The Vatican admitted to secretly carrying out wiretaps on the clergy within the Holy See on Thursday, stating they were part of the investigations into the Vatileaks scandal that rocked Rome last year.
Although the church holds that the surveillance, which was done to find if any other Vatican insiders were involved in helping Paolo Gabriele, the then-Pope’s butler who had stolen and leaked compromising papal documents to the media, was done on a very small scale, an Italian news magazine says otherwise.
According to Panorama magazine, Vatican authorities – with Tarcisio Bertone, the No. 2 at the Vatican in the lead – had not only tapped the phones but also read emails of Church emails to find more information about the Vatileaks scandal. Panorama’s journalist Ignazio Ingrao, said that “everyone was spied on in the Vatican” in efforts that seemed eerily like a “Vatican Big Brother.”
Panorama also added that this was “the biggest and most detailed wiretapping operation ever conducted in the sacred palaces was conducted.”
Panorama added that the wiretapping is ongoing now.
On the other hand, Vatican spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi insisted that the claims made by Panorama magazine were widely exaggerated and that investigations were not carried out on such a large scale.
According to Lombardi, “There may have been some wiretaps and controls ordered by the investigating magistrate, but I can assure you it was not on a large scale … Two to three phones were tapped.”
Lombardi also added that the investigations were not led by Bertone but were instead carried out by the magistrates.
However, the Vatican’s decision on Monday to keep the reports that look into papal documents leaked by butler will remain confidential and will only be shown to the next pontiff private doesn’t encourage much trust within the Vatican-observers.
"The Holy Father has decided that the facts of this investigation, the contents of which are known only to Himself, will be made available exclusively to the new Pontiff," the Vatican said in a statement.
This privacy, which the Italian media has spoken out against, as well as the wiretapping, had led to mistrust among Vatican watchers.
Lombardi, however, dismissed the notion, saying that “an investigation that creates an atmosphere of fear of mistrust that will now affect the conclave has no foundation in reality.”