The Vatican is bracing for more allegations of financial wrongdoing and mismanagement with the publication next week of two books that underscore the challenges Pope Francis is facing to reform the Holy See.
Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s “Merchants in the Temple” follows his blockbuster 2012 book, “His Holiness,” based on confidential papal correspondence detailing corruption and political intrigue in the Vatican. The so-called Vatileaks scandal that ensued resulted in the conviction of Pope Benedict XVI’s butler for leaking the documents, and some say, to Benedict’s historic resignation.
Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi is releasing “Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church.” Fittipaldi writes for L’Espresso newsweekly, which has published some of the most damaging leaks of Francis’ papacy, including most recently the letter by 13 cardinals warning Francis about his family synod.
The publication of the books, both on Nov. 5, will no doubt set off a new flurry of speculation about the depth of opposition to Francis’ reform agenda, given both are purportedly based on leaked documents and internal information to which only Vatican officials would have had access.
On Thursday, Italian newsweekly Panorama hinted at the dangers to come with a cover story “Sabotage in Vatican,” noting the pending financial revelations and detailing the recent intrigues surrounding the just-ended synod on the family, which exposed internal battles over the direction Francis has set for the church.
Francis was elected on a mandate from his fellow cardinals to reform the Vatican’s outdated bureaucracy and clean up its scandal-marred bank. But Francis’ reform agenda has gone much farther — to the dismay of some on the right — by refocusing the church as a “field hospital for wounded souls” rather than a doctrinaire club of the righteous.
Opposition came to the fore during the synod with conservatives and liberals squaring off on issues about marriage, sex and gays.
The Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, confirmed Wednesday that Francis would write a document of his own about the family following the bishops’ deliberations. As Francis mulls how to press ahead, the new books threaten to uncover more trouble of the sort that undermined Benedict’s papacy.
In a press release Thursday, Nuzzi publisher Chiarelettere said the documents and recordings of internal discussions would reveal the real reasons why Benedict resigned, while also examining the funding required to get a saint named, of misdirected charitable donations and the “black hole” of the Vatican’s pension system.
Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to retire, saying he simply didn’t have the strength to carry on. The announcement in February 2013 was at least a year in the making, but Benedict acted after receiving the results of an in-house investigation about what was behind the leaks.
The results of the investigation have never been released, but in their first meeting, Benedict handed over the dossier to Francis.
Feltrinelli said Fittipaldi’s book would map out the church’s financial empire, from the luxurious lives of the cardinals to the big businesses of Catholic-run hospitals in Italy.