A three-judge panel in Vatican City on Saturday sentenced the former butler of Pope Benedict XVI [official website] to eighteen months in prison for leaking confidential papal documents. Paolo Gabriele was convicted on charges of theft for stealing confidential papers from the Vatican [Al Jazeera report], photocopying them and passing them on to a journalist who wrote a book [Catholic News Agency backgrounder] alleging corruption and scandals at the Vatican. Presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre originally sentenced Gabriele to three years in prison but reduced the sentence to eighteen months [CNN report] based on Gabriele's lack of a past criminal record and the fact that he admitted to betraying the Pope's trust. It remains unclear whether or not Gabriele's sentence will be suspended or whether the Pope will pardon him. Gabriele's attorney indicated that Gabriele would serve the sentence on house arrest while he awaits a papal pardon.
The Vatican [JURIST news archive] has been under international legal scrutiny recently. In August a federal judge in Oregon ruled that priests are not employees [JURIST report] of the Holy See [official website], the ecclesiastical, governmental and administrative capital of the Roman Catholic Church, and that the Vatican was thus not liable for individual acts of child molestation by priests. In February the sex crimes prosecutor for the Vatican warned bishops [JURIST report] that they must follow rules in place for protecting victims of sexual abuse in the church or they risk being sanctioned. In September 2011 the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] filed a complaint [JURIST report] in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] against Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI, for systematic sexual abuse and subsequent concealment of over 10,000 incidents.