It appears that the Obama Administrations is not alone in pursuing journalists in the search for whistleblowers and leakers. Emiliano Fittipaldi has revealed that he has been interrogated and faces charges from Holy See prosecutors. He was given a Vatican summons to appear to answer questions about his recently published book “Avarice.”
In 2013, Pope Francis oversaw the enactment of an anti-whistle-blowing law at the Vatican. However, Avarice was based on classified Holy See documents. Fittpaldi has stated that he views the case as an open effort to chill future sources from sharing embarrassing things about the Vatican — not exactly the image of Pope Francis.
Gianluigi Nuzzi, the journalist who broke the 2012 Vatileaks scandal, has also accused the Vatican of a scotched earth campaign and said that Pope Francis is presiding over a modern inquisition. He said that Vatican investigators want to learn about his sources in his book “The Merchants in the Temple.” The journalists have alleged that charity money was spent on refurbishing the houses of powerful cardinals and that the Vatican bank continues to shelter suspected criminals. It is a stinging account for a Vatican that has seen a resurgence of the faithful attracted to the image of Pope Francis as a reformer.
The primary target of the investigation is Angel Vallejo Baldo, a Spanish priest suspected of leaking the documents. He is currently in detention in the Vatican pending the outcome of the investigation. His alleged accomplice, Italian PR executive Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, is also being investigated but was released from custody due to his cooperation. She has shifted blame back on Baldo and said that he acted alone.
The response of the Holy See is a classic effort to snuff out whistleblowers in the aftermath of Vatileaks which included highly inflammatory allegations against former pope Benedict XVI from his butler about intrigue and infighting in the upper echelons of the Church. Transparency has never been an embraced value in the Vatican and the new law was drafted to prevent any further such disclosures.
It is a disappointing disconnect for a Pope who has garnered so much praise (including from me). Indeed, he has already discussed many of the allegations in these books himself and pledged reform. The question then is why the Vatican is pursuing journalists and whistleblowers with such abandon and zeal. The Vatican should affirm that a free press is a recognized value even within the walls of the Holy See and drop this investigation.