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Exhausted in the Vatican

June 18, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI attends his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. In background is a bronze sculpture, the Resurrection, by artist Pericle Fazzini. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The Final Battles of Pope Benedict XVI

The revelations about the secret Vatican documents — dubbed “Vatileaks” by none other than papal spokesman Padre Federico Lombardi — first emerged more than four months ago. They suggest a Vatican mired in corruption and character-assassination campaigns, a plot that seems hardly limited to a butler’s alleged act of theft.

The central figure is Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, whom the pope instructed in July 2009 to clean up at the Vatican administration. The overzealous lawyer imposed cutbacks in various areas, including construction contracts, real estate and management of the Vatican Gardens. In a letter to Bertone, he wrote that he had turned a Vatican budget deficit of €7.8 million ($9.8 million) into a surplus of €34.5 million within a year by putting an end to old boys’ networks that “always awarded contracts to the same companies” — at double the prices customarily paid outside the Vatican. Viganò made himself unpopular with his fight against waste and abuse of office.

He was maneuvered out of his position after only 27 months and, since October, he has been the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States in Washington, far away from the Vatican. He has perceived his transfer as a punishment. In a letter of protest to the pope, he painted a blunt picture of the Curia: “The realm is fragmented into many small feudal states, with everyone fighting against everyone else.” The conditions, he wrote, are “disastrous” and, even worse, are “well-known” to the entire Curia.

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