Today, the Vatican City State arrested, following an investigation by the Vatican City’s police, Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda and Dr. Francesca Chaouqui for leaking financial documents. These arrests precede the publication of a couple of new books, which promise Vatileaks-style bombshells. Both Vallejo and Chaouqui were members of the Pope’s commission on financial reforms (COSEA, if you’re really into Vatican politics), which studied the Vatican’s finances closely and recommended reforms. One may remember, notwithstanding the Year of Divorce and Remarriage, that one of the important issues for Francis, at least in the Conclave talks, was the reform of the Curia and the Vatican’s finances. Vallejo and Chaouqui were in the middle of that, which is, presumably, why they had access to the financial information. What you may have missed was a piece, by Sandro Magister, which Rocco Palmo tweeted earlier today, as we were just learning about the Vallejo-Chaouqui arrests, and which is positive chock full of information about the Vallejo-Chaouqui connection in the context of Vatileaks:
it was maintained that Paolo Gabriele, the butler of Benedict XVI arrested and sentenced for stealing from the pope a an enormous number of confidential documents that were later given to the press, was not the only one in the curia to have acted in that way, but like him and after him there were others still in action, including a woman.
The “revelations” relative to this affair did not give the names of the protagonists. Including the latest and most spectacular anonymous interview, published in “la Repubblica” on March 7, 2013, a few days before the conclave that elected pope Bergoglio.
The interviewee, however, was a person so talkative as to swear up and down that she was the informant for the articles in “la Repubblica”: Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, 32, of a Moroccan father and Calabrian mother, residing in Rome, married, employed in public relations from 2007 to 2009 in the international law offices of Pavia & Ansaldo, then from 2010 in the offices of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and finally since 2013 in the offices of Ernst & Young, with a vast network of real or boasted relationships with journalists, politicians, businessmen, prelates, cardinals.
When, during those days of conclave, the identity of the anonymous informer of “la Repubblica” also came to the attention of the substitute secretary of state, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, he protested to the newspaper. Which in effect stopped publishing any more articles visibly traceable to the Chaouqui “source.”
(Emphasis added.) But how would a character like Chaouqui get into the Vatican, much less onto the pontifical commission considering the most sensitive matters? She had (has?) sharp elbows, which don’t serve anyone especially well in the Vatican, as near as we can tell. For example, John Allen, among others, report that she rubbed Francis the wrong way by hosting a sumptuous party on Vatican property for the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II. More than that, Chaouqui alleged that Benedict XVI had leukemia, and she picked a fight with Cardinal Bertone back in the days when Cardinal Bertone was not a man to pick fights with. (Ask Archbishop Viganò.) One may wonder, then, who Chaouqui’s patron was. After detailing some of Chaouqui’s connections to the Vatileaks butler, Magister goes on to report:
Supposing, then, that Francesco did not personally know Francesca Chaouqui, who convinced the pope to appoint her to a role of such high responsibility?
The most likely hypothesis leads back to Monsignor Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the prefecture for the economic affairs of the Holy See and since July 18 also secretary and factotum of the newly created commission of which Francesca Chaouqui is a member.
(Emphasis added.) But, how would Chaouqui and Vallejo know each other? Well, Magister tells us this, too:
It is said that Francesca Chaouqui belongs to Opus Dei, on a par with Monsignor Vallejo Balda. But it is not true.
It is certain, however, that she frequents Roman residences of Opus, including the one inhabited by the numerary Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the unforgotten spokesman of John Paul II.
Vallejo is an Opus Dei priest and Chaouqui runs in Opus Dei circles. As easy as pie. A piece of cake. You may have already clicked through to Magister’s piece. But if you haven’t, you have a surprise coming. It was published on August 26, 2013. Two years ago. More than two years ago. And Sandro Magister documented a connection between Vallejo and Chaouqui in the context of, you guessed it, Vatileaks.
Tornielli has alleged that Vallejo helped Chaouqui put together that canonization party that miffed the Holy Father. The Holy Father—as some folks have learned—is not a man to annoy, apparently. When it came time to implement the financial commission’s recommendations, both Chaouqui and Vallejo found themselves without chairs when the music stopped. When it came time to appoint officials of the Secretariat for the Economy (i.e., early March 2014), Vallejo found himself passed over in favor of Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, the Maltese secretary to the Pope and a holdover from Benedict’s household, even though everyone (including George Cardinal Pell) expected Vallejo to be appointed secretary. Likewise, Chaouqui didn’t make the cut for a seat on the Council for the Economy, which has a significant lay presence (and which is led by Reinhard Cardinal Marx). We suspect that it will be suggested that Chaouqui and Vallejo, honked off by being left out of the party, decided to start leaking the documents. Undoubtedly someone will say that they were motivated by their frustration at seeing the Curia thwart Francis’s financial reforms. Or something.
Magister’s piece, of course, hurts this narrative badly. If Magister is right—and he’s pretty right as it is—Chaouqui was a Vatileaks source well before Francis issued Fidelis Dispensator et Prudens (on February 24, 2014), established the new financial entities, and passed over Chaouqui and Vallejo for prominent positions everyone seemed to think they’d get. Chaouqui was a Vatileaks source before Francis was even elected. And Vallejo and Chaouqui were friendly well before that.