Monday 15 April 2024

Vatican prosecutor files defamation charges against Italian journalist

Vatican prosecutor Alessandro Diddi has filed charges against an Italian blogger, arguing that he published confidential ecclesiastical documents and defamed the pope.

Diddi filed charges against journalist Marco Felipe Perfetti of the blog "Silere Non Possum" in Vatican City. 

The charges were announced this week.

The Vatican prosecutor’s office filed similar charges against two Italian journalists during the Vatileaks trial, claiming they had published confidential information. 

The charges were tossed out in 2016 on the grounds that the Vatican court had no authority over the Italian press.

The current charges against Perfetti involve stories he has published about the Vicariate of Rome, which has recently been the subject of a variety of reform efforts.

In 2021, Pope Francis asked the Holy See’s auditor general to audit the Diocese of Rome.

In early 2023, the pope issued an apostolic constitution overhauling the governance of the Diocese of Rome. 

Among the changes made by the document were term limits for executive positions and new offices for financial oversight and protection of minors and vulnerable persons.

The changes also diminished the authority of the vicar general of Rome, at the time Cardinal Angelo De Donatis.

Last week, the pope transferred De Donatis to the Apostolic Penitentiary.

In addition to questions about financial operations, the Diocese of Rome has been criticized in recent months for its support of Marko Rupnik, the priest, former member of the Society of Jesus, and alleged serial sexual abuser.

Last September, the Vicariate of the Diocese of Rome came under fire for releasing a statement questioning the legitimacy of his canonical prosecution against Rupnik and downplaying the scandal surrounding him.

Diddi was promoted to become the Vatican’s chief public prosecutor in the middle of the Vatican’s landmark financial crimes trial in 2022.

He had previously served as deputy prosecutor, leading the investigation and prosecutor of the 10 defendants in the financial trial.

Diddi became well-known for his bullish courtroom style and his combative exchanges both with defendants and witnesses. 

He has also, at times, faced criticism for how he conducted both the initial criminal investigation into possible financial crimes, and the prosecution.

Diddi’s decision to charge 10 people simultaneously in a nearly 500-page indictment covering a wide range of often unrelated alleged crimes, instead of charging individuals with specific crimes in separate cases, led to questions of whether he was committed to dramatic headlines or a winning case.