Monthly Archives: March 2013

Could someone have rigged the Papal Conclave?

The answer is probably not, but with all the scandals circulating about cardinals’ sins on the eve of voting for a new pope, this question doesn’t quite have the left-field feel it might once have had.  

Rumors of wrongdoing dogged the cardinals as they set about picking a new head of the Catholic Church and it was (almost) possible to imagine that corruption could distort the result. That by the way is the centre of the plot of Stones of Judgment, a book of fiction I finished before the Pope resigned and hope to have available on Amazon in a few days!

Let’s just recap some of those scandals. The Vatican Bank, for example, is now on a black list for its poor money laundering controls and on top of that one of its bankers died under very curious circumstances a few years back. One Scottish cardinal recently admitted inappropriate behavior and didn’t go to Rome, and others face questions about the conduct of priests in their diocese. Might not an unscrupulous villain have an opportunity to call the shots?

I think a lot of it comes down to trust, or lack of it. All the professions once considered hallmarks of an upright society are suffering. Bankers have disgraced themselves by earning too much while taking risks that jeopardized their banks and the livelihoods of ordinary people. In some cases they committed crimes on their way to those gains.


Doctors have had their image tarnished recently for succumbing to drug industry largesse and misrepresenting trial results. The number of priests in the dock and the cover-ups perpetrated by the Church hierarchy is destroying many people’s faith in clergy.


When the doors closed behind the cardinals eligible to vote in the Sistine Chapel this week, we can only trust that they voted with clear consciences and honest hearts. Perhaps they are the confessors for the men around them and avoided picking anyone that might be tinged with controversy. Although Pope Francis’s past during the times of the Argentine dictatorship is coming in for scrutiny now.

The evil villain in my book leverages the cardinals’ secrets to put his man on the papal throne. His choice won’t fit any serious person’s best pope pick, but his goal is the same: to unify and strengthen Catholic Church. My villain also has access to a very old biblical artefact, The Breastplate of Judgment (Exodus 28), just in case the cardinals prove stubborn.


It’s a Dan Brown-type twist that, I hope, proves more exciting than watching 115 men praying silently for divine guidance underneath Michelangelo’s masterpiece. 



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A change of scene — Berlin

Today I am in Berlin for a conference on whistleblowing and whistleblower protection. There’s a cover of light snow on the ground and temperatures well below zero. The city is covered in grey cloud and has the feel of a place crawling back into hibernation until spring arrives. That is usually mid-April. I lived here for four years and by mid-March each year I would be desperate for the first buds. Winter is very long in eastern Europe and very cold.

This trip is part of my day job working for Transparency International, the anti-corruption organisation. We are exploring establishing a network that connects journalists, whistleblowers and advocacy organisations with whistleblower protection organisations. It’s interesting and complex. Whistleblowing is a powerful tool in the anti-corruption arsenal but it is not straightforward. Whistleblowers face enormous challenges when they decide to tell their stories and often end up the targets of slur campaigns. Some very interesting people spoke today about the importance of protecting whistleblowers not just with laws. Many countries have some sort of protection in place — though only three in Europe have specific whistleblower protection legislation — but it is not always implemented. 

Tomorrow we start talking about the nitty-gritty of how a network of whistleblowers, journalists and advocacy organisations might work. It’s supposed to be sunny but I doubt it will get above freezing, but sun beats those low hanging clouds and will, I am sure, make me smile.

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On Pope Watch

This time around I am on constant Pope watch. I’ve looked at the odds and all the stories about the scandals at the Vatican Bank and allegations of inappropriate behaviour and wonder how will they influcence the outcome. Not that I really believe the Papal Conclave could be rigged, but it adds a bit a spice to a plot that I started thinking about more than five years ago.

As I write, the final pages of Stones of Judgment are being prepared for proofing later this week. There will be a new Pope before it’s published. But with so much scandal around the Vatican at the moment, could it be possible that the choice was influenced not by conscience but by coercion?


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March 10, 2013 · 12:24 pm

Cardinals in a corner


When I sat down to write Stones of Judgment (almost ready for publication!) I decided to make the middle of the plot a Papal Conclave, vulnerable to rigging. That seemed like a long stretch indeed, which was one reason why I built it into the plot. But what do we have now? After the pope resigned, so many of the stories out of the Vatican are of corruption and scandal. This is from the New York Times. 


In recent days, often speculative reports in the Italian news media — some even alleging gay sex scandals in the Vatican, others focusing on particular cardinals stung by the child sexual abuse crisis — have dominated headlines, suggesting fierce internal struggles as prelates scramble to consolidate power and attack their rivals in the dying days of a troubled papacy.

Read more here …


As you can see I am having trouble inserting the proper links. But I hope to get that sorted soon.



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Deborah Wise


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Stones of Judgment

This is my new book. It is at the publishers (or should I say eBook formatters) now and will be available for Kindles and Nooks pretty soon. You can also visit my website and read more about the book and me.

The book starts just as the old pope resigns. A nun is found dead in a small church in Suffolk and two ex-convent schoolgirls, now in the early thirties, set out to find the killer. It’s a mystery adventure that travels from London to India and back with the final climactic scene in the Vatican City on the day the new pope is elected.

Can one may rig a Papal Conclave and infiltrate the Vatican? You can find out in Stones of Judgment. 

It’s a witty take on a very old theme. Charlie and Lucinda, my spunky protagonists, are smart, witty and resourceful. They solve clues and find romance and along the way may even save the world!

I’ll post the links to the downloads as soon as it is ready. It will be free for the first couple of weeks. Tomorrow I’ll post the introduction here with a description of the first murder!!!


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The Stones of Judgment

The Stones of Judgment

A Mystery
by Deborah Wise


March 5, 2013 · 8:17 am