October 24, 2021 (Steven O’Reilly) – Along with many Catholics, Roma Locuta Est has watched this pontificate proceed from one horror to the next. Amoris Laetitia. Pachamama. The Scalfari interviews. The Abu Dhabi statement. Ted McCarrick. Betrayal of the Church in China to the Chinese Communist Party. The synod on synodality. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Some have tried to defend this pontificate from any and all of the criticisms leveled against it. Such are the likes of the sycophantic, ‘papolatrous’ Francis-apologists. On the other side, there are those who maintain that Francis is definitively not the pope. The main theory that claims this is the “Benedict is (still) pope” theory; or BiP theory as I have named it. This theory claims the wording of Benedict XVI’s Declaratio was in some way deficient. Roma Locuta Est has argued against this particular BiP theory in the Summa Contra BiP. Frankly, in our opinion, this Declaratio-based theory is a shiny-object distraction.
So, is it our position that Francis is definitely pope? No. Not quite. It is our position, as stated in the past, that from all out outward appearances of form and procedure, etc, that Francis is the putative pope, albeit one who — where and when necessary — must be resisted on certain issues. He must be considered pope, putatively at least, unless and until definitive evidence is found and or a definitive judgment of a future pope declares otherwise. Personally, I do not exclude that some future pope might very well declare, for example, the election of Francis to be invalid. For example, I have researched one theory brought to me from within the Jesuit order which suggests Cardinal Bergoglio’s acceptance of his election was invalid (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows?). Archbishop Viganò seems to have alluded to this question about Bergoglio’s Jesuit vows in a recent interview (see Vigano: A Jesuit on the Throne of Peter “in violation of the rule established by St. Ignatius of Loyola”). I also agree the Open Letter submitted by a number scholars should be considered by cardinals and bishops (see here).
As said, I don’t exclude the possibility Francis might be one day declared to not have been pope. Again, this requires evidence. Definitive evidence has yet to be produced, which is not to say it might not one day be produced, e.g., perhaps conspirators might come forward to reveal previously unknown information. While I reject standard BiP theories which are based on the wording of the Declaratio, there is one BiP scenario that, I think, remains a possibility — although more evidence is required.
I touched upon such a scenario in a past article (see The “we” in “We did it!” — and what they did) which took a look at a Patrick Coffin interview with Cardinal Burke from August 2019. In that interview, Coffin brought up various concerns surrounding the 2013 conclave involving the activities of the “St. Gallen mafia” and McCarrick’s “influential Italian gentleman” (see here). In that interview, Cardinal Raymond Burke, speaking in the hypothetical, seemed to suggest there “could be” an argument to invalidate the conclave if two things were demonstrated:
(1) that the St. Gallen mafia engaged in an active campaign to undermine the pontificate of Benedict XVI
(2) that the St. Gallen mafia, at the same time, engineered the election of someone to their liking (see Coffin interview here, especially at 20:39-21:33)
Roma Locuta Est has put forth evidence and circumstance that addresses the second condition given above, i.e., which suggests the election of Bergoglio was engineered (see The Conclave Chronicles). In this current two-part series, we would now like to examine more closely than we have before whether there are grounds for suspicion that Benedict’s pontificate was potentially undermined in order to clear the way for Bergoglio’s election. We will do this by taking a look at: (1) whether any in the St. Gallen mafia suggested to Pope Benedict XVI he should resign, and under what conditions; (2) whether there is any indication the Vatileaks scandal might have been a wider conspiracy intended to bring down Benedict, and if so; (3) who might be a leading suspect with the ability and means to have organized it, and did he have any known links to Bergoglio’s election; and (4) is there anything in Bergoglio’s past or suspicious behavior to suggest there might have been a plot, or had knowledge of it.
Martini lays the Predicate: Ratizinger, if elected pope, should resign if he cannot reform curia
During the 2005 conclave, reports indicate that Cardinal Martini, founder of the St. Gallen mafia, threw his own support and votes behind Ratzinger’s election. Apparently hoping to reach a tacit agreement with the future Pope Benedict XVI, Martini suggested to then Cardinal Ratzinger that if Ratzinger failed to reform the curia as pope, then Benedict should resign at some future point. According to reporting based on the account of Fr. Silvano Fausti, a close associate of Cardinal Martini:
…Martini apparently handed his votes over to Ratzinger in order to avoid “foul play” which attempted to eliminate both in order to elect “a thoroughly obsequious member of the Curia, who didn’t make it”. According to Fausti, Ratzinger and Martini “had more votes, Martini a few more” than Ratzinger. There had apparently been a scheme to elect a Curia cardinal. “Once the ploy had been unveiled, Martini went to Ratzinger in the evening and said to him: tomorrow, you agree to become Pope with my votes… He said to him: you accept, you have been in the Curia for 30 years and you are intelligent and honest: if you manage to reform the Curia great, if not, you step down.” (Source: Martini: Benedict XVI’s resignation and the 2005 Conclave)
Above we see that Cardinal Martini offered a tacit agreement, suggesting in effect that ‘I will throw my support to your election as pope on the condition you reform the corrupt curia…but if you fail, you are to resign.’
As events would turn out, seven years later, the Vatileaks scandal erupted. This scandal further exposed the corruption of the Roman Curia, as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s seeming inability to competently govern the Vatican. It was then, at the height of the scandal, that Cardinal Martini — something like a Rumplestilskin — met with Pope Benedict XVI in June 2012. The reform of the curia evidently unaccomplished, Martini solemnly suggested it was now time for Benedict to resign. As the La Stampa article reports on Fr. Fausti’s account (emphasis added):
The Jesuit cardinal, who was seriously ill with Parkinson’s (he died three months later), met Ratzinger in the archbishop’s residence in the early afternoon.
During that meeting, according to Fausti’s version of events, Martini told Benedict XVI that the time had come for him to resign because the Roman Curia seemed irreformable: “it’s right now, one cannot do anything here.” Fr. Fausti is a primary source given the relationship he had with Martini. It also widely known that Ratzinger and Martini esteem each other, despite their different positions. There is no doubt that during that painful period the Holy See was going through, with the Vatileaks scandal in full swing, the Archbishop of Milan spoke frankly to Benedict XVI suggesting he resign.
It is already known that Benedict appeared to be intent on resigning the papacy at some point having witnessed the prolonged decline of his predecessor, John Paul II. According to the La Stampa article, both Cardinal Bertone and Archbishop Ganswein had learned of Benedict’s decision to resign in mid-2012 (see here), about the time of Benedict’s meeting with Martini, or shortly thereafter. Other accounts place the final decision in December 2012, after Benedict received the dossier which revealed details regarding the homosexual ‘mafia’ in the Vatican. However, given that the Vatileaks court case was not completed until the fall of 2012, it could just be that Benedict waited until the court case and dossier were done so as not to hand an ongoing, unresolved scandal onto his successor.
It is remarkable that Cardinal Martini of the St. Gallen mafia had been so prescient in 2005 as to suggest that Ratzinger resign if the curia could not be reformed, and then, voila, lo and behold, the Vatileaks scandal erupts making clear it had not been — thus activating Martini’s if-then condition, and his subsequent call for Benedict’s resignation.
So, as we see above, the founder of the St. Gallen mafia asked Benedict to resign because of the Vatileaks scandal. If there was a St. Gallen conspiracy, I believe we need to look much more closely at the Vatileaks scandal to see if there is smoke here. The question then is, what was the Vatileaks scandal, who was it really targeted against, and if a potential conspiracy — who might really been behind it?
Did Martini, Bergoglio, and the St. Gallen mafia really care about the reform of the curia?
However, before getting in the Vatileaks scandal in greater detail, it is important to first consider whether the interest in the “reform of the curia” professed by Cardinal Martini, Cardinal Bergoglio, and the St. Gallen mafia — can be taken seriously. Was the call for the “reform of the curia” a sincere goal, or simply a cynical ploy.
The reform of the curia had been one of the supposed goals of Cardinal Martini and of the St. Gallen mafia. However, no one can seriously argue that St. Gallen’s pope of choice — Cardinal Bergoglio — has done much on the subject. His record on corruption is worse than spotty. For example, Pope Francis lifted the sanctions on ex-cardinal McCarrick, despite the horrendous nature of the accusations against him; accusations of which he was undoubtedly made aware by Archbishop Vigano….that is if Pope Francis had not already been aware of them.
There were the Pope’s dubious appointments of Bishop Zanchetta to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (see here), and of Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra as an assistant Secretary of State at the Vatican (see here). We also recall that the Pope halted an investigation into sexual abuse accusations against the aforementioned Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor (see here). Third parties were said to have interfered with CDF sexual abuse investigations, and Pope Francis dismissed two priests involved in such investigations at the CDF under Cardinal Mueller, then prefect of the CDF (see here). There have been additional sexual scandals, such as the orgy — by some accounts, presided over by a cardinal close to Francis (see here). Without going into great detail here, it is enough to note that financial reform has fared no better (e.g., here and here).
Then there is the interesting case of Cardinal Becciu. His case is discussed in the recent Forbes article (see The Pope’s Corruption Problems). Francis was seemingly forced by public revelations involving a shady London real estate deal to finally intervene in the question of Cardinal Becciu, and stripping him in 2020 of his privileges as a cardinal. What is curious is that Francis apparently had been given sufficient reason five years ago to have had Becciu investigated on another, unrelated matter, as the Forbes article reports (emphasis added):
And it’s not so simple for Pope Francis to distance himself from Cardinal Becciu despite having removed him from his post and stripped him of his rights as a cardinal a year ago. According to a former Vatican official in a position to know what transpired, Pope Francis directly received a secret dossier some five years ago that supposedly set out “incontrovertible” proof about Cardinal Becciu diverting more than $2 million in church funds. “His Holiness closed the file; that was the end of it,” the ex-official told Forbes. The information, that source says, was never passed to the Vatican’s version of a public prosecutor, the Promoter of Justice. And Becciu then continued overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Vatican.
Francis, in spite of having “incontrovertible” proof against Becciu, allowed him to continue in his position. Why would Francis have not acted against Becciu five years before if he had such information? One might well wonder, did Becciu hold some information over the pope’s head? If so, what was it?
We will return to this question involving Becciu later on in part two of this series. It suffices for the moment merely to point out the obvious. “Reform of the curia“, at least in terms of moral and financial corruption does not appear to have ever been a real goal of Martini, Bergoglio, or the St. Gallen mafia, as suggested by Martini to Ratzinger in 2005. Events have demonstrated over the last eight years that this professed interest in the “reform of the curia” appears to have been little more than a cynical, disingenuous ploy.
The St. Gallen group wanted “drastic reform” and “modernization” of the Church—not reform of the Vatican Curia—and it opposed Ratzinger. The evidence on its face suggests Cardinal Martini as a member of the Saint Gallen group was duplicitous on both occasions when he spoke of Ratzinger’s resignation. It appears Martini played his Machiavellian best with his losing hand in the 2005 conclave (to appear magnanimous in throwing his votes to Ratzinger!) and thereby setting up a plausible pretext (i.e., “reform of the curia”) to push Benedict XVI to resign in 2012 when he had failed to do so.
Vatileaks: A Weaponized Scandal to Bring Down Benedict?
In 2012, Martini was dying of Parkinson’s disease. His heir apparent, Cardinal Bergoglio, the St. Gallen mafia’s best hope to win the papacy, was approaching 75 years of age when he would be required to submit his resignation. Time was running out for St. Gallen’s and Bergoglio’s dream of a Bergoglian papacy. It was now, or never.
Certainly in retrospect, the Vatileaks scandal contributed to the timing of Benedict’s resignation. It clearly disheartened the Pope, and could only suggest to Benedict he was indeed unable to effectively govern the affairs in the Vatican. Absent the scandal, Bergoglio may not have ever become Pope Francis. As such, the Vatileaks scandal seemed a made to the order scandal for Bergoglio and St. Gallen. If we ask Cui Bono, or “who benefited” from Vatileaks ultimately — it is clear it was Bergoglio.
It was in January of 2012 that the Vatileaks scandal broke when Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi aired on television the contents of certain secret Vatican documents he had obtained. The leaks continued through to May 2012 when Nuzzi then published a book (His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI) that revealed still more secret Vatican documents. By May 2012, the Vatican police had investigated and arrested Pope Benedict XVI’s own butler, Paolo Gabriele, as the culprit who had leaked the documents to Nuzzi. However, given other documents were leaked to other press outlets, it was clear additional leakers were out there beyond Gabriele the butler. One of these turned out to be Claudio Sciarpelletti (see Vatileaks, the case of the butler).
The butler confessed his role in the scandal explaining that he intended the leaks to help Pope Benedict. While this appears to be the butler’s actual motive it is clear that the revelations in the secret document had the opposite effect than what was intended by the butler. Rather, as might be more reasonably expected, the scandal hurt both Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bertone (see here). That the butler could really believe, incredibly, that leaking this information could help Benedict, only reveals his naivete. Consequently, this has led to the reasonable hypothesis that Gabriele was simply a naive pawn used by others for their own more devious ends; one that were quite different from Gabriele’s. It is a fact that Gabriele did not act alone. Aside from Gabriele and Sciarpelletti, as is obvious in Nuzzi’s other book (Ratzinger was Afraid: The Secret Documents, the Money, and the Scandals that overwhelmed the Pope), Vatileaks was a far broader conspiracy involving a great deal of organization, and many people. At the time, there were speculations in the Italian press that one or more Cardinals were ultimately behind the scandal (e.g., here).
Thus, the theory the butler was, in the end, no more than a “scapegoat” (see here and here) is a reasonable hypothesis. Unfortunately, Gabriele died at the young age of 54 in November 2020. Unfortunately, he can no longer be interviewed on the topic. Dead men tell no tales, they say. Still, the question lingers: was Benedict’s butler no more than a puppet whose strings were pulled by one or more Cardinals who were the real puppet masters behind the scandal (see here)?
In Part 2 of this series we will examine the hypothetical question above, and then offer a speculation as to which Cardinal would seemingly be the likely candidate to have been the potential “puppet master” who organized Vatileaks, having motive, means, and an interest in Cardinal Bergoglio’s election.
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com or StevenOReilly@ProtonMail.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on GETTR, Parler, or Gab: @StevenOReilly).
- Francis has not yet contradicted a strict reading of the Vatican I’s Pastor Aeturnus. His pontificate, should its validity be upheld, will be reckoned in my opinion, as the worst in the history of the Catholic Church, embodying all the worst aspects of the bad popes up to this moment in history (e.g., John XXII, Honorius, Liberius, Vigilius, etc).