On Tuesday, the Vatican released a scathing statement vehemently denying its involvement in a salacious scandal that caused a prominent newspaper editor to resign.
The scandal revolves around a clash between Dino Boffo, the editor of “Avvenire,” the newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, and Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose brother owns the Italian daily “Il Giornale.” Last summer, “Il Giornale” published reports allegedly based on documents proving Boffo had made harassing telephone calls to the wife of a former male partner. Many in the Italian media saw this as retribution by “Il Giornale” for Boffo criticizing Berlusconi for supposed affairs with younger women. Boffo denied the harassment claim; however, besieged by scandal, he resigned, stating that he wanted to spare his family and the Church further humiliation.
Three months later, Vittorio Feltri, editor of “Il Giornale,” admitted the documents implying a homosexual angle to the case were fake. Furthermore, last week Feltri claimed he was given the document in question by an “institutional” Church official whom he trusted.
Who was this “institutional” Church official? Speculation in the Italian media has run wild, with many suggesting it was a high-ranking Vatican official seeking to embarrass the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Some have speculated the involvement of Gian Maria Vian, head of the Vatican newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano”–while others have suggested the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, leaked the document, due to a high-level dispute between the Vatican and the Italian Catholic Church.
In Tuesday’s statement from Bertone, he fervently denied any involvement by the Vatican or “L’Osservatore Romano,” stating that the recent news items “have no basis whatsoever in fact.” He went on to state:
“It seems clear from the proliferation of the most incredible assertions and hypotheses—repeated by the media with truly remarkable consonance— that everything rests on unfounded convictions, with the intention of gratuitously and calumniously attributing to the editor of ‘Osservatore Romano’ an unmotivated, unreasonable and malicious action. This is giving rise to a defamatory campaign against the Holy See, which even involves the Roman Pontiff.
The Holy Father Benedict XVI, who has been kept constantly informed, deplores these unjust and injurious attacks, renews his complete faith in his collaborators, and prays that those who truly have the good of the Church to heart may work with all means to ensure that truth and justice triumph.”