Stung by embarrassing disclosures, the Vatican in 2013 updated its penal code to explicitly criminalize sexual violence and the possession of child pornography.
By THE NYTimes EDITORIAL BOARD — It also outlawed the disclosure of sensitive Vatican information to the public, establishing sanctions for those who leaked and obtained secrets. At the time, it seemed inconceivable that the Vatican would one day use those laws to go after the journalists who publicized its misdeeds. But perversely, the Vatican, which operates as a sovereign city-state within Italy, put two journalists on trial this week.
The reporters, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who wrote two books disclosing examples of questionable Vatican investments and mismanagement, are among five defendants in a case that went to trial on Tuesday. The other three are Vatican employees accused of leaking documents.
Although the journalists risked being arrested by setting foot on the Vatican and could have ignored the summons, they showed up in court to condemn the proceeding.
The journalists called the proceeding “Kafka-esque,” noting that prosecutors had not showed them the evidence against them, which would have allowed them to prepare a substantive defense. If convicted, the journalists could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison.
The prosecution has been condemned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.
“It is one thing for the Vatican to try to protect itself from this scandal,” Alexandra Geneste, the head of Reporters Without Borders in Europe, said in a statement. “But penalizing its exposure by journalists whose only sin was to do some investigative reporting cannot be tolerated.”
The Vatican should drop the charges immediately and vow that it will not use these laws to go after journalists. As a state, the Vatican can prosecute employees who disclose its secrets. But it should be spending more time addressing the problems exposed by the journalists than plugging the leaks.
Cover Photo: [Massimo Percossi/European Pressphoto Agency]