The Vatican has seen its fair share of legal drama over the centuries, and many Catholics had hoped that the Catholic Church could escape the same fate in the new millennium. Unfortunately, the Vatican can't seem to avoid these troubles. Trials that began in 2021 and 2022 are on track to conclude at the end of 2023 or early 2024, and global media outlets wait impatiently to discover the outcomes. To prepare for what's ahead, here's a recap of the controversial Vatican trials going on in 2023.
What Are the Vatican Trials of 2023?
One of the trials the Vatican faces sees 10 officials of the Church charged with fraud, extortion, and corruption. This trial has been ongoing for almost two years and focuses on the exchange of property in London. The core accusation is that Vatican monsignors and brokers enriched themselves with millions of euros in fees and commissions, extorting 15 million euros from the government of Vatican City to relinquish control of the disputed building.
The second trial kicked off in 2022 when the former in-house auditor of the Vatican, Libero Milone, sued the Church for wrongful dismissal. Milone resigned in 2017, but he says the Vatican police used coercion and forgery to produce his resignation letter. The more serious allegation comes from the fact that Milone took an aggressive approach to auditing Vatican monsignors and believes that Pope Francis disapproved of how much defamatory information the auditor brought to light.
Why Is the Vatican Involved?
The Vatican's involvement in these trials underscores its unique status as the last absolute monarchy in Europe. The pope, in his role as the head of both the church and the Vatican City State, wields ultimate legislative, executive, and judicial power. In the trials, Pope Francis' actions and decisions are central, which highlights the complex dynamics of governance within the Vatican.
Why Are the Trials Controversial?
While many people wait anxiously for the final verdict of innocence or guilt in these trials, there is more at stake for the Vatican. The trials are controversial because the proceedings have exposed the ugly underbelly of the Church and damaged the Vatican's reputation. Revelations about supposed Vatican vendettas, spy stories, and even ransom payments to Islamic militants have led many journalists and Catholics to question the competence of the people leading the Church.
Pope Francis has made his push for financial reform in the Vatican a very public affair, but critics view these trials as a way to scapegoat people for failures in the reform efforts. Many people are concerned about the multiple changes in Vatican laws during the investigations. Some argue that these changes, including altering laws to enable a cardinal to stand trial, raise questions about the rule of law within the Vatican.
When Do the Trials Wrap Up?
As of now, the exact conclusion date of the trials remains uncertain. However, both trials are expected to reach verdicts before the end of the year. Observers worldwide have been monitoring the trials, awaiting the judges' decisions and the potential implications for the Vatican.
No one can say yet which way the verdicts will go. At the same time, many Catholics feel that the damage has already been done. Pope Francis' legitimacy as an authority figure in Europe is up for debate, which leaves the Church looking weaker than it has in recent years.
The Vatican trials of 2023 are more than legal proceedings because they involve larger concepts such as power, reform, and accountability within the Vatican. As the end of the year looms closer, the world watches, waiting for the judges to make their decisions and potentially shape the future of the Vatican.