The trial of Paolo Gabriele, former butler to Pope Benedict XVI, has begun with the Vatican court dismissing some of the evidence gathered in the confidential document leak case.
Gabriele is accused of stealing the Pope's confidential papers and leaking them to an Italian journalist in what is being called the worst security breach in the Vatican's recent history according to the Associated Press.
Gabriele is charged with aggravated theft and if convicted, could face up to four years in prison. He confessed to the crime, but said he stole the documents to shed light on what he called "evil and corruption" in the Church. He has already asked to be pardoned by the pope.
Claudio Sciarpelletti, a Vatican computer technician who worked in the Vatican's secretariat of state, is also on trial for “complicity”. If convicted, he would face a sentence of only a few months in prison.
CNN states the trial, which is being held in the Vatican Court behind St. Peter's Basilica and is open to the public, is being heard by three lay judges. The hearing, which began on Saturday, started with the Vatican tribunal throwing out some of the evidence gathered and a decision to separate the cases against Gabriele and Sciarpelletti.
St. Peter's Basilica
The fact that the trial is open indicates the Vatican’s willingness to offer more transparency. The Pope had the option to pardon Gabriele immediately after the documents were leaked in an effort to avoid continued public scrutiny over the contents of the stolen papers. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Pope allowed the trial to go ahead as evidence of the "courage" the Vatican is showing in an effort to be more transparent.
The public controversy began shortly after the documents were given to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. According to US Today, a book written by Nuzzi, included stolen letters that were written by Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, former No. 2 Vatican administrator to the pope. In one letter Vigano asks the pope not to transfer him as punishment for exposing corruption in the way the Vatican awarded contracts. The letter states: "Blessed Father, my transfer in this moment would provoke confusion and discouragement for those who thought it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of office that for a long time have been rooted in the Vatican administration."
In January of this year National Catholic Reporter said the Vatican denied claims by Vigano that he issued a blunt warning to the pope in March 2011 about financial corruption in the Vatican. Vigano had reportedly insisted on centralized accounting procedures and accountability for cost overruns. That insistence helped turn a U.S. $10.5 million deficit for the city-state into a surplus of $44 million in the span of a year.
Vagano was transferred despite his plea and is now the Vatican’s U.S. ambassador.
Nuzzi says in his book that "Maria, code name for his Vatican source, wanted to shed light on the secrets that were damaging the church. Many of the documents seem to discredit Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state and Benedict's longtime trusted deputy. Bertone has frequently been criticized for what some believe are shortcomings in the running of the Vatican.
In 2010, Bertone publicly blamed the child sex scandal on homosexual infiltration of the clergy.
In his book The Case Of The Pope, author Geoffrey Robertson criticized Bertone for rejecting the "demand that a bishop be obligated to contact police to denounce a priest who had admitted paedophilia". Bertone argued that "if a priest cannot confide in his bishop for fear of being denounced then it would mean that there is no more liberty of conscience"
The next hearing date for the trial is set for Tuesday, when Gabriele will be questioned.
In June, Gabriele claimed he leaked the documents in order to expose corruption in the Vatican, saying:
“Seeing evil and corruption everywhere in the Church … I was sure that a shock, even a media one, would have been healthy to bring the church back on the right track.”