Polish bishop blunder is new headache for Vatican
VATICAN CITY, Jan 13 (Reuters) Controversy over the Pope's comments on Islam and a bureaucratic blunder over appointing a Polish bishop who spied for communists has left commentators and insiders asking who is running the Vatican.
''At the very least several departments were superficial and sloppy in their handling of both these matters,'' said one well-placed Vatican prelate who spoke on the condition that he would not be identified.
Even Vatican insiders were stunned last Sunday when Stanislaw Wielgus resigned minutes before he was to be installed as archbishop of Warsaw.
Wielgus was forced to admit, after previous denials, that he spied for Poland's former communist regime in the land that gave the world the stridently anti-communist Pope John Paul.
While the resignation sent the Polish Church into turmoil, the question in Rome was how could Pope Benedict's aides in the Vatican bureaucracy and his ambassador in Warsaw not have done done their homework on Wielgus and advised him differently.
''It seems to me there was imprudence all around, both here in the Vatican and in Poland,'' the Vatican source said. ''The nuncio (ambassador) in Poland should have known better.'' The Pope names bishops after recommendations and reports from the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for Bishops.
This time, both those key departments apparently failed him.
''Certainly, this was not very good for our image,'' the source said. ''The whole thing is still so mysterious.'' Italy's media are for the most part reverential towards the Vatican but the Panorama newsweekly ran a cover story on Friday about what it called ''Unholy Wars'' among bureaucratic factions in the various Vatican departments advising the Pope.
CLERICAL CRONYISM Since his election in April 2005, observers say Benedict has been trying to dismantle the cronyism he inherited in the Secretariat of State, which acts as both a foreign office and a vital clearing house between Vatican departments.
Instead of naming a career diplomat as Secretary of State he named a theologian with no diplomatic experience who worked with him in his old job as head of the Vatican's doctrinal office.
''This Pope came into office inheriting internal turf wars ... this episode clearly has done very little to bolster his confidence in the capacities of Vatican diplomats,'' said John Allen, US-based author and authority on the Catholic Church.
''Some will see this once again as part of a pattern of the diplomatic corps embarrassing the Pope deliberately or just through its own incompetence,'' Allen said in a telephone interview from New York.
''It's obviously a black eye ... there was a breakdown in the system ...,'' he said.
The image of Benedict's fledgling papacy is still reeling from the furore in the Muslim world over comments he made last September in Germany seen as linking Islam to violence.
In that episode, aides failed to predict the worldwide fury the speech caused and some sources say it had not even been vetted beforehand by diplomatic advisers.
The Polish affair forced the Vatican bureaucracy to switch into damage control mode for the second time in four months.
''Certainly, all this was not very pleasing for the Pope,'' the Vatican source said.