Pope’s Butler On Trial For Leaking Documents

Pope Benedict XVI
Portrait of Pope Benedict XVI in 2006. Image: Flickr

The Pope’s butler is on trial.

The Pope is the leader of the Catholic Church around the world. The current Pope is Pope Benedict XVI. He lives and works in Vatican City, in the city of Rome, Italy. Vatican City is a separate “city-state” with its own government and its own police force.

The Pope’s butler is named Paolo Gabriele. His job is to look after the personal needs of the Pope–for instance, serve the Pope his meals and help him dress. Naturally, he has access to some very private areas of the Vatican, like the Pope’s bedroom and other rooms.

For months, Italian media have been publishing private information about the Catholic Church. Giving private information to the media is known as “leaking” information. No one knew where the media got the information.

It looks like the butler may have done it.

According to Reuters news agency, Gabriele said he wanted to reveal corruption and other problems in the Catholic Church so that the religion he loves could be fixed. He said he wants the Pope to know about the problems and set things right. He told an Italian reporter that the Catholic Church is too secretive.

So he apparently leaked confidential documents such as letters, to the media.

Police found other things in the butler’s apartment, such as gifts that had been given to the Pope and a gold nugget. The evidence collected from the butler’s apartment filled 82 boxes, according to ABC News.

The butler is now on trial. The trial will determine whether the butler did—or didn’t—do it; whether he is guilty or innocent.

Some people say that if Gabriele is found to be guilty, Pope Benedict will likely pardon him; one of the Catholic Church’s tenets is forgiveness. However, if Gabriele is convicted he faces up to four years in an Italian jail (Vatican City has no jail).

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Do you believe the butler’s reasons? Why or why not?

If the butler was, in fact, trying to help the Catholic Church, why do you think he went to the media instead of talking to the Pope directly?

Reading Prompt: Elements of Style
“The butler did it,” is a line made famous through old detective movies and mystery novels. In this case, it means that (in the movies and novels) the butler was the murderer—the butler did the murder.

Such a line is known as a cliché. A cliché is an expression that is so overused it has lost its original meaning and now is more of a stereotype that may or may not be true.

Here are some other clichés. What do you think they mean? How would they likely be used in conversation?

• All’s fair in love and war.

• Two steps forward, one step back.

• Every cloud has a silver lining.

• He’s in a league of his own.

• When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

• What goes around, comes around.

• Many hands make light work.

Identify various elements of style – including word choice and the use of similes, personification, comparative adjectives, and sentences of different types, lengths, and structures – and explain how they help communicate meaning (OME, Reading: 2.4).

Use appropriate words, phrases, and terminology from the full range of their vocabulary, including inclusive and non-discriminatory language, and a range of stylistic devices, to communicate their meaning accurately and engage the interest of their intended audience (OME, Reading: 2.4)

Grammar Feature: Common and Proper Nouns
There are two types of nouns: proper and common. Common nouns are written in lower case and are not specific people, places or things. Proper nouns are written with the first letter capitalized and are specific people, places and things.

Read through the article and circle the word “pope” every time you read it. Why is this word written as a proper noun? Write a sentence in which it is a common noun.