In a belated effort to close its barn door after the horses have not only escaped but ran down innocent people, the Vatican is instituting a bunch of new laws, including laws that criminalize leaking information. The specific impetus for the anti-leak legislation involves the case of Pope Benedict XVI’s butler, who turned over 300 pages of papal documents to a journalist. The resulitng explosive book detailed the existence of faction of priests in the Vatican “united by sexual orientation,” some of whom were being blackmailed. The priests were having trysts in multiple locations, including a villa, a sauna and a beauty parlor. The leaks were considered so damaging to Benedict that they were cited as a potential reason for his decision to retire as pope.
The speed with which the new law was introduced underscores the seriousness of the leaks. Under the new law, leaking information that harms the “fundamental interests” of the Holy See is punishable by up to eight years in prison. (The butler who leaked the documents was sentenced to 18 months, but Benedict commuted his sentence.) Up to now, the Vatican has been fine with its existing legal structure, which is based on 1889 Italian penal code. After all, why rush into things?
In the same vein, but even worse, the Vatican is also getting around to criminalizing sexual violence against children, including child pornography and sexual acts with underage minors. The Vatican insists that such actions were always illegal, but just not specified in the law. Notably, the Vatican didn’t criminalize covering up for priests who engage in that activity. If that was the case, all of Vatican City would have to be a prison.