Secrets of the Vatican
WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
NARRATOR: A year ago, when the cardinals converged on Rome to elect a new Pope, they all understood what was at stake.
CARDINAL CORMAC MURPHY-O'CONNOR, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster: The atmosphere was the most serious, the most intense that I've ever— ever known because of the issues which the Church was facing. At the top level in Rome, things were not going well.
And then the shame of child abuse has had a real serious effect, I think, on the Church not just in the West, but I think all over the world. The Catholic Church, and in particular the Pope, has the highest moral voice in the world. If that voice is diminished by scandals, that's a serious matter.
NARRATOR: This was one of the shortest conclaves ever. By the evening of the next day, white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel confirmed that 1.2 billion Catholics had a new Pope.
ROBERT MICKENS, Vatican Correspondent, The Tablet: He said, "I'll give you my blessing, but before the Bishop blesses the people," he said, "I want you to pray over me." You could have heard a pin drop. And there were people crying in the square with joy.
Pope Francis comes on the scene at a time when the Church is a in deep crisis. He said the Church is like a field hospital after a battle. He's talking about people who are wounded within the Church.
NARRATOR: A new beginning for a wounded Church. Eight years earlier, when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict, he also promised a new beginning. He was taking over at a time when the Church was reeling from the scandal of sexual abuse by the clergy, and he promised firm action.
CARMELO ABBATE, Investigative Journalist: [through interpreter] I still remember very clearly when Cardinal Ratzinger, in 2005, went through the Stations of the Cross. At the ninth station, I think, he stopped and denounced all the filth that is inside the Church. But he said, "It's not the people from outside who bring the filth into the Church, it is us who make it dirty."
NARRATOR: He knew a lot about filth in the Church. For 24 years, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger had been responsible for matters of theology and discipline. Many serious cases of priestly abuse crossed his desk, none more troubling than the scandal surrounding the Legionaries of Christ, a scandal that until very recently, the Church fought hard to suppress..
The Legionaries was one of the fastest-growing orders in the church, recruiting young men in great numbers from countries across the world. The order was founded in 1941 by Marcial Maciel, a young man with powerful family connections to Mexico's conservative Catholic elite.
JASON BERRY, Author, Render Unto Rome: Maciel was the greatest fundraiser of the modern church. The man had a gilded touch.
NARRATOR: Journalist Jason Berry spent years investigating Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ.
JASON BERRY: He could get millionaires and the wives and widows of multi-millionaires to support his movement of renascent orthodoxy. And he was bringing in a great many young men to this religious order that saw itself on a crusade to save the church from the decay of the modern world.
ROBERT MICKENS: The Maciel case is one of the darkest chapters in the history of the contemporary Church, without a doubt. Without a doubt.
NARRATOR: In 1947, 10 year-old Juan Vaca was personally chosen by Maciel to enter one of his seminaries. Like all the other boys, he had to swear before God that he would never speak ill of Maciel.
JUAN VACA: I was enrolled with that mentality Maciel gave us that we were a very selected group, an elite chosen by God to conquer the world. But at the same time, he start to control our mind, control our communication with our parents.
NARRATOR: On a winter's night in 1949, Maciel's control of Juan Vaca reached another level.
JUAN VACA: We used to go to bed after last prayers in chapel. A colleague of mine, he said, "Nuestro Padre, our father, wants you go to his bedroom." In his bedroom? To me, as a child, it was very strange. Anyway, I went to his bedroom. He was already in bed. And he took my hand, said, "Please give me a massage in my stomach because I have terrible pain."
He said, "Lower. Lower." Finally, I was touching his penis, and he got an erection. I felt completely petrified. I was in shock. So after a few seconds, I would say, I felt his semen on my hand. "OK," Maciel said, "Now— I feel much better now. You can go, and go back to sleep."
NARRATOR: The next morning, after a sleepless night, Juan felt unable to follow the call to mass, and went straight to Maciel's office.
JUAN VACA: I told him, "I cannot go to communion because I committed a sin last night with you." He said, "No, Juan, don't worry. I gave you the absolution. I forgave you in the"— and he gave me the sacramental absolution of a sin. He said, "Don't worry. What you did was an act of charity because you helped me to relieve of my pain. You didn't commit a sin."
NARRATOR: The abuse continued on a regular basis, and Juan discovered that there were 20 other boys involved. In the meantime, the Legion went from strength to strength. Juan Vaca was ordained in 1969 and became Maciel's deputy. But he was caught in a twisted relationship.
JUAN VACA: He never touched me again since 1961, but I knew he was doing with others. Maciel was also abusing drugs Dolantin, a derivative of morphine.
NARRATOR: In 1971, Father Vaca was given a senior position with the Legionaries in the United States. But by now, he was in conflict with himself.
JUAN VACA: I am lying to people, getting money for mission— for the missions when it's being used to support this type of life Maciel is having.
NARRATOR: Eventually, Father Vaca wrote a document setting out all the crimes he'd witnessed and presented it to Maciel personally, with a request to be released from the Legionaries.
JUAN VACA: "Everything is right here in these papers. Please read." So when he was, like, halfway, he started to cry, you know? He said, "Juan, you cannot do this to me." "You did this, more than that, to me for 32 years, and this is it." "Well, I was just already making the decision to name you the second in command in the Order, my assistant-general." Say, "Father, even if you give me your position, I don't want it. This is it."
NARRATOR: In 1976, Father Juan Vaca made a decision. He would send his damning report to the Vatican.
JUAN VACA: I named 21 colleagues of mine that have been also abused. I witnessed the abuse myself.
NARRATOR: Father Vaca also described Maciel's misappropriation of funds to maintain his extravagant lifestyle and the bribes he'd paid to doctors and the police.
JUAN VACA: We knew that the letter was received because we send them through the diplomatic pouch because we got "Protocol number such-and-such received," but no answer, no reply to the content of my information. Nothing at all.
NARRATOR: Not only did the Vatican not respond to the letter, but Pope John Paul led massive celebrations to mark both the 50th and the 60th anniversaries of Father Maciel's priestly ordination.
JASON BERRY: The Vatican did nothing. John Paul continued to praise Maciel despite the pending allegations.
NARRATOR: He described the founder of the Legionaries of Christ as, quote, "an efficacious guide to youth." That quote incensed Maciel's victims. They would go public with the testimony they now had on Maciel.
NEWSCASTER: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, recently appointed—
NARRATOR: The official responsible for investigating child abuse cases was Cardinal Ratzinger. He had to respond to the news media about the charges against Maciel. But he was in a bind. John Paul's public celebration of Maciel made it very difficult for him to take action. And all the while, Maciel's activities went unchecked.
JASON BERRY: The situation changed at the end of 2004. At that time, Cardinal Ratzinger made a decision, to his credit, that Maciel had to be investigated. So he sent a canon lawyer in his office, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, to America and Mexico to take the testimony of these men.
JASON BERRY: He clearly knew that whoever would become the next Pope needed to have Maciel under investigation lest the Vatican be tarnished by this scandal of a much accused pedophile and nothing happening to him.
NARRATOR: With the death of Pope John Paul, it was Ratzinger himself, now Pope Benedict, who would have to pursue the case against Maciel.
ROBERT MICKENS: Once he's Pope, then the question becomes, how do you deal with this man? What should have happened was the order should have been disbanded. And instead, he invited him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance.
NARRATOR: There was no description of his crimes, no apologies to his victims.
ROBERT MICKENS: Why didn't he just banish him? Why? Because the Legionaries of Christ is a large and very wealthy order and puts lots of money in the Vatican's coffers.
JASON BERRY: The Legion, which had defended him all along, never admitted that he abused any of these altar boys or young seminarians, announced at his death that he had gone to heaven. A year later, the Legionaries announced that he had a child. Well, it soon became apparent that he had a grown daughter living with her mother, one of Maciel's paramours, in Madrid.
NARRATOR: And it turned out, a son by another woman in Mexico. The price of the Church's failure to act was revealed in Jason Berry's interview with Raul Gonzales.
RAUL GONZALES: He was a good person when he acts like our daddy, and a demon when he acts like a predator.
NARRATOR: Maciel lived multiple lives, and this is a rare glimpse of him on holiday. Raul and his half-brother, Omar, would be invited on trips like these. But Raul says there was a heavy price for the boys to pay.
RAUL GONZALES: All the days that we stay with my dad, on every trip, there were abuses.
JASON BERRY, FRONTLINE Consultant: Was it mostly masturbation?
RAUL GONZALES: No. Well, I feel really sorry by my brother because he was— he was penetrated by my dad. And my brother also penetrated him because my dad told him that that was the way he was going to learn. And he always told us that— how to kiss, how to kiss him, because he was— that's the way we were going to learn how to kiss a girl when we grew up.
JASON BERRY: And you were 10, 11 years old?
RAUL GONZALES: Ten. Whoa. I'm going to have to stop. He took me, how do you say, on a walk. He said— [weeps]
JASON BERRY: Ratzinger gave his famous sermon shortly before the funeral of John Paul referring to filth in the Church. Many people believe, as I do, that he was really referring to Maciel. And by that time, he had a good deal of information on him.
NARRATOR: And as Pope Benedict, he also knew as much as anyone in the church the extent of the clergy sex abuse scandal. He took every opportunity to apologize.
POPE BENEDICT: I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers.
MARCO POLITI, Author, Author, Crisis of a Papacy: There is no doubt that for a person like Joseph Ratzinger, who is so engaged in faith, these crimes are horrible. During his trip to the United States, he told it to the reporter, saying there is no place, there has not to be place in the Church for such people.
Fr. THOMAS DOYLE: I had the opportunity to meet Cardinal Ratzinger a couple of times when he was a cardinal, and I found him to be a very charming, self-effacing, gentle person. When he encountered as Pope the issue of sexual abuse of children, I think his reaction was genuine. But he was a creature of the institutional Church. That's the only life he ever knew, and he could not do what was necessary.
ROBERT MICKENS, Vatican Correspondent, The Tablet: He's a shy man. He's a very kind man. And they made him Pope. He had absolutely zero pastoral experience. Joseph Ratzinger should never, ever have been a bishop. He just didn't have the gifts, the charism. He's a theologian. He's a catechist. He didn't have the administrative skills.
NARRATOR: So when the clergy sexual abuse scandal exploded into an international crisis on his watch, Pope Benedict seemed unable to take charge, while the Church hierarchy responded as it had done for years.
Fr. THOMAS DOYLE: I worked from 1981 to 1986 as the secretary canon lawyer at the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C.,
NARRATOR: In that role, Father Doyle's job was to deal with sexual abuse cases on behalf of the Church.
Fr. THOMAS DOYLE: My job was talk to the diocese and find out what was going on, and above all, see that they kept the lid on, that there was no publicity, that it didn't become known to the public, causing scandal.
NARRATOR: Then he began to have doubts about what he was doing.
Fr. THOMAS DOYLE: Even at the early stages, I had met some of the victims, and I was— my life was changed when I met them. Then it went from a purely academic issue, from names on a piece of paper, to human beings. And that, of course— for me at least, it was a drastic change.
NARRATOR: Faced with so many cases, Father Doyle decided to speak out.
Fr. THOMAS DOYLE: I believe I saw the inside of the workings of the institutional Church in a way that I had never believed even existed. I was severely disillusioned.
Those of us who have been the most outspoken and the most directly accusatory of the hierarchy have lost any possibility of a career in the clerical world. I'm still a priest, but I'm not active in the official ministry of the Catholic Church.
I do not wear clerical garb at all because I see clericalism as one of the most prominent and important causes for this entire problem, the attitude that the clergy are somehow removed and above other Catholics and that we have to be protected at all costs.
[www.pbs.org: More from Fr. Doyle]
NARRATOR: Father Doyle is not alone. Other priests have now come forward, and in spite of retaliation by the Church, are speaking out on behalf of victims.
1st PRIEST: We're actually doing what the Church theology, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and the Church law says we ought to be doing. All the Christian faithful, everybody, they have a right and even an obligation to make their concerns known not only to Church leaders, but all the rest of the Christian faithful.
SURVIVOR: We're just trying to heal through this. We want to be able to trust the clergy. It's hard. Just very hard.
2nd PRIEST: One of the wonderful things about coming together for us has been just to listen, you know, and to hear—
MONICA BARRETT: I have carried this guilt and shame with me for how many decades? And it's— like, it's not mine.
MAN: It never was.
MONICA BARRETT: This was done to me. I carried that for decades, so—
NARRATOR: When the Church chose to suppress stories of clergy sexual abuse, it was to silence people like Monica Barrett.
MONICA BARRETT: It was a Saturday, and I was 8 years old. And my father took my younger sister and I and we drove out to Lake Geneva to visit with this priest, William Effinger.
At one point in the day, Father Effinger said he needed help in the church with candles. And my father said, "Go help him." And we went into the church, where he assaulted me for a period of time, and ultimately ended up raping me.
While he was raping me, I didn't understand what was happening. I just knew there was this incredible pain and I could hardly breathe, and I kept praying that God would just let me die.
And when he finished, he stood up and he looked at me and he said, "If you tell anybody what you did, they won't believe you. And if you tell anybody, your parents will burn in Hell."
And then he gave me penance to do. And he turned and looked at me, and he smoothed his hair back with both of his hands, and he walked down the aisle of the church. And I remember hearing the door close. And I just sat there because I didn't know what I should do.
And eventually, I realized that there was blood on my legs and there was blood on the new purple shorts that my grandma had given to me for my birthday. And so when I got to the end of the aisle of the church, I wiped the blood off with some of the holy water, and I went and sat outside under this big tree. And I was just crying because I was in pain and I didn't understand what had happened to me, and I was scared.
As a child who went to Catholic school, we were taught that the priest is basically the closest you'll ever get to God. And for me, when I was raped by that priest, it just pulled my entire foundation out from under me. Everything was just taken away in that day.
NARRATOR: Eventually, Father Effinger was convicted of sexual assault on another child, and died in prison. Monica never got her day in court because of the statute of limitations, but the diocese of Milwaukee sued her to recover $14,000 in legal expenses.
MONICA BARRETT: They very much were trying to intimidate me and to beat me down and to hold me out as the example, saying, "This is what will happen to you if you come forward and tell your truth."
NARRATOR: Monica was not alone in her battle for justice in Milwaukee. Hers was one of hundreds of cases which were aggressively challenged by the diocese as they were compelled to pay about $30 million in settlements.
JEFF ANDERSON, Plaintiffs' Attorney: In all these years, I have to say, that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has a demonstrated history of having been both the most callous and the most disturbing. The most disturbing.
They have fundamentally violated the fundamental safety principles applying to children.
NARRATOR: Jeff Anderson has represented victims of clergy abuse for 29 years. He has long argued that Milwaukee is following procedures laid down in Rome.
JEFF ANDERSON: When it comes to the Vatican and its role in this crisis, all I have ever seen them do is talk, both denying responsibility and saying that they're doing something, when in fact, they're doing nothing other than what they've done in the past for decades and centuries, which is to deny, minimize blame, keep secrets and protect themselves.
PETER ISELY: Intimidation is the strategy. It's not part of it, it is the strategy. "You've exposed this part of us. We're coming after you. We're coming after you, and no one's going to dare to file a lawsuit again." And it's meant to intimidate and make people afraid.
NARRATOR: When he was 13 years old, Peter Isely entered St Lawrence Seminary in Wisconsin.
PETER ISELY: At a very, very young age, I had an absolute faith and belief and love of the Roman Catholic Church, of its rituals, of its traditions, even as a small boy.
NARRATOR: At the seminary, Peter was a victim of repeated sexual abuse by his spiritual director, Father Leifeld. In 1988, when Peter was in his late 20s, he found the courage to confront his abuser and report to the Church authorities. He soon discovered that he was not alone.
PETER ISELY: There were survivors, just independent of each other just starting to come forward across the United States— now we know across the world, but starting— and we all went down the same path, which was we went to the religious officials and authorities first, the bishops and the provincials, and reported to them what had happened to us.
And now, in my case, there were promises made. The provincial told me "We're going to keep Father Leifeld away from children. We've got him in a secure treatment facility. He's never going to be around children," this kind of thing.
It's when I found out that they had lied to me, that he was, in fact, around children, that he was under no supervision at all, that there was no consequences whatsoever, that no one's watching him, that I then came forward publicly.
NARRATOR: Six years later, Father Leifeld was finally arrested and admitted other past abuses in this court deposition.
Fr. LEIFELD: I know that I touched his penis. I don't remember whether or not he touched mine. I didn't understand that there would be a psychological damage to the young men.
1st SPEAKER: I'm the victim, so why am I in Hell?
NARRATOR: Peter Isely founded the Milwaukee chapter of SNAP, a Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests.
2nd SPEAKER: My brother is the victim of criminal sexual assault.
3rd SPEAKER: I was raped at 13 years old in my— my church.
4th SPEAKER: He admitted to you, Bishop Sklba, what he was and what he had done. You sent him back to work!
5th SPEAKER: Victims can't have peace until they have justice.
6th SPEAKER: It was reported to the Archdiocese and— by 14 families from that parish. And what did the Archdiocese do? Transfer him again! Why? I want to know why!
NARRATOR: The Vatican has always claimed the responsibility for these cases rests with the local bishops and dioceses. Jeff Anderson disagrees.
JEFF ANDERSON: In every case that we have worked on for 29 years, the Vatican and its role has been prominent because every action taken by every bishop and archbishop and cardinal in connection with sexual abuse is effectively orchestrated and controlled by the Vatican. Every action taken has demonstrated to us that all roads lead to Rome and to the Vatican.
NARRATOR: The Vatican's secret archives contain the Church's records back through the centuries, including evidence relating to sexual abuse cases from the early Middle Ages to the present day.
As a sovereign nation, the Holy See cannot be compelled to hand over its original documents, or any copies held by their embassies worldwide. The only hope for those representing victims of sexual abuse is to sue individual dioceses. That was how Jeff Anderson was able to subpoena crucial correspondence between Monica's former archbishop, Cardinal Dolan, and Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome.
JEFF ANDERSON: We have evidence that Archbishop Dolan got express permission from the Vatican to move $57 million from diocesan funds into a cemetery trust, and that permission was given by the Vatican almost immediately.
NARRATOR: Two key words in Latin from Cardinal Hummes said it all, "Nihil Obstat"— "nothing stands in your way." With these two words, the Vatican allowed the diocese to protect its millions from further legal claims of abuse victims.
JEFF ANDERSON: To me it was designed to do one thing, to keep the archdiocese and the Vatican from having to account for their crimes and complicity in them. No other real or legitimate reason.
NARRATOR: The Church argued that the money was always committed to their cemeteries, and a court upheld the transfer. Meanwhile the diocese declared bankruptcy. While they recently proposed to set aside $4 million in a victims' fund, there are over 550 outstanding claimants, Monica Barrett and Peter Isely, among them.
PETER ISELY: This is a beautiful cemetery. They're doing a terrific job of really maintaining this sacred space. You don't need $57 million for this space and seven other cemeteries. The real purpose was to keep money from compensating childhood victims of sexual assault by priests in this archdiocese from court-ordered settlements, period.
And that is so cynical and so just unacceptable. And it's just a further way of trying to hide— hide things. You're hiding money in a cemetery, just like you hide sex offenders in parishes.
[www.pbs.org: The state of the crisis today]
NARRATOR: While Vatican departments worked with bishops from around the world to deal with the exploding clergy sex abuse crisis, the new Pope brought his own ideas. The first publication of his papacy referred to the urgency of, quote, "the current situation" and the problem of homosexuality and the priesthood. It called on seminary directors to screen out gay men.
Years earlier, he had changed the catechism to say that homosexuality was "an objective disorder." He'd invited leading experts to Rome to advise the church.
MARTIN KAFKA, M.D., Psychiatrist, Harvard Medical School: I was informed that there was going to be a meeting at the Vatican, and it was a scientific meeting that the Vatican was calling to learn more about child— child and adolescent sexual abuse.
NARRATOR: Dr. Martin Kafka and a distinguished international panel of psychiatrists tried to explain the complex set of factors that contributed to the crisis. But there was one issue his hosts were not keen to explore.
Dr. MARTIN KAFKA: The number of Catholic clergy who are accused of or prosecuted for child and adolescent sexual abuse vastly outnumber the number of Protestant clergy. So what is it about the Catholic clergy that makes them distinctly different? And one of those factors is this issue of suppressing one's sexuality to better serve God.
NARRATOR: They tried to address the issue of screening out gay men from the priesthood.
Dr. MARTIN KAFKA: The data that we have suggests that men who abuse children are probably equally likely to be heterosexual or homosexual in their adult orientation. But people who abuse adolescents, post-pubertal children, if you will, they're more likely to reflect their own adult sexual orientation in whom they victimize.
NARRATOR: And for so many years, this had been a closed world of boys and young men.
Dr. MARTIN KAFKA: A lot of this abuse took place in the ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s, and things were a lot different back then. Young men were being recruited for the priesthood in high school. I think that having men be more mature before they matriculate and understand what a life of celibacy is are equally potent ways of reducing risk, educating priests, more open discussion of sexuality.
NARRATOR: The American Seminary in Rome is considered a model in this respect. Men are only admitted here after they've had real experience of life, and say they are confident they can hold to their vows and face the challenges of celibacy.
FERNANDO CAMAO: Giving up a biological family seems like a very— a small burden in light of the great gift that is to give myself totally out of love for God.
BRIAN LENZ: Whatever sacrifices priesthood entails, even if that means giving up a biological family, that that's profoundly worth it, you know, and that at the end of my life, I will be profoundly happy.
NATHAN RICCI: I love the idea of family and— but I do feel that a life devoted completely to God's Church will not only be fulfilling but completely life-giving to me and, I hope, to the people that I'm entrusted towards.
NARRATOR: That's what Simone Alfieri believed when he chose the celibate life for eight years as a seminarian and a missionary. Then in 2008, he was recalled to Rome to be ordained as a priest by Pope Benedict himself.
SIMONE ALFIERI: [through interpreter] I wanted to give up all the women in the world because I just wanted to be in love with God, and I wanted to follow this path always with the grace of God because to be celibate with your own strength is impossible.
POPE BENEDICT: [subtitles] Do you promise loyalty to me and to my successor?
SIMONE ALFIERI: [subtitles] Yes, I promise.
POPE BENEDICT: [subtitles] God has begun his work on you. May He finish what He started.
SIMONE ALFIERI: [through interpreter] Being ordained by the Pope was a great honor for me. It was a powerful emotional experience. When we laid down, the entire assembly prayed for the saints to protect us. Catholics believe that through ordination, you're transformed. It's a sacrament that changes your character.
NARRATOR: Five years on, and Simone is disillusioned, jobless and living alone in an apartment borrowed from a friend, all the result of his decision to leave the Church after his experiences of clerical life in Rome.
SIMONE ALFIERI: [through interpreter] Ordained in Rome and living in a parish in Rome, I became disillusioned because I saw that among priests, there were many contradictions— a hunger for power, ambition. Many priests, obviously not all of them, showed sexual hypocrisy. Some priests were very promiscuous, and I saw that all that was not what I thought the clerical mission should be.
NARRATOR: At Simone's ordination, Pope Benedict urged young priests to be the doormat of the faithful, to clean the souls of those who come in. But the hypocrisy he saw around him disturbed Simone, and after a time of prayer and contemplation, he decided he wanted to live a normal life and go where his heart took him.
SIMONE ALFIERI: [through interpreter] When Valentina appeared, I knew she was the one for me. I decided to take responsibility and to go to the cardinal, to declare myself and appeal for dispensation from clerical celibacy.
VALENTINA: [through interpreter] I used to go to the church where he was curate. He used to be my sister's confessor, and I often saw him talking to her. He was really funny, good-looking, obviously. So the fact that he was unique caught my attention. Then talking to him and seeing him more often with other people, I fell in love.
NARRATOR: But for refusing a secret relationship and insisting on a marriage in church, Simone and Valentina have paid a heavy price. Clergy and congregation in their former church were so hostile, they had to worship elsewhere.
SIMONE ALFIERI: [through interpreter] They were really hard, mean, unreasonable. They judged and despised us. They put real strain on our relationship.
VALENTINA: [through interpreter] For me, it's been tough psychologically. It's been difficult for both of us.
SIMONE ALFIERI: [through interpreter] And it's still difficult, isn't it.
NARRATOR: Eventually, the pressure was too great for both of them, and the relationship has ended. Simone has left Rome, he says for good.
ROBERT MICKENS, Vatican Correspondent, The Tablet: I came here when I was a seminarian in 1986. And I remember I had this very wide-eyed idea of the Vatican, of these holy cardinals and holy men. And I was shocked within a matter of weeks, months, at the careerism, at the sexual innuendo, the— just the whole kind of non-holy life I hadn't expected.
VATICAN GUIDE: [through interpreter] A large part of the hierarchy is homosexual. Certainly, at the top levels of the church, in the Curia, and many important people, such as bishops and archbishops, are gay.
NARRATOR: He's a Vatican guide who says he's had relationships with several priests.
VATICAN GUIDE: [through interpreter] Here in Rome, it's very easy to meet a gay priest, on a bus, in a church, and important churches like St. Peter's. It's even easier when you go to gay clubs and gay bars. You see them in the bars, and then at the altar the following Sunday.
NARRATOR: The world he is describing was captured by reporter Carmelo Abbate, who began a two-year investigation when a gay friend told him he'd just had sex with a priest.
CARMELO ABBATE, Author, Sex and the Vatican: [through interpreter] The priest went on to say, "Actually on Saturday, there will be a party here in Rome, in a club in Testaccio, with me and lots of other priests. We've also booked two escorts from Turin, from Piemonte, who will be the entertainers at the party. If you like, you're invited. I'd love you to join us."
NARRATOR: Abbate went with his friend to the party and took a hidden camera.
CARMELO ABBATE: [through interpreter] My objective was to write a story for my newspaper, not to make videos. But I knew very well what I was going into. I knew very well how the Church authorities could react. So I wanted to make sure I had evidence to support my story.
NARRATOR: The priest hosting the party greeted them, flanked by the two escorts.
CARMELO ABBATE: [through interpreter] I would have said that half of the people there might have been priests. And it wasn't just a guess, they introduced themselves as priests.
NARRATOR: Some worked at the Vatican, others in the institutions that cluster around the Vatican in Rome.
CARMELO ABBATE: [through interpreter] The party in Rome ended at my friend's house. At the end of the party, we all went back to his place. Then my friend and the French priest locked themselves in a bedroom, and I went to sleep in another room.
NARRATOR: The next day, Abbate continued to film.
CARMELO ABBATE: [through interpreter] Then came the moment that I found most shocking of all, and that was the moment that opened my eyes to what was really going on. It wasn't just a matter of sex. It was something more. So there we were in that atmosphere, in that house where they had had sex all night long, and with that man wearing vestments, and he took out all his paraphernalia and started to celebrate Mass.
NARRATOR: For his book, Abbate says he met and interviewed many other priests in Rome who live double lives.
FRANCESCO CACACCE: [through interpreter] There is a widespread culture here in Rome of tacit consent, in the way that we know, but we don't talk about it.
NARRATOR: Francesco, a former seminarian, says he had a relationship with a priest who has since risen to a high position in the Vatican.
FRANCESCO CACACCE: [through interpreter] He kept telling me that he was giving me his body, but his soul belonged to the Church, to God. The reasoning goes, "I'm a priest, but I have this need. I'll satisfy it and then go back to being a priest." It's a bit like vestments. "I wear them, I'm a priest. I take them off, and I'm just like anyone else."
ROBERT MICKENS: Unless you spend some time inside this kind of culture, it's very hard to believe that it could be like this. One of the biggest problems in the whole hierarchical structure, the clerical structure, is this hypocritical presence of so many homosexuals, gay men, many of whom would not even classify themselves as gay men because they're so conflicted.
NARRATOR: The Benedict doctrine on homosexuality was deeply hurtful to those in the Vatican who were trying to lead celibate lives.
FATHER X: [through interpreter] I cannot understand this schizophrenic attitude of the hierarchy against gay when a lot of priests are gay. That's something that I cannot understand.
NARRATOR: As a gay priest who works in the Vatican, he remembers his feelings when the then Cardinal Ratzinger changed the Catechism to say that homosexuality was an objective disorder.
FATHER X: [through interpreter] It's like a knife in your heart because I believe in vocation. I believe in the calling of God. I believe in Jesus. I believe He want us to serve his people. And when a document say, "Oh, you are not able," that is— that is terrible. It's painful. I hope that one day, priests can be freely in a relationship, and be good priests, that celibacy in the Church will be optional.
ROBERT MICKENS: The "don't ask, don't tell" culture was invented inside the Vatican. And I don't want to villainize everybody in the Vatican because there are a lot of gay men in the Vatican who are very good people, who are celibate, are not having sex, or are struggling to be good priests, but the culture itself mitigates against that. It's difficult to be good in the Vatican.
NARRATOR: The Vatican is a world on its own, an independent state. And this is the guarded frontier that separates it from Italy, whose authorities have no powers here.
Fr. THOMAS DOYLE: The Vatican is the last absolute monarchy in the world today. The Pope, when he's elected, is answerable to no human power. He has absolute authority over the entire Roman Catholic Church, direct authority that reaches down to individual members. He is the supreme judge, the supreme legislator and the supreme executive.
NARRATOR: But as an executive, Benedict needed help. He turned to his longtime assistant, Cardinal Bertone, to be Secretary of State, effectively in charge of the Vatican's government, the Curia.
Fr. THOMAS DOYLE: The Vatican Curia, which is the administrative body of the worldwide church, is a collection of small fiefdoms, of cliques of individuals, of different agendas vying against one another.
NARRATOR: And it is the Curia that runs a city-state with its own legal system, its own TV channel, radio station and newspaper. It even has its own bank, the Institute of Religious Works, housed in a medieval tower.
[www.pbs.org: Watch on line]
NELLO ROSSI, Chief Prosecutor of Rome: [through interpreter] The Bank of Italy, the highest authority in our banking system, has described the Vatican Bank as a foreign bank on our soil. We see the big walls of the Vatican as a national border. We cannot intervene in the Vatican.
NARRATOR: Nello Rossi is a powerful figure in Italy. He prosecutes the most difficult cases— the Mafia, corrupt politicians, and most recently, the Vatican Bank, which has a long and dark reputation for financial corruption.
ROBERT MICKENS: Politicians, businessmen were using the Vatican Bank as an off-shore to hide their money, to money launder, if you will, or not pay taxes.
NARRATOR: For years, the Italian authorities could do nothing. But when tough banking regulations were imposed across Europe in the wake of the financial crisis, only the Vatican Bank resisted. So the Italian finance police put the bank under close surveillance. Using all the tools at their disposal, they monitored phone calls and transactions in and out of the Vatican Bank.
They made their first break-through in the summer of 2010.
NELLO ROSSI: [through interpreter] In that case, it happened that an Italian bank received a request from the Vatican Bank to transfer 23 million euros. The Bank of Italy requested details for both payee and recipient in the transaction, and the reason for the transfer. The Vatican Bank failed to provide adequate information, so the Bank of Italy decided to freeze that money.
NARRATOR: The whole European banking community was up in arms. With account holders that included the Iranian and Iraqi embassies, there were fears that the bank could be used for money laundering. One bank after another refused to do business with the Vatican Bank until it cleaned up its act. The Pope was increasingly concerned
NELLO ROSSI: [through interpreter] Pope Benedict definitely wanted vigorous action and transformation. He wanted new anti-money laundering measures, a whole new system of control.
NARRATOR: He had already appointed Gotti Tedeschi, a highly respected banker and a professor of business ethics, to reform the bank.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI, Author, Vatican Ltd.: [through interpreter] Gotti Tedeschi set about building relationships with the international organizations and indicated that all the regulations and standards must be applied to bring the Vatican into line with all the other banks operating in Europe. He really wanted to clean up the bank, but in the Vatican there were people who didn't want that.
NARRATOR: Cardinal Bertone, Pope Benedict's second in command, had been closely involved with the bank. He now insisted that the measures could not be applied retrospectively.
ROBERT MICKENS: Cardinal Bertone was adamant. "No! We will only allow them to look at what we're doing from this day forward. But the stuff from the past, you have no right to look at that."
NELLO ROSSI: [through interpreter] This was a drastic limitation on the information available to us.
NARRATOR: Cardinal Bertone had outmaneuvered Tedeschi, who was then dismissed from his post. A devout Catholic, he said, "I was very disappointed, hurt and upset. I had been abandoned by the world of my Church. It was so painful."
FRANCA GIANSOLDATI, Vatican Correspondent, Il Messaggero: [through interpreter] We have seen good people like the ex-president of the Vatican Bank, Professor Gotti Tedeschi, kicked out overnight in a humiliating way. We've seen that Pope Benedict only found out from watching television that Gotti Tedeschi had been expelled, and it made him cry.
NARRATOR: If the Pope was disturbed by his failure to reform the bank, another blow to his authority was greater by far. It would be called "Vatileaks."
Gianluigi Nuzzi is a television journalist in Milan. He had written a book, Vatican Ltd, about the Vatican's business dealings. One evening, he received a mysterious phone call from someone promising inside information. He was invited to a bar in Rome. After a series of meetings, the strangers invited him for a ride in their car.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI: [through interpreter] They went around Piazza Mazzini many times, checking that nobody was following us. Later, I understood the reasons. I was about to meet a certain person, and it would be very dangerous if anyone came to know that this person had seen me.
NARRATOR: Finally, Nuzzi was taken to an apartment.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI: [through interpreter] And I could see that nobody lived there. There was no furniture. There was nothing. It was an empty apartment, just a corridor that we walked down until we reached a room with only one chair in the middle. And there my source was seated, and we began to talk.
NARRATOR: The source was Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's butler. He was offering thousands of secret documents from the Pope's private office. He said he wanted to protect the Pope from the sleaze and corruption that surrounded him. He went on, "I'm afraid the Pope doesn't have the strength to expel the money changers from the temple."
NARRATOR: Nuzzi broke the story on his program, but he was careful to protect the identity of his source. And over the months that followed, he released more and more secret documents.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI: [through interpreter] I published documents and stories dealing with corruption, scandals, frauds, nepotism, pedophilia, sexual abuses, self-advancement, all the issues which for so many years, too many years, no one wanted to talk about in relation to the Vatican.
NARRATOR: "Vatileaks" soon became an international sensation.
ROBERT MICKENS: Documents were spilling out showing that there was cronyism inside the Vatican, that there were sexual parties going on, people who were papal gentlemen were involved with male choristers in choirs inside St. Peter's basilica. We had contracts that were being inflated and given to friends of monsignors and bishops inside the Vatican.
NARRATOR: Among the many documents was this letter to Pope Benedict written by Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, who in 2009 had been installed to clean up corruption in the Vatican City Governate, which controls the budget for all construction and maintenance in Vatican City.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI: [through interpreter] It is a center of power where, according to Vigano, there was widespread corruption and profiteering and fake expenses.
NARRATOR: Vigano cracked down hard, reducing overheads by $54 million in his first year. But he made enemies in the process, and they plotted against him.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI: [through interpreter] He turned to Pope Benedict, writing two or three letters begging for help. He wanted to continue with his work.
NARRATOR: He warned Benedict about corruption in every single department of the Vatican. He also made the lethal mistake of accusing the Pope's powerful deputy, Cardinal Bertone, of orchestrating a conspiracy against him.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI: [through interpreter] The mistake that Vigano made was the fact that he asked the Pope to make a choice, "Me or Bertone." No one in the Vatican can speak to the Holy Father in that way. Vigano was offering his enemies the perfect opportunity to aim the gun at his own head. And he lost.
NARRATOR: If Vigano was no match for Cardinal Bertone, the Vatileaks documents show that others were so concerned about Bertone's influence that they also appealed directly to the Pope.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI: [through interpreter] A group of cardinals went to Castel Gandolfo, Benedict's summer residence. They went there basically to call for the head of Cardinal Bertone, his Secretary of State. It was a dramatic and decisive meeting because when they sat down to have this conversation, the Pope kicked them out, saying, "Nobody will remove Bertone".
ROBERT MICKENS: The Pope got very angry, and evidently, he said "the man right here," "basta," "the man stays," "enough," mixing German and Italian. That was the word that came out, and they were all shocked. And he didn't want to hear anything more about it.
NARRATOR: It was the sheer quantity and the detail of the leaked documents that shocked the Pope, and he was determined to find the source. So he appointed Cardinal Herranz Casado to lead a team of senior cardinals to carry out a thorough investigation. Their rank is significant. No one can interrogate a cardinal except another cardinal, which does suggest that Benedict believed there were cardinals responsible for these leaks. What he certainly didn't expect that it would turn out to be his own butler.
NEWSCASTER: The trial against Pope Benedict XVI's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, opened on Saturday—
NARRATOR: Vatican television put a camera in the courtroom, and a select group of journalists were invited inside. For those who witnessed the proceedings, it had all the elements of a show trial.
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN, Newsweek Daily Beast: It was so scripted and so narrowly focused on the fact that the butler had to have been the only one that showed the documents, that leaked them to the journalists, that took them out of the safe— the safety of the Vatican. His defense lawyer was very much aligned with the prosecutor. Everything was really kept on message.
ROBERT MICKENS: I was at the man's trial. There were documents that were leaked, he supposedly leaked, that were written in languages that he does not speak. How would he even know that they were important? Nobody that I have spoken to and that I continue to speak to in the Vatican really believe that the butler did it. He was a scapegoat.
MARCO POLITI, La Repubblica: The highest authorities in the Vatican didn't want to show to the public opinion the network, how many supporters there were around the butler, Paolo Gabriele, in this planned action.
NARRATOR: The trial lasted for just five days. Gabriele was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months.
PHILIP PULLELLA, Vatican Correspondent, Reuters: Just before Christmas of 2012, Benedict pardoned him. I assume that there was a deal done, that, "You will remain quiet, and— and we will give you a job."
BARBIE NADEAU: He still has pension. He hasn't lost anything with this conviction. This is, you know, the biggest betrayal we've ever seen against a sitting Pope, and he's come out of it with everything he had before.
NARRATOR: If the Pope's butler really was responsible for all these leaks, then the work of the investigating cardinals was done. But the Vatileaks revelations evidently horrified Benedict, and he insisted that Cardinal Herranz should continue his inquiry, but in absolute secrecy.
IGNAZIO INGRAO, Author, The Second Secret: [through interpreter] It was to be an X-ray inquiry into the Roman Curia, more detailed than ever before.
NARRATOR: Investigative journalist Ignazio Ingrao tracked down 18 insiders who had testified before Cardinal Herranz's commission. They included two cardinals and nine bishops.
IGNAZIO INGRAO: [through interpreter] Some of them also disclosed to us what they said during their deposition under oath. People who testified before these cardinals talked about what we call in Italian "the machine of the slime"— in other words, dossiers of documents created to destroy reputations all based on lies.
There were some groups bound together by homosexuality. It cemented relationships by brotherhood or blackmail. This is the map that was drawn, the picture that emerged from the dossier that the cardinals handed in to Benedict.
NARRATOR: Cardinal Herranz and his team of investigators probed all the darkest areas of the Vatican and presented their full report, the so-called "red dossier," to Benedict on December 17th, 2012. On February 28th, Benedict resigned.
CARDINAL CORMAC MURPHY-O'CONNOR, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster: Maybe governance wasn't his strong point. It was very difficult for him. And I think when he said, "I'm resigning because of old age, really, and weakness," and that he felt he could not face the challenges because of lack of strength— that was very honest, very open, very brave.
NARRATOR: When the helicopter sped him away to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict was leaving behind him a Church in crisis.
Two weeks later, white smoke from the Sistine Chapel signaled the 266th successor to the throne of St. Peter.
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN, Newsweek Daily Beast: He didn't say anything for the first few minutes. He just looked at the crowd almost as if, "Oh, I can't believe this is me." He was looking around. It was very magical. It was very personal for a lot of people.
CARDINAL OSCAR RODRIGUEZ MARADIAGA, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa: I was there in that balcony of St. Peter's Basilica when he started, saying, "Good evening." That was amazing. You can't imagine the response of that huge crowd that was in St. Peter's Square because they expected a message, a theological message, and they found somebody that is warm, that is near, that is one of us.
ROBERT MICKENS, Vatican Correspondent, The Tablet: And then he said that he'd come from— the cardinals had chosen somebody from the ends of the earth, or the ends of the world, is what he said.
BARBIE NADEAU: People related to him and accepted him, even though we didn't really know anything about him. Everybody had to look him up. People were Googling from the square. Who is he? Where's he from?
NARRATOR: All they knew about him was that Francis was from Argentina, the first non-European to be elected Pope for over 1,200 years, and thought to be a traditional conservative. But in a series of highly symbolic gestures, he signaled that he intended to lead a very different church, a church whose first duty was to serve the poor, the sick and the underprivileged.
He spent Holy Thursday in jail, washing the feet of young prisoners, including Muslim women. His very first papal visit outside Rome was to the island of Lampedusa, where he spent his time not with the locals, but with illegal migrants who had risked life and limb to make it to Europe.
ROBERT MICKENS: Francis is the first Pope not to ever have studied in Rome, worked in Rome, or spent significant time in Rome. He's an outsider.
BARBIE NADEAU: He's a man that seems to be able to touch people or to draw them out or to give this sense of hope. One has to worry and wonder if he's ever going to be able to live up to the legacy that he has already created. He is already the best Pope anyone can remember.
NARRATOR: Within weeks of becoming Pope, Francis reached out to the wider church beyond Rome, appointing a group of cardinals drawn from six continents to help him take on the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy.
CARDINAL OSCAR RODRIGUEZ MARADIAGA: When we talk the first time, it was very, very shortly after his election. He told me, "I want to make a commission of cardinals to help me in the renovation of the Roman Curia." And then he told me, "Would you dare to lead this commission?" And I said, "Holy Father, whatever you want. If you want me there, I will do it."
NARRATOR: Cardinal Maradiaga's diocese in Honduras, Central America, represents the sort of challenge Francis himself knows only too well, a country confronting poverty, crime, repression and political instability. But Maradiaga says his friend Pope Francis believes that to do this work, the Church can no longer be distracted by the scandals of recent years. It urgently needs to fix its own house.
CARDINAL OSCAR RODRIGUEZ MARADIAGA: It's necessary to open the windows in the Church because we need fresh air, because you know, after all what happened in the year before, especially with all these scandals of Vatileaks and the Institute for Opere de Religione, from the bank, from also some cases of corruption with the narco-business, some cases of pedophilia, the credibility of the Church is in terrible danger.
What is necessary to do? How can we listen to the voices of the Holy Spirit in order to change? Because everybody know it was necessary to change many things.
[www.pbs.org: More from Cardinal Maradiaga]
NARRATOR: Pope Francis has shared that message in the most unlikely places.
EUGENIO SCALFARI: [through interpreter] The phone rang. "I've got the Pope on the line, and I really don't think we should keep him waiting."
NARRATOR: Eugenio Scalfari is the founder and former editor in chief of La Repubblica, Italy's leading newspaper on the left. He is also an atheist.
EUGENIO SCALFARI: [through interpreter] The conversation we had started with some jokes because that's his way. He said, "Some of my advisers have warned me to be careful talking to you because you're a clever man, and you'll try to convert me." Me, converting the Pope!
NARRATOR: The Pope had phoned to invite Scalfari for a chat. It would be a wide-ranging discussion, which Scalfari described in an article that attracted worldwide attention. When it came to the Church hierarchy, Francis was uncompromising. "Heads of the Church," he is quoted as saying, "have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy. This Vatican-centric vision neglects the world around it, and I will do everything to change it."
EUGENIO SCALFARI: [through interpreter] He said during our conversation that the Church should consist of devoted people, priests and bishops who take care of souls, not bishops that become bishops to run Vatican departments for their own self-importance.
FABRIZIO MASTROFINI, Editor, Vatican Radio: [through interpreter] We're going from a Church preoccupied with respecting the rules, as it was under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, towards a Church that says mercy is what really matters.
NARRATOR: Francis has said that the Catholic Church "will fall like a house of cards" if it fails to balance rules on abortion and homosexuality with the greater need to be merciful. On homosexuality, he asked "Who am I to judge?"
But all this talk of change alarms traditionalists.
PHILIP PULLELLA, Vatican Correspondent, Reuters: There's a lot of conservative Catholics who are stunned by some of these comments that the Church should not be obsessed by abortion and homosexuality and birth control. But if they read carefully what he's saying, he says, "I'm a son of the Church and I believe in her teachings."
NARRATOR: But on one issue, there is no ambiguity— Pope Francis's position on global capitalism.
POPE FRANCIS: [through interpreter] In this system with no ethics, the center is an idol, and the world has idolized the god money.
NARRATOR: Here Pope Francis spoke of the growing disparity between rich and poor, the young unable to find work, the elderly ignored and neglected.
POPE FRANCIS: [through interpreter] We have to say we don't want a globalized economic system that is harming us so much. Men and women must be at the center, as God wants, not money.
NARRATOR: Determined to put his own financial house in order, he appointed a commission of inquiry to complete a thorough investigation of the Vatican Bank. Just two days later, Monsignor Nuncio Scarano, a senior accountant in the Vatican's financial administration, was arrested. It was alleged that he and two others had tried to smuggle 20 million euros in cash from Switzerland to Italy on a private plane. He was arrested and soon found himself in the Queen of Heaven prison in Rome.
It was the first time that anybody at this level in the Vatican had ever been arrested for a financial crime, a sign, perhaps, of changing times.
The future of the Vatican Bank was also raised in an impromptu press conference Pope Francis gave to a surprised group of journalists.
PHILIP PULLELLA: [through interpreter] When we were flying back from Brazil, he was very, very clear that he is ready to make radical decisions, if necessary, to clean up the Vatican bureaucracy. I mean, he did not exclude the possibility of closing the Vatican Bank. "I've got three options— close it, fix it, fix it a little bit more." It was sort of like, wow, you know, this is not the way Popes are supposed to speak to reporters. It was an amazing experience. He didn't dodge any question at all.
NARRATOR: By October, the bank was seeking to close 900 suspect accounts. There was a lot of money at stake, and Nicola Gratteri, a prominent anti-Mafia prosecutor, issued a chilling warning for Francis. "The Pope is dismantling centers of economic power in the Vatican. If the Mob bosses can stop him, they won't hesitate."
Eight hundred years ago in this town, a wealthy young man gave away all he possessed, even his clothes, to devote his life to the poor. Pope Francis, who took the name of the saint, came to Assisi in a symbolic visit to once again reinforce his central message, but leaving many questions — political and personal — still unanswered.
SANDRO MASTROFINI, Editor, Vatican Radio: [through interpreter] The Pope has said things and made statements that can be easily approved by everyone. When the Pope said it's necessary to help the poor people, no one objected to that. But the issues that always divide modern public opinion are the real life issues— family, gender, euthanasia, and so on. But so far, he's carefully avoided all the issues that could lead to conflict.
ROBERT MICKENS: A real minefield in the life of this Pope, because it's such a big issue in the Catholic Church and it's not gone away, even though they're singing hosannas to him right now, and that's the sexual abuse of minors, clergy sex abuse. I know a lot of Catholics would like it to be over, but it's not. We're seeing new cases all the time. If the Pope doesn't come out and set very clear, transparent and public guidelines and make statements, I think this could cripple him.
Fr. THOMAS DOYLE: If he wants to change the direction of the institutional Church, it's going to mean decisive, risky action. And it's risky to take on the Vatican Curia. There are many in the Curia that are trembling, wondering what's going to happen and trying to figure out ways to neutralize their fears that he is going to start shaking things up.
If that starts and it begins to unravel, there's a lot of string in that ball.
GIANLUIGI NUZZI: [through interpreter] All efforts to reform the Curia over the last century, enacted by all the Popes, failed. Will it succeed with Pope Francis? I don't know. I don't know if this papacy is going to last long enough to achieve this.
CARDINAL OSCAR RODRIGUEZ MARADIAGA: Of course, many things are going to change. The Vatican state was like a kingdom, like a human kingdom, and so there were all the defects of a human court. But he wants things more simple, and I am sure that the Holy Father will go in that direction and will not go backwards. Certainly not. Things are not going to continue like they were in the past.