By Cian Molloy - 09 January, 2017
The Spanish priest found guilty in the ‘Vatileaks II’ trial has been granted ‘conditional freedom’ after serving more than half of his 18-month prison sentence.
Msgr Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda could have been sentenced to six years imprisonment when he was found guilty last year of leaking confidential documents to two journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who wrote separate books detailing high-level Vatican mismanagement and construction that was costing the Holy See multi-million euro losses.
Vatican Radio reported that the Holy See decided to commute the relatively short prison sentence because of “questions regarding freedom of thought” and because “the leaked documents do not put any fundamental interests of the Church or of Vatican City State at risk”.
One of the documents released by Msgr Vallejo Balda comprised notes of a private conversation between Pope Francis and senior members of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR) which made mention of a “stream of corruption” in the Vatican and the presence of an active “gay lobby”.
When he leaked the documents, Msgr Vallejo Balda was secretary of a Prefecture for Economic Affairs that had been set up to investigate allegations that emerged during the first Vatileaks scandal during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
The trial that followed the first scandal involved the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, who was found guilty of theft and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, but less than three months later was pardoned by Pope Benedict after the pontiff made a personal visit to his cell. Unusually, Gabriele served his sentence in the Vatican’s prison system; normally those found guilty of crimes committed on Vatican soil are processed by Italian courts and serve their time in Italian prisons. It was said that Gabriele was held in the Vatican to prevent further secrets from being divulged.
Msgr Balda served only a short time in the Vatican’s cells at first before being released to be detained under house arrest at his Vatican residence, but he was committed back to prison when it was found that he had been using an unauthorised mobile phone.
A colleague at the now defunct Prefecture for Economic Affairs, a lay woman, Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, was also found guilty in the Vatileaks II trial, but her ten-month sentence was suspended by the Holy See’s judicial offices.