Abuse of trust – in Vatileaks 2, arrests at the Vatican

The spectre that haunted Pope Benedict XVI in the last year of his pontificate once again rears it ugly head. In 2012, under the moniker Vatileaks, sensitive information and documents were leaked by a butler working in the papal household, and recently something similar happened, once again by persons personally selected by the Pope and appointed by him to help clear up the economic affairs of the Holy See.

vallejo baldaThe Vatican gendarmerie arrested Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda (pictured at left) and Ms. Francesco Chaouqui and held them in detention overnight. This morning both arrests were validated but Ms. Chaougui was let go, after having cooperated fully with the authorities, a Holy See press statement said. Msgr. Vallejo remains in detention, Andrea Tornielli says.

Msgr. Vallejo was the secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, of which Ms. Chaouqui was a member. The commission was established in July of 2013, and had an advisory role to the Pope.

In addition, Msgr. Vallejo is also the secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and a member of the Financial Security Committee (he was its highest-ranking official since Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi was transferred to the Congregation for Catholic Education last March). Not the lowest employee in the Vatican, then, with, it can be assumed, high-level access to confidential information related to the reforms of the Vatican Bank and the entire economic apparatus of the Holy See.

chaouquiAlarm bells about the appointment of Francesca Chaouqui (pictured at right)  were rung by Sandro Magister as early as August of 2013, suggesting a link between the first crisis of Vatileaks and the current case, which once again sees the announcement of books purporting to confidential information about the economic reforms and affairs in the Vatican.

The reforms of the Vatican Bank and the entire economic structure of the Holy were one of the first major spear points of Pope Francis’ pontificate. It was clear that much needed to change, and the Vatican Bank had already begun to be investigated and cleaned out under Pope Benedict XVI. The greatest development was the establishment of Cardinal Pell’s Secretariat of the Economy and the announcement of an independent auditor with free ranges to check the books of all departments in the Vatican. The commissions and committees of which Msgr. Vallejo and Ms. Chaouqui were members, with the exception of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs, which was established in 1967, are also part of these efforts.

This may turn out to be a major challenge for Pope Francis. Until now, his reforms seemed pretty straightforward as new dicasteries were established, with new personnel, to do new things. This would clear up a lot of old problems just by calling in new expertise. It now turns out that the new gang is not necessarily much different from the old gang, and the efforts by Pope Francis are not immune from abuse.  Whether the problem lies with the selection process or the personal faults of the appointed parties remains to be seen, but one thing it does show is that the economic reforms are by no means a done deal.

Red Dawn Epiphany?

And so the rumour mill sputters to life this Epiphany morning. At the month of this writing, Pope Benedict XVI is offering the consecration Mass of two new archbishops who will be sent out as Papal Nuncios (among them the new Nuncio to Ireland), but if those in the know (such as the usually well-informed Andrea Tornielli and Rocco Palmo) are right, the Holy Father will announce the names of some 15 new cardinals during noon’s Angelus. An expected date of 19 February for a consistory has long been taken as fact, but the announcement  was not expected until almost two weeks from now.

Among the rumoured names are a number of curial prelates and archbishop ordinaries who were also on the list for the previous consistories of November 2010. One of these is our own Archbishop Wim Eijk. There are currently no Dutch cardinal electors, so based on that alone his elevation seems a matter of time. Still, we’ll know more at noon. I guess there will be much to blog about.

In the meantime, let’s not forget the reason for the day of Epiphany: God revealed His incarnation to the world, showing us all the path we must go to our salvation. May the new cardinals help steer the ship of the Church on that narrow and often stormy path.

Ouellet to the Congregation for Bishops

Against the background of ongoing rumours why George Cardinal Pell did not accept an appointment as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops – health issues or opposition from certain bishops? – Andrea Tornielli (usually a very reliable source for such things) brings the news that Marc Cardinal Ouellet has been appointed in his stead. Currently the archbishop of Québec, Cardinal Ouellet has been attacked in Canadian media recently for explaining the Catholic teachings on abortion and other issues. If anything, that shows that the cardinal is a steadfast man who knows his business.

As prefect he will be the head of the office which oversees the selection of new bishops. While it is the pope who appoints bishops, the Congregation does the preparatory work: enquiring at the dioceses in question, investigation the background and behaviour of the proposed candidates and advising the pope as to the men best suited to the job. The prefect of the Congregation for Bishops has therefore a fairly important role: his work will affect many Catholics across the world. It is he who decides who will be the local shepherd of many thousands of people.

Cardinal Ouellet, who has been secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (ecumenical experience!) before taking the see of Québec, was elevated to the cardinalate in 2003. The 66-year-old native of Canada will be the sixth prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, which has existed in its current form since 1965. He will succeed Giovanni Cardinal Re.

Traditionally the nine congregations of the Catholic Church, which are comparable to government ministries, have mostly been headed by Italians. With the appointment of Cardinal Ouellet, only the Congregation for the Causes of Saints still has an Italian prefect (Archbishop Angelo Amato). Pope Benedict XVI, and before him Pope John Paul II too, have been gradually working to prioritise certain parts of the world, not least the English-speaking part, in the upper echelons of the Church. With the vast majority of Catholics living in areas outside Europe, this seems not only logical, but also necessary. Whoever is appointed to a post in the Vatican, takes his background with him, as well as knowledge about the Church in the place where he is from. Although the Catholic Church is a world church, it is not a uniform behemoth. The variety and differences within her need to be known and taken into account in the day-to-day running of the various congregations and departments.

With Cardinal Ouellet at the helm, the current new harvest of bishops in North America, the American midwest especially, may turn out to be a herald of things to come in the wider world.

Msgr. Léonard new archbishop of Brussels?

Various Catholic news sites bring the news from Andrea Tornielli that Rome will announce the new archbishop of Mechlin-Brussels within the next few days. And it will be André-Mutien Léonard, currently bishop of Namur. If true it would bode very well for the Church in Belgium. Msgr. Léonard is an orthodox and practical man, firmly in line with Rome. The only slightly problematic thing would be his age: he is 69 years old, and will tender his resignation in six years. That would perhaps not be long enough to have the truly significant impact that the Belgian Church needs.

We’ll see, though. It sounds like good news, but it is still a rumour.