Vatican: Leak of classified docs is illegal, trying to sow confusion

Vatican: Leak of classified docs is illegal, trying to sow confusion

A view of St. Peter's Basilica from the roof of a nearby building on June 5, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
A view of St. Peter's Basilica from the roof of a nearby building on June 5, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

.- Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said the recent stealing and leaking of confidential information surrounding Pope Francis' pontificate is illegal, and charged that it was done in order to create confusion.

“As is known, a significant part of what has been published is the result of the disclosure of reserved information and documents, and therefore is an illicit activity that must therefore be prosecuted by the competent Vatican authorities,” Fr. Lombardi said in a Nov. 4 statement.

The publishing of a large amount of different types of information largely related to work that is already complete and without the necessary time to clarify and evaluate it was “unfortunately largely intentional,” he said.

Rather than offering clarity, the intended result of the leak was to create “the contrary impression – that of a permanent reign of confusion, lack of transparency or indeed the pursuit of particular or inappropriate interests.”

Fr. Lombardi’s statement comes just two days after two former members of the Vatican’s Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA), were arrested on charges of stealing and leaking information in connection with two books alleged to contain confidential information surrounding Pope Francis' pontificate.

COSEA was established by the Pope July 18, 2013, as part of his plan to reform the Vatican’s finances. It was dissolved after completing its mandate.

Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda and Francesca Chaouqui – both former members of the commission – were taken into custody after being questioned Saturday and Sunday by the Vatican Gendarmerie.

After spending a night in one of the Vatican’s four prison cells, Chaouqui was released in exchange for her cooperation with the investigations. The position of Msgr. Balda is still being examined.

The arrests came ahead of the publication of two books reportedly containing leaked information from the Vatican, one having been written by the same journalist – Gianluigi Nuzzi – connected with the Vatileaks scandal under Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

One of the books, entitled “Via Crucis,” was written by Nuzzi and published Nov. 4. The second book, titled “Avarice: The Papers that Reveal Wealth, Scandals and Secrets in the Church of Francis,” was written by another Italian journalist, Emiliano Fittipaldi, and is scheduled for publication Nov. 5.

In his statement, Fr. Lombardi clarified that most of the leaked information was already known, though in less detail, and relates in large part to the effort initiated by the Pope to gather data with the aim of improving the administrative situation of the Vatican City State and the Holy See.

Because of this, the data was not collected against the will of the Pope or the Holy See but instead was generally gathered or provided in collaboration with the Vatican’s institutions “for a common positive purpose.”

However, Fr. Lombardi said, the large amount of information published must be “understood and interpreted with care, equilibrium and attention” since the same data can be interpreted in a different, more negative light.

As an example, he pointed to the situation of the Vatican’s Pension Funds. While some observers had expressed concern about “a large ‘gap’” in the books, others had offered “a reassuring interpretation,” which resulted in the official communiques published by the Holy See Press Office in February.

After a frenzy of speculation arose about a possible risk of default, the Vatican issued a communique in February reassuring that – thanks to a two-year increase of retirement age and other financial interventions – the Vatican's pension fund was consistent and the funding ratio was 95 percent.

Fr. Lombardi also touched on the topic of where the goods belonging to the Holy See go, explaining that while the varied destinations may seem extensive, they are in fact aimed at the long-term support of a “vast range of service activities” run either by the Holy See or other connected institutions.

The subject of Peter’s Pence was also brought up by the spokesman. It is the name given to the financial support offered by faithful to the Pope as a sign of their shared concern for the many different needs of the Church and for the relief of the neediest.

Funds from this collection go toward “various purposes… according to the judgement of the Holy Father,” and are given trustingly by the faithful to support his ministry, the spokesman noted.

“The Pope’s works of charity for the poor are certainly one of the essential uses,” he said, clarifying that those who give are certainly aware that the Pope himself can evaluate the different urgent situations and how to best respond.

The Roman Curia also falls under the umbrella of the Pope’s charitable efforts, and is “an instrument of his service,” both inside and outside the diocese of Rome, he said, drawing attention to the 180 pontifical diplomatic representatives throughout the world.

Fr. Lombardi stressed that these type of issues tend to periodically reappear, and “are always occasions for curiosity and polemics.”

“It is necessary to study the situations and specific problems in detail and with professionalism, so as to be able to recognize much that is entirely justified, normal and well-managed,” while distinguishing from what needs to be corrected, clarified or eliminated, he said.

This was the primary goal of COSEA, which completed its work some time ago, he added, noting that many of the commission’s decisions and initiatives are still in the process of being implemented.

The reorganization of the Vatican’s economic departments, the appointment of the Reviser general, and the work of the competent institutions in supervising the economic and financial activities of the Holy See are “an objective and incontrovertible reality,” he said.

Indeed, part of Pope Francis’ ongoing process of reform has included the establishment of the Secretariat for the Economy.

The task of “improving the use of temporal goods in the service of the spiritual” is challenging, yet central commitment of the Pope and his collaborators, Fr. Lombardi stressed.

He explained that the path of good administration, correctness and transparency “continues and proceeds without uncertainties.”

“This is evidently Pope Francis’ wish and the Holy See has no lack of those who collaborate loyally and to the best of their abilities.”

In Nov. 4 comments to journalists on the information leak, Fr. Lombardi said that as far as Pope Francis is concerned, he is “serene and he knows what he must do.” He knows that “there are difficulties in life,” but also knows what his mission is.

Obviously the publication of bad news isn’t a “source of joy” for the Pope, he said, but that doesn’t mean he is in a place of desolation.