Holy Blow

Vatican Vice: Sex, Drugs and Downloads Taint the Image of the Holy See

Someone sent condoms filled with cocaine to the Vatican post office, but that’s only the latest incident suggesting vice is rife in the Holy See.

Claudia Himmelreich/MCT, via Getty

The Vatican Post Office serves two purposes: selling stamps to tourists who want to send letters and postcards from the world’s smallest city state, and accepting packages and mail destined for the 800 people who live within its fortified walls.

So when a package containing 14 condoms filled with $55,200 worth of liquid cocaine was confiscated in Germany en route to Vatican City, police felt fairly certain it was meant for someone inside the hallowed gates.

The package originated from an as-yet-unnamed city in South America last January, and addressed to the post office, but not to any individual. So German police along with the Vatican’s gendarmerie set a trap to find out just who might come and claim the mysterious shipment.

No one showed up. The recipient apparently had been tipped off. The cocaine was sent back to Germany last week, and the investigation has been taken over by Interpol, which is reportedly searching for anyone with links to South America—presumably excluding the Argentinian Pope Francis. Police believe it might have been someone working in the Vatican postal services, since employees might easily intercept a package with no recipient name.

Whoever the cocaine was destined for, it is certainly not the first report of vices in Vatican City. There have been ample examples lately of Vatican residents treading on the dark side, starting with allegations that a gay priest ring solicited the services of so-called rent boys who cater to clerical desires. Last summer a former priest named Patrizio Poggi, who was convicted of pedophilia, told Italian police that a Carabinieri police officer effectively “pimped” young male prostitutes from gay discos, saunas and a bar called Twink near Rome’s main train station for Vatican City residents. The cop apparently used an emergency vehicle marked “fresh blood transport” as his pimp-wagon to avoid parking fines and get the boys to the Vatican quickly. The National Catholic Register reported that the Vatican denied the allegations and charged the former priest with aggravated slander.

Alcohol is another Vatican vice. In February, the Wine Institute in California announced that the Vatican has the highest per-capita wine consumption anywhere in the world. Each Vatican resident drinks, on average, 74 liters—which is roughly 105 bottles—each year, according to the research. The figure is double what is drunk per capita in Italy or France. The Vatican pointed to the use of wine at mass, and the general demographic—elderly single men—as the reason for the high consumption.

Vatican residents also seem to have a weakness for online porn. In April of last year, Torrentfreak which specializes in web user statistics, pointed to research that several IP addresses inside the Vatican walls were downloading pirated American movies and hardcore pornography. The list of porn sites Torrentfreak publicized included a high concentration of transsexual flicks. “We spotted some downloads to get pulses racing,” according to the statistician at the Torrentfreak website. “It seems that while Vatican dwellers aren’t all that interested in Hollywood movies, they do enjoy adult related celluloid.”

To be fair, the same sort of statistics might easily be found in any small town of just 800 people, but because it is the virtuous Vatican, people might be forgiven for expecting more. And the mystery of the cocaine condoms could have more than one explanation. As the joke goes in Rome, based on the Vatican’s ban of birth control, it was just as likely they were smuggling the condoms into Vatican City, not the cocaine.