That the trial on the management of the Secretariat of State’s funds would lead to consequences and difficulties for the Holy See was understandable from the moment the Vatican Tribunal issued the sentence. The court itself presented inconsistent choices and a line of judgment that seemed to vary depending on the situations. Only the publication of the text of the sentence, within this year, will be able to explain the reasons for some decisions. -

It is indicative that, at the end of that trial, everyone has already declared their intention to appeal, even the Vatican promoter of Justice, who also said he was satisfied to have seen his prosecution accepted, at least partially. At the same time, the Vatican Secretariat of State will not appeal, having formed a civil party, even though it has not had all its requests for compensation recognized.

However, the issue goes beyond the sentence and concerns how the trial was carried out within the Vatican walls. Four rescripts of Pope Francis, investigations and searches of which procedural correctness was called into question, and interrogations with harsh tones that were sometimes defined as manipulative have characterized the process since the embryonic phase that led to the trial. The lawyers raised all these complaints on several occasions, repeatedly asking that the trial be canceled because the proceedings had rendered it invalid.

Last week, an opinion by the canonist Paolo Cavana published in the online magazine Statoechiese reiterated many of the critical issues. At the same time, the news of an investigation in Italy into illegal wiretaps also affected the Vatican trial because some of the defendants in the so-called “trial of the century” were among the people illegally wiretapped.

Pope Francis met the magistrates of the Vatican City State Court on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year. He asked them to continue “with courage” and remain somewhat deaf to criticism. In that same hearing, on March 2, Alessandro Diddi, promoter of Vatican Justice, underlined that the Vatican system is in line with the European system, even if it is not part of it – words that smack of a sort of excusatio non petita.

Without going too far into technical details, it is clear that this process, which Pope Francis proposed, has created a short circuit in the Vatican world, the consequences of which will be seen in the years to come. The management of the investigations showed that Italian citizens were left to fend for themselves in a country (the Vatican) that was considered non-EU and without guarantees. This situation was paradoxically fueled by Italian lawyers, who supported and used a “justicialist” system in the guise of Vatican magistrates. In contrast, in their guise as lawyers in Italy, they defended the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

It takes little to understand that this also has consequences on the international commitments of the Holy See. As is known, the Holy See is not a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, and this issue was always brought up during the trial whenever it was highlighted that the treatment of the suspects had not been in line with the requests of the convention.

But then we must ask ourselves whether the Holy See can use a positivistic argument (failure to sign the ECHR Convention) as a defense in case of a violation of human rights, particularly in the case of a fair trial of European citizens. And then, the Holy See (also in the name and on behalf of the Vatican) signed the 2009 Monetary Agreement for the use of the euro. This is a form of participation in the monetary system and an adherence to the values underlying the European Union, including respect for human dignity and rights. Among these values, there is the right to an effective remedy and an impartial judge, the presumption of innocence, respect for the rights of the defense, and the proportionality of any penalties.

Have all these aspects been respected?

Not according to Cavana, in what appears to be the first of a series of opinions and studies that will punctuate the debate on the Vatican trial until the moment of publication of the sentence.

This circumstance alone would put the Vatican judicial system into crisis. However, the issue of illegal wiretapping in Italy involving some of the defendants in the trial has an even more decisive effect.

Suffice it to say that during the trial, data collection activities were mentioned on several occasions, even at the limits of legality, but the issue was never really explored in depth.

The fact that these interceptions exist and that they have already existed since the time of the Pope’s rescripts, which expanded the investigative power of the Vatican judges, still leaves the suspicion of a prefabricated dossier, born in a gray area in which Italian lawyers and Vatican magistrates meet and intersect, in a strange collaboration because it was born from the peculiarity of a double role. The Vatican promoters of Justice and the court judges also have positions as lawyers in Italy, and it is as if a lawyer from the United States could be a public prosecutor in Canada.

However, if this were the case, the entire Vatican process would lose its validity. It would be a trial born with a specific purpose and carried forward at all costs to align with the original purpose.

At that point, even Cardinal Angelo Becciu would not have ended up in the Pope’s sights due to the embezzlement of which he was found guilty in the first instance (among other things, without clear evidence), but because of a dossier that was part of a “war” between Italian services – and Becciu had met, through Cecilia Marogna, the faction that had lost in the battle for command of the services.

Furthermore, the trial became the perfect opportunity to establish the new Vatican course, put the Vatican Secretariat of State and its management into crisis (and in fact, the independence of the Secretariat of State is the most damaged by the affair), and eliminate those over the years, had worked so that the Holy See system would detach itself from its cumbersome Italian neighbor and become increasingly international (do you remember the anti-money laundering law and the appreciated work of the former Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority, top officials?)

We are still in speculation, but if investigations in Italy confirmed this general picture, we would be in a dire situation. And so, the trial of the century, which aimed to reaffirm the transparency of Vatican justice, could be the trial that undermined Vatican credibility.

What about the Pope?

In this trial, Pope Francis played his reputation. He personally intervened, both in the events contested in the trial (the Secretariat of State’s investment in the shares of a luxury building in London and the subsequent decision to take control of the building to avoid huge losses) and in the progress of the investigations, changing the rules along the way.

The picture would emerge of a highly influenced pontificate that is unable to defend the Holy See’s independence and manages crisis situations by acting as an absolute monarch without a government structure that helps it understand the possible manipulations or consequences of its choices.

So far, of course, we are in the field of speculation, and every doubt must be proven to become a concrete fact. However, it is worth raising doubts and considering the possible consequences of some decisions. Ultimately, it is the Holy See that loses out. But if the Holy See suffers, the Church suffers.


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