Saturday, December 22, 2012


Item from the Vatican’s news service:


Vatican City, 22 December 2012 (VIS) - Given below is the communiqué released this morning by the Secretariat of State:
"This morning the Holy Father Benedict XVI visited Paolo Gabriele in prison in order to confirm his forgiveness and communicate in person his decision to grant Mr Gabriele's request for pardon, thereby remitting the sentence passed against the latter. This constitutes a paternal gesture towards a person with whom the Pope shared a relationship of daily familiarity for many years.
"Mr Gabriele was subsequently released from prison and has returned home. Since he cannot resume his previous occupation or continue to live in Vatican City, the Holy See, trusting in his sincere repentance, wishes to offer him the possibility of returning to a serene family life".

What would you or I do in such a case?  Ignoring the (perhaps self-serving) expectations of the media and the world as to what the Pope (any pope) should do, how easy do we think it was for him to offer pardon to his trusted former butler?

Of course, we have the precedent of Pope John Paul II’s pardon of his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca.  And yet, it strikes me that that forgiveness would actually be easier to offer than pardon for Paolo Gabriele.

He was, after all, a trusted member of the papal household, whereas Ali Agca was a complete stranger and putative enemy.  And there was nothing “personal” in the shooting—not in the same way that Mr Gabriele’s actions were:  leaking what was basically the pope’s and the Curia’s “dirty laundry” in public.  There was embarrassment and humiliation involved in this scandal that was not a part of the assassination attempt.

What documents do I have, or do you have, or recordings of conversations, or Facebook posts, or text messages, or e-mails, that would bring at the very least a deep sense of mortification to us?  This is at least in part what happened with “Vatileaks.” 

Like Pope John Paul II before him, Pope Benedict did not forgive in the sense of saying Mr Gabriele did not do anything wrong, nor did he suggest the former butler should have his job back (no one would have wanted to see the Pope give Ali Agca the gun back and insist he be released from prison, either).  But he did remit the punishment that was due to the crime (rather like an indulgence, after all, especially when I word the pope’s actions as I did). 

It is a good lesson in these last days before Christmas—is there someone in our lives that it would be good also to forgive?  Is there someone from whom it would be good for us to receive forgiveness?  If the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace means anything, it means the advent of forgiveness of sins.  Are we ready?


  1. This is the first time that I have heard you address this issue at all Father and I was wondering why you hadn't. Thank you for sharing this. Sometimes in the homilies you give, I feel as if you are speaking directly to me and know what is going on in my life at the time. And now you've done it in your blog.

    1. Do you mean it's the first time you've heard me address "Vatileaks," or forgiveness?