The Pope’s Unquestionable Authority Underlined by Two Ongoing Vatican Trials

by Andrew Wright
Vatican trials

Two unfolding Vatican trials this week are raising difficult questions for the Holy See, as both cases draw attention to Pope Francis’ role as an unquestioned sovereign and the complications that can emerge legally, financially, and reputationally when he exercises this authority.

This Wednesday, the Vatican’s erstwhile internal auditor, Libero Milone, appeared in court over his 9.3 million euro lawsuit against the Holy See for wrongful termination. Milone contends that he was coerced into resigning in 2017 by Vatican police due to Pope Francis losing confidence in him, following his vigorous auditing efforts within the Vatican.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State has contested its inclusion as a defendant in Milone’s lawsuit. It argues that neither the hiring nor the resignation of Milone was within its purview, and furthermore, the Vatican’s court has no jurisdiction to intervene, asserting that the Pope alone was responsible for Milone’s hiring and subsequent dismissal.

On Thursday, the protracted Vatican trial concerning financial corruption, fraud, and extortion is set to continue. Lawyers for the former heads of the Vatican’s financial regulatory body will present their concluding arguments before an expected verdict later this year. These lawyers have already challenged key aspects of the prosecution’s case, stressing that Pope Francis himself had greenlit the critical transaction at the center of the allegations.

Even Vatican News, generally in favor of the prosecution, noted that the defense had shifted the trial’s narrative.

In the extensive case focusing on a 350 million euro investment in a London property, prosecutors have indicted 10 individuals, including a cardinal, on various financial misconduct charges. They allege that Vatican officials and brokers defrauded the Holy See of substantial sums through exorbitant fees and commissions, and further claim that the Holy See was extorted for an additional 15 million euros to regain control of the property.

The defense team and a British judge, however, see the matter differently, interpreting it as a consensual termination of a legally binding agreement rather than extortion.

Rene Bruelhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, former managers of the Vatican’s financial oversight agency, are accused of failing to prevent the payment to broker Gianluigi Torzi and of not reporting the transaction. Their attorneys argue that Pope Francis had explicitly requested their involvement to regain control of the property, thereby discharging their duties properly.

After two years of hearings and widespread media coverage, the trial has become a reputational liability for the Holy See, exposing not just financial misdeeds but also internal feuds, espionage, and even payments to Islamic militants.

Moreover, questions have arisen about the legal integrity of the Vatican judicial system, given that Pope Francis altered the law multiple times during the investigation to benefit the prosecution, even making another change to permit the trial of a cardinal.

Rev. Filippo Di Giacomo, a canon law expert and regular commentator for Italy’s state broadcasting service RAI, opined that the trial has brought significant reputational damage to the Vatican due to a host of irregularities, including frequent legal confusion and the role of two unidentified women in turning a key suspect into a crucial witness.

In his remarks, Di Giacomo described the proceedings as resembling less a “trial of the century” and more an outdated spectacle featuring subpar participants.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Vatican trials

What are the two Vatican trials discussed in the article?

The article discusses two significant trials within the Vatican. The first concerns Libero Milone, the Vatican’s former internal auditor, who has filed a 9.3 million euro wrongful termination lawsuit against the Holy See. The second trial is a long-standing case related to financial fraud, extortion, and corruption focusing on a 350 million euro investment in a London property.

Who are the key figures involved in these trials?

Key figures in the first trial include Libero Milone and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. In the second trial, ten individuals, including a cardinal, have been indicted. Rene Bruelhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, former managers of the Vatican’s financial oversight agency, are also pivotal figures.

What challenges do these trials pose to Pope Francis and the Holy See?

These trials raise difficult questions about Pope Francis’ absolute authority and the complications that can arise when he exercises it. They also spotlight legal, financial, and reputational issues affecting the Vatican, thereby raising questions about its governance and judicial system.

What are some of the defense arguments presented in the trials?

In the first trial, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State contends it had no involvement in Milone’s hiring or dismissal. In the second trial, defense lawyers argue that Pope Francis had approved the crucial transaction at the heart of the allegations, and thus Vatican officials were merely executing his will.

How have these trials impacted the Holy See’s reputation?

The trials have become a reputational liability for the Holy See, revealing not just alleged financial misdeeds but also internal disputes, espionage activities, and even payments to Islamic militants. They have also raised concerns about the rule of law within the Vatican.

What legal changes did Pope Francis make during the trials?

Pope Francis altered the law multiple times during the investigation to benefit the prosecution. He also changed the law again to allow for the trial of a cardinal, raising questions about the integrity of the Vatican’s judicial system.

What was the Vatican’s response to the allegations of extortion?

For Vatican prosecutors, the 15 million euro payment to regain control of the London property was seen as extortion. However, the defense and a British judge have interpreted it as a consensual termination of a legally binding contract.

What is the opinion of Rev. Filippo Di Giacomo on these trials?

Rev. Filippo Di Giacomo, a canon law expert and regular commentator for Italy’s state broadcasting service RAI, opined that the trials have inflicted significant reputational damage on the Vatican. He described the proceedings as more of an outdated spectacle than a “trial of the century.”

More about Vatican trials

  • Vatican Judicial System Overview
  • Pope Francis’ Financial Reforms
  • Overview of Vatican Governance
  • The Role of Vatican Secretariat of State
  • Legal Complexities in the Holy See
  • Background on Libero Milone Case
  • Vatican Financial Fraud Investigations

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Tom Chen October 19, 2023 - 10:58 am

Serious governance issues are exposed here. It’s not just about the trials, it’s about the whole system. Time for some transparency and reforms, maybe?

Emily Thompson October 19, 2023 - 11:59 am

It’s just surprising to see how deep the corruption could go in such a religious institution. And to think the Pope had to change laws for the trial, smh.

Jane Doe October 19, 2023 - 12:02 pm

Really thorough article. A bit complicated with all the names and legal details, but worth reading till the end. makes you think twice about the governance of the Vatican, that’s for sure.

John Smith October 19, 2023 - 2:39 pm

Wow, this is eye-opening! Who knew the Vatican had so much drama going on? Kinda makes you question how much we really know about what’s happening behind those walls.

Laura Adams October 19, 2023 - 7:30 pm

This is why transparency and checks & balances are crucial, even in a religious setting. The article is dense but enlightening.

Sarah Williams October 20, 2023 - 2:40 am

wait, so the Pope himself is directly involved in these trials? That’s some serious conflict of interest, if you ask me.

Mike O'Brien October 20, 2023 - 5:04 am

This is intense. Financial scandals, lawsuits and secret laws. Sounds like a thriller novel except it’s real and its the Vatican. Crazy stuff.


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