Vatican: Secret Dossier For "Pope's Eyes Only"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 25 2013 12:54 PM

The Vatican Says Its Secret Dossier Is "For the Pope's Eyes Only"

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Members of the public shelter from the rain near St Peter's Square ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's last public audience on February 25, 2013 in Vatican City

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Remember that secret papal dossier we told you about on Friday? The one that reportedly details a wide range of problems within the Vatican, from inappropriate dealings at its bank to the existence of an "underground gay network" of church officials who have been the subject of blackmail? Well, it looks like it's going to remain a secret.

A Vatican spokesman told reporters today that only four people have actually seen the dossier: Pope Benedict himself, and the three cardinals who were tasked with compiling it as part of their investigation into last year's "Vatileaks" scandal. That number will increase by one in the near future, but won't climb any higher, according to the Vatican. Via ABC News:

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Pope Benedict XVI decided to keep secret the contents of an investigative report on the “Vatileaks” scandal, ruling that the only person who will get to see it will be the next pope. ... The Vatican statement pointedly added: "The Holy Father has decided that the acts of this investigation, known only to himself, remain solely at the disposition of the new pope."
Many here had expected the investigating cardinals, who are too old to participate in the conclave, would brief the voting cardinals about their findings. Today Vatican officials clarified the investigating cardinals will be free to discuss their investigation with the other cardinals, as the voting members of the conclave seek to understand the challenges the next pope will face. But the dossier itself will remain "For the Pope’s Eyes Only."

To be clear, while the Vatican isn't denying that the dossier exists, it has steadfastly maintained that the reports about the specific details it allegedly contains are "unverified, unverifiable or completely false."

As far as PR moves go, denying the reports without mentioning the specific sensational details is a pretty smart move. As is limiting access to the dossier, something that, in theory at least, gives them leverage to push back that much harder against any unsourced reports claiming knowledge of the actual dossier. At the same time, telling the world that it remains "For the Pope's Eyes Only" sure as heck isn't going to throw cold water on the interest in a report that is said to be bound in red leather and stamped with a "pontifical secret" header. (Italian papers have already dubbed the trio of cardinals who compiled the dossier "the 007 cardinals.")

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.