who had tended to the Pope’s personal needs for six years. After being found guilty, he was remanded to house arrest.
Documents said to have been leaked by Gabriele relate to infighting and financial misdeeds. The leaks have led to embarrassment for the Vatican.
“The court formally sentenced Mr. Gabriele to three years in prison and required him to pay court costs,” says the NYT. “But the sentence was reduced to 18 months after the court acknowledged several extenuating circumstances, including the butler’s public recognition that he had betrayed the pope’s trust. The court also took into account Mr. Gabriele’s belief, ‘albeit erroneously’, that his motivations for leaking the documents had been pure.”
Gabriele, who had given a number of documents to journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, told the court: “I am not a thief.”
Nuzzi published many of the embarrassing documents in his bookSua Santità. Le carte segrete di Benedetto XVI (His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Pope Benedict XVI).
The book was published in May, and Gabriele was arrested after documents were found in his Vatican City apartment.
“Mr. Gabriele spent nearly two months in a holding cell at the Vatican before being released to house arrest,” said the NYT, adding: “In depositions to Vatican court officials, Mr. Gabriele admitted to taking documents but said he had acted in the interests of the pope, who he believed was not adequately informed about the misdeeds flourishing within the Vatican. The butler told officials investigating the crime that he wanted to bring to light and publicize the evil and corruption as an incitement to clean it up.”
Some of the material stolen by Gabriele “was so sensitive that the Pope had marked them with the words ‘to be destroyed’ in German,” the Euronews.com website reports.
It is expected that Gabriele will serve his sentence under house arrest while awaiting the expected pardon from the Pope.
Reserved family man
The same news site reported yesterday that the butler was following his conscience.
“The 46-year-old reserved family man described as a devout Catholic claims to have been thrown into a crisis of conscience by insights into the inner workings of the Vatican,” he says.
It says that the Pope’s private priest-secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, Gabriele’s immediate superior, suspected that Gabriele was the mole.
The report adds: “Ganswein, a former lecturer at a university funded by the conservative Opus Dei fellowship, was among the first to go into damage control mode following the publication in May of journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book […] The stuff could only be coming from the pope’s own desk!”