When Pope Benedict XVI declared his shocking resignation Monday, he cited his health as a major factor. On Thursday, the Vatican admitted to keeping many secrets about his condition, including a previously undisclosed surgery and head injury.
The Vatican disclosed that Benedict had fallen, suffering a head injury that caused massive bleeding, while in Mexico last March, reports The Associated Press. This is just one of several health-related announcements that a Vatican spokesman made Thursday.
In addition to the head injury, the pope not only had a pacemaker but had a secret surgery to replace the battery in December. While the announced resignation was a shock to the world, it seems Benedict XVI had at least informed some associates in advance.
The Vatican’s veil of secrecy is nothing new as papal secrets are closely guarded and anyone leaking information can, and have, face punishment. Most notably, Pope Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, leaked documents to Italian journalists that revealed the inner workings of the Vatican as well as possible corruption within the church. Gabriele was arrested and charged with theft but later pardoned by the pope. The church's global sex abuse scandal is another example of clerical secrecy that has led to tremendous harm.
John Thavis, author of “The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church,” told the AP, “You have to understand that actually every Vatican employee and official takes an oath of secrecy when they assume their job.”
That oath is taken very seriously and has fed even more speculation about what secrets the Vatican has kept hidden. AP notes two other high-level Vatican secrets. The death of Pope John Paul I was discovered by a nun in 1978, and the revelation that Pope John Paul II had Parkinson’s disease was first disclosed in his death certificate.
The argument that God’s work is more important than the laws of man can be a troubling one to make, especially in the wake of the sex abuse scandal that has affected untold numbers of people.
The Vatican downplayed the pontiff's head injury while calling the pacemaker battery replacement a routine procedure, notes The Atlantic Wire.