Gabriele, the pope’s once-trusted
butler, goes on trial Saturday, accused of stealing the pope’s documents
and passing them off to a journalist — a sensational, Hollywood-like
scandal that exposed power struggles, intrigue and allegations of
corruption in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.
is charged with aggravated theft and faces six years in prison if
convicted by the three-judge Vatican tribunal. He has already confessed
and asked to be pardoned — something most Vatican watchers say is a
given if he is convicted — making the trial almost a formality were it
not for the novelty that it is happening at all.
To be sure,
trials are nothing new at the Vatican: In 2011 alone, 640 civil cases
and 226 penal cases were processed by the Vatican’s judiciary, 99
percent of which involved some of the 18 million tourists who pass
through the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica each year. And
that’s not counting the marriage annulments and other church law matters
that come before the Vatican’s ecclesial courts.