Borgia intrigues in the vatican?

Conspiracy theories surrounding the fall of Catholic journalist Dino Boffo continue to circulate in Italy. Now even high cardinals of the Curia have intervened in the debate about the resignation of the "Avvenire" editor-in-chief, triggered by a compromising dossier.

While the Vatican usually does not even dignify such speculation with a "no comment," this time the Curia eloquently dismisses any alleged involvement in a plot. After "head of personnel" Giovanni Battista Re, the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, now also the German ecumenical minister Cardinal Walter Kasper has called such a conspiracy a media invention. Vittorio Feltri, editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper "Il Giornale," had claimed in the summer that his colleague Boffo of the bishop-owned "Avvenire" had been legally prosecuted for coercion in a homosexual affair. That got the ball rolling. At a reconciliation dinner last Monday, Feltri is now said to have claimed that the incriminating dossier came from a competent source in the Vatican – from which Italian media soon concluded that there were three masterminds and actors: Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone as "principal," "Osservatore Romano" editor-in-chief Giovanni Maria Vian as executor, and Vatican gendarmerie chief Domenico Giani as letter carrier. "An absolutely unthinkable hypothesis" that the anonymous letter against Boffo could have come from the Vatican, reacted Cardinal Re. His colleague Cardinal Kasper emphasized that the "ridiculous theory" of such a plot is not even being considered. If the Secretariat of State wants to rectify a situation, change a course or dismiss a person, it does so directly. Apparently harmony is too boring for some media, Kasper said Thursday in the Turin daily La Stampa.

"Thank God I'm an atheist" Meanwhile, Feltri clarified that he did not name names, nor did he know Bertone or Vian personally. "Thank God I'm an atheist," he said in "La Stampa.". He had received the material "from a trustworthy person in the Catholic world". Meanwhile, the background of the "Boffo case" remains in the dark. It is unclear whether someone had a private account with the head of "Avvenire". The latest facet of the creation of legends is a "victim theory": Boffo had wanted to protect an unknown third party; he had therefore renounced an explanation and had voluntarily resigned. For all the doubts about a conspiracy theory, it seems true that Boffo and the "Avvenire" no longer quite represented the line of the Secretariat of State – as did the Catholic media flagship "Famiglia Cristiana". For some time, a strict reticence of the Vatican and its organs towards Italian politics and its actors has been noticeable. In early summer, "Osservatore" and Vatican Radio did not say a word about the "revelations" in the Italian media about the private life of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In contrast, "Avvenire" and "Famiglia Cristiana" certainly got on board – to which Vian's "Osservatore" openly expressed incomprehension.

Fantasy scenario of a Dan Bro The new Vatican Italian course may also have to do with shifts at the top of the national bishops' conference. While the former chairman, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, largely independently determined the church line vis-à-vis the state and politics, under his less powerful successor, Angelo Bagnasco, the Vatican's Cardinal Secretariat of State has increasingly taken over that role. And unlike Ruini, Bertone is less likely to interfere in day-to-day matters. He maintains a close relationship with Berlusconi's Minister of State, Gianni Letta, in particular, and apparently expects to gain more influence on fundamental policies in a discreet way. In this course Boffo disturbed. However, the fact that the Vatican is circulating anonymous defamatory letters in order to initiate course corrections belongs – as Cardinal Kasper thinks – rather to the realm of Borgia intrigues or of fantasy scenarios of a Dan Brown.

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