THE "secrecy" to which the Pope is entitled as "sovereign" of the Holy See was violated by the theft of sensitive documents by his butler, a panel of Vatican judges has concluded.
The three judges released their legal explanation for why they found Paolo Gabriele (46), guilty of aggravated theft and sentenced him to 18 months in detention.
The butler, a once-trusted confidant of Benedict XVI, had "violated not just the fundamental right to a good name and reserve owed all involved, but also the secrecy of actions owed to a sovereign," the judges wrote in a 15-page ruling.
But they denied suspicions of a wider conspiracy at the highest levels of the church, insisting that he was of "simplistic" intellectual capacity and that the plot had not involved senior figures in the Vatican.
The Vatican has been at pains to portray Gabriele as a misguided loner who received no backing from cardinals, bishops or other senior insiders.
The judges, who found Gabriele guilty on October 6, said that by stealing compromising documents, some of them from the desk of the Pope himself, he had done "reprehensible" damage to Benedict, the Vatican and the entire Catholic Church.
In the hope of exposing the "evil and corruption" that he saw in the Vatican, he passed the documents on to an investigative journalist who published them in a book that became a bestseller in Italy.
Gabriele is currently serving his sentence under house arrest in the Vatican apartment he shares with his wife and three children.
He had been expected to receive a swift pardon from the Pope but that has not yet been granted and Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, backtracked on a previous prediction that the pardon was all but guaranteed.
If he is not pardoned, Mr Gabriele will serve out the rest of the sentence in a specially outfitted cell in the barracks of the Vatican gendarmerie, the city state's tiny police force.
Investigations into the theft of documents were continuing, Father Lombardi said.
The Vatican announced that Claudio Sciarpelletti, the only other person so far arrested in the scandal, a computer expert in the secretariat of state, will go on trial on November 5 charged with aiding and abetting. (©Daily Telegraph London)