A whistle-blowing butler to the Pope is being put on trial in the Vatican for aggravated theft after he leaked confidential papers and letters in the pontiff’s possession in a bid to expose alleged corruption.
Among the most important letters were those that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the then deputy governor of the Vatican City, wrote to the Pope. The archbishop complained that he had discovered corruption, cronyism, nepotism and inflated pricing in the award of contracts to firms when he took office in 2009. (Sounds familiar, eh?)
Vigano was subsequently moved out and sent to Washington as Vatican ambassador. More details in the Irish Times.
The trial of the butler, Paolo Gabriele, raises an ethical dilemma. Sure, he may have been trusted to keep official matters confidential, but what if the secrets involved wrongdoing and corruption? Should he be put on trial then? He will probably be pardoned in the end, but should he be put on trial in the first place if he was acting according to his conscience?
In many ways, the butler’s dilemma is the same as that encountered by whsitleblowers everywhere. When confronted with serious wrongdoings and corruption, they have a real dilemma especially if they have taken an oath of confidentiality. But can we expect people with a conscience to remain silent if accountability, public interest and the common good are at stake?
To me, the answer is clear. Instead of putting the butler on trial, what is needed is a commission of inquiry to find out if the allegations in the letters had any basis. In this respect, it is puzzling (or maybe not) why the report of a separate investigation by cardinals into the matter has not been allowed by the trial judge.