“In other circumstances, such an appointment would be a reason for joy and a sign of great esteem and trust in my regard, but in the present context, it will be perceived by all as a verdict of condemnation of my work, and therefore as a punishment,” Viganò wrote to the pope on July 7, 2011. He suggested that “the Holy Father has certainly been kept in the dark.”
The butler agreed and sought an unorthodox way to get the pope’s attention. Through intermediaries, Gabriele reached out to Gianluigi Nuzzi, an Italian investigative reporter. In clandestine coffee bar meetings, anonymous associates of Gabriele vetted Nuzzi, the journalist later wrote, and drove him around in circles to shake loose potential followers. When Nuzzi jumped through sufficient hoops, he met Gabriele in an empty apartment near the Vatican furnished with only a plastic chair. The two established secret Thursday meetings, and Gabriele left letters in drop boxes; Nuzzi sewed a computer thumb drive into his necktie. One day, the butler showed up to the rendezvous empty-handed, only to reveal 13 pages of documents taped to his back, under his jacket. Nuzzi, who referred to his secret source as “Maria,” used the material to write “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Pope Benedict XVI,” a blockbuster book published last year.
Pope Benedict’s bureaucracy
When he became Pope, many considered Benedict to be much more conservative than his predecessor John Paul II. Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. interviewed Benedict — then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — nearly 30 years ago and now reflects on the Pope’s legacy.
As the media hunted for moles, or “crows” as they are known in Italian, Gabriele’s office mate, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein — a former ski instructor and papal confidant known as Gorgeous George — cracked the case. Vatican gendarmes found 82 boxes of documents in the butler’s apartment and arrested him. He was tried, convicted and jailed for several months before the pope personally pardoned him.
“Seeing evil and corruption everywhere in the church, I finally reached a point of degeneration, a point of no return, and could no longer control myself,” Gabriele explained to Vatican investigators. A shock, “perhaps through the media,” Gabriele continued, could “bring the church back on the right track.”
If the intention of the leaks was to force the ouster of Tarcisio Bertone — the secretary of state blamed for exiling Viganò and undercutting reforms — the effort failed.
While Benedict was the public face of the universal church, Bertone, for now, remains the private power broker who runs the Vatican on a daily basis. In 2006, Benedict appointed Bertone, his longtime doctrinal sidekick, to secretary of state — the second-most-powerful position in the Vatican. An amiable, soccer aficionado who shares the pope’s passion for cats, Bertone, 78, had little international experience. This prompted concern among the church’s elite diplomatic corps, which interpreted his appointment as a threat to the traditional Vatican career track. Bertone bore out their fears, essentially doing away with papal audiences for returning ambassadors. He ensured that many of the newly elevated cardinals were Italian loyalists, and he adopted a wide-ranging travel schedule that many considered an overreach.