VATICAN CITY: The biggest scandal to rock the Vatican in decades widened Monday with the pope’s butler, arrested for allegedly having confidential documents in his home, agreeing to cooperate with investigators — raising the specter that higher-ranking ecclesial heads might soon roll.
Few believe butler Paolo Gabriele worked alone to leak dozens of documents shedding light on power struggles, corruption and intrigue inside the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The leaks have tormented the Vatican for months and painted a picture of a church hierarchy in utter disarray.
Gabriele, the pope’s personal butler since 2006, was arrested Wednesday evening after Holy See documents were found inside his Vatican City apartment, adding an unfathomable twist to the Vatileaks scandal. He remains in custody in a Vatican detention facility, accused of theft, and has met with his wife and lawyers.
Gabriele’s lawyer, Carlo Fusco, said Monday his client was “very serene and calm,” despite the whirlwind of speculation surrounding his arrest. He said Gabriele himself had told the Vatican judge investigating the case that he would “respond to all the questions and will collaborate with investigators to ascertain the truth.”
Italian media reported Monday that a cardinal is suspected of playing a major role in the scandal. However, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, denied the reports categorically. He said many Vatican officials were being questioned but insisted “there is no cardinal under suspicion.”
But Lombardi acknowledged that the investigation continues.
And on Monday, Italian daily La Repubblica published a rambling interview with what it described as another Vatican “mole,” someone who described the various agendas at play behind the leaks.
The unnamed leaker said the aim was to show how weak Pope Benedict XVI is, the fears of his secretary of state, and to make clear that the “fundamental role of the church is to defend the Gospel, not accumulate power and money.”
Lombardi dismissed as “pure fantasy” such a rash of unsourced reports about the investigation in the Italian media, which have been on a frenzy ever since reports of Gabriele’s detention emerged Friday.
Gabriele, a 46-year-old father of three, was always considered extremely loyal to Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, for whom he briefly served. Vatican insiders have said they were baffled by his alleged involvement, and Lombardi said Monday that the entire scandal has caused pain throughout the Vatican.
Benedict, who in March appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the leaks, was being kept informed of developments and is “aware of the delicate situation that the Roman curia is going through,” Lombardi said.
He acknowledged the “negative image” of the Vatican that was emerging from the scandal but said the developments made it ever more important to “reestablish a climate of clarity, truth, transparency and trust as soon as possible.”