A scholarly book on clerical crime, including murder, witchcraft and sex, has outraged the Vatican - even though the sins are five centuries old.
The Vatican press office recently declared “Saints and Sinners” an “abuse” that should be “strongly deplored.” It said author Filippo Tamburini, a 70-yearold priest, had published Vatican documents without permission.
The Vatican rarely issues such condemnations, and three decades have passed since the Church discontinued its index of books forbidden to Catholics.
After the book came out to lurid newspaper headlines last month, Tamburini was called onto the carpet by a high-level archbishop in the Vatican administration.
The condemnation is all the more surprising because the book was formally presented in a Vatican meeting hall.
Tamburini collected 100 supplications to the Sacred Penitentiary, the Holy See tribunal.
The documents, dating from 1451-1586 and in Latin, were public statements of penitence from sinners who sought a return to their church or secular positions.
They include mainly monks, nuns and priests, with a few merchants and nobles thrown in. Fornication, theft, adultery, homosexuality, apostasy, forgery, bestiality, piracy are among their sins. The Penitentiary pardoned every case in the book.
Officials have barred Tamburini from the Penitentiary’s archives, where he worked for 12 years and before retiring several years ago, according to his publishing house.
“Maybe they thought it was material from sacramental confessions and I had published something I shouldn’t have,” he said in a recent interview. “But they are public cases.”
The book tells lurid tales of people like Sister Biagina, who bore and killed two children. Pietro di Peyto, a Carmelite leader, sodomized fellow clerics and slept with women. Pietro Parral castrated a priest on behalf of a romantic rival.
Tamburini points out plenty of saints make it into his book. In document No. 97, two followers of St. Theresa of Avila ask permission to establish a convent under her teachings.
The book’s 2,000-copy printing sold out in 10 days, like hotcakes for an academic work in Italy’s small book market, and has gone into reprint, said Nicola Cerbino, editorial director of Istituto di Propaganda Libraria, the book’s publisher.