What’s going on in Vatican?

Arresting people in Vatican sounds pretty unusual, but it has just happened. Would you say that those arrest and events related to them may have some impact on the ongoing processes in the Curia under Pope Francis or not, and why? Read few comments.

James Weiss, Associate Professor of History, Theology Department, Boston College

Yes, this will have an impact on the Curia, but only if Pope Francis exercises more robust control and direction of it.

First, it is not clear who ordered the arrests. In fact, it appears that Pope Francis was unaware that they would be carried out. So it is possible that some person or group in the Curia made these arrests in order to embarrass the Pope. Or perhaps some person or group sympathetic to the Pope thought this was in his best interest. We may not know but we should try to find out.

Second, it is very clear that the corruption and mismanagement of the Curia, carried out under the closest advisers of Pope Benedict but without his direct involvement, did lead to Pope Benedict’s resignation. It is also clear that Francis finds the Curia full of corruption, intrigue, dishonest, and “spiritual cancer”.

We know who many of Francis’s declared enemies and opponents are — thirteen cardinals signed a letter very critical of him. If Francis does not remove those people from office, and if Francis does not name officials who will follow his desired direction for the Curia and the Church, we can expect this constant internal warfare to continue. This is a shame, because so many people have such high hopes for Francis’s papacy.

Steven Avella, Professor of History, Marquette University, Former President of the American Catholic Historical Association

That they were detained is not a surprise to me, given the security protocols that likely took effect after the famous butler incident of the previous papacy. The issue is what these stolen documents contain–and I suspect they are related to the scandals to which the Holy Father has referred–and apologized for in advance. I think we should brace ourselves for some pretty discouraging news–news that might impact the financial affairs of the previous two pontificates–and the reputations of the popes of those times.

In general, one might also observe that there are likely many in the Vatican that are looking to defame Pope Francis and undercut his legitimacy–many say so openly during the recent synod–the level of disrespect tendered to Pope Francis was truly shocking. I don’t know if these two detainees were part of that faction, but the disloyalty and recalcitrance of the Vatican bureaucracy is legendary–they helped slow or dismantle some of the changes of Vatican II after Paul VI. Many of these bureaucrats have lost all sense of their true function in the Church—they think they are in charge. Some are good and capable people. Another possibility is that this particular leak might be an effort to embarrass George Pell, the Australian cardinal who has a very poor reputation in Rome. Pell also is an outspoken opponent of the pope he is supposed to serve (although he would likely protest that he is as loyal as they come.) Wherever Pell is, there is likely to be trouble.

Thomas Worcester, Professor of History, College of the Holy Cross

I think this news of arrests points to the fact that reform of the Vatican bureaucracy is a difficult task that has yet to be carried out. Much of what Pope Benedict handed to Pope Francis remains to be dealt with.

Pope Francis has a great deal on his plate, as one might say. Foreign travels, the follow-up to the synod on the family and related issues…. Is reform of the Roman curia and the Vatican bureaucracy a priority, or do other matters take precedence?

Thomas ReeseSenior Analyst for the  National Catholic Reporter

Arresting people in the Vatican is very unusual. They are sending a message that leaking documents will not be tolerated. No one is going to do long jail time, but people will be fired.



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