Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

How to end the 'Vatileaks II' imbroglio

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 17, 2016

John Allen has a useful suggestion on how the Vatican can close out the "Vatileaks II" scandal and avoid another public-relations debacle. 

Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda has already admitted leaking the confidential documents, and his explanation—that a woman had lured him into a compromising situation and then threatened him—doesn't constitute an excuse. He betrayed his office, and he's subject to Vatican law; he should be punished.

But the other three prominent defendants are Italian citizens; it is not clear that the Vatican could enforce a criminal sentence, even if one or more are convicted. Nor is it clear that the Vatican should want a conviction. 

Two of those "name" defendants, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, are journalists. A strong case can be made that they were doing their job by publishing the material that was given to them. An even stronger case can be made that it's losing proposition for any goverment to prosecute journalists who expose corruption. These two journalists, Allen notes, are setting themselves as martyrs for the cause of press freedom. 

The third "name" defendant, Francesca Chaouqui, is a special case. She denies the lurid accusations made against her by Msgr. Vallejo Balda, but she seems to revel in the public attention that she now claims. She has vowed that if convicted she would refuse a pardon, and if imprisoned, she would write a book while in jail. Oh yes, and she's pregnant. Does anyone at the Vatican really want to put a pregnant woman behind bars, and make her a media sensation in the process?

Thus Allen's suggestion: Stop the trial now, punish the one man who can and should be punished. Drop the other charges. As he puts it, "If Chaouqui, Nuzzi, and Fittipaldi are cut loose, then the argument for presenting themselves as martyrs would vanish."  

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: rdennehy8049 - Apr. 25, 2016 9:06 AM ET USA

    We have no one to blame except our generation, meaning people born in the late 30s and early 40s. We accepted the changes and did not protest. We bought Playboy "for the articles" and accepted films like The Moon is Blue.

  • Posted by: mclom - Apr. 22, 2016 5:28 PM ET USA

    We are in a heart breaking situation. Just 70 years ago, film makers were making films with Catholic nuns and priests as heroes. Families were depicted as having several children and being mostly stable happy. Exceptions proved the rule.

  • Posted by: loumiamo - Mar. 20, 2016 7:21 PM ET USA

    If all but the Msgr. "are cut loose, then the argument for presenting themselves as martyrs would vanish." Exactly. In fact, it sounds exactly like "if u legalize drugs and eliminate the profit, the drug cartels would vanish." Oh, but I don't think we want to go that far, do we? Just because logic suggests the right course of action for the vatileaks problem doesn't mean that logic is always logical. Sometimes its merely quixotic. Who decides is what's most important.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Mar. 17, 2016 3:43 PM ET USA

    Let the journalists off the hook. But if Chaouqui IS an Italian government spy, which is certainly possible, holding her accountable sends a message about the acceptability of intelligence infiltration of the Vatican.