Scandals and Intrigue Heat Up at Vatican Ahead of Papal Conclave
By RACHEL DONADIO,NYT - VATICAN CITY — As cardinals from around the world begin arriving in Rome for a conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, new shadows have fallen over the delicate transition, which theVatican fears might influence the vote and with it the direction of the Roman Catholic Church.
In recent days, often speculative reports in the Italian news media — some even alleging gay sex scandals in the Vatican, others focusing on particular cardinals stung by the child sexual abuse crisis — have dominated headlines, suggesting fierce internal struggles as prelates scramble to consolidate power and attack their rivals in the dying days of a troubled papacy.
The reports, which the Vatican has vehemently refuted, touch on some of the most vexing issues of Benedict’s nearly eight-year reign, including a new round of accusations of child sexual abuse by priests and international criticism of the Vatican Bank’s opaque record-keeping. The recent explosion of bad press, which some Vatican experts say is fed by carefully orchestrated leaks meant to weaken some papal contenders, also speak to Benedict’s own difficulties governing, which analysts say he is trying to address, albeit belatedly, with several high-profile personnel changes.
The drumbeat of scandal has reached such a fever pitch that on Saturday, the Vatican Secretariat of State issued a rare pointed rebuke, calling it “deplorable” that ahead of the conclave there was “a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories, that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”
The Vatican compared the news reports to past attempts by foreign states to exert pressure on papal elections, saying any efforts to skew the choice of the next pope by trying to shape public opinion were “based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the church is living.”
Benedict had addressed at least one past scandal with the Feb. 15 appointment of a new head of the Vatican Bank. It is less clear why he reassigned a powerful Vatican diplomatic official to a posting outside Rome, though experts say it diminishes the official’s role in helping to steer Vatican policy. Read more…