At first glance, it reads like the output of an Early Period Dan Brown Shadowy Catholic Subplot Generator™. The kidnapped nuns in northern Africa. The “niece” who may also be a lover. The labyrinthine multi-million-dollar property deal in the heart of ultra-prime London. The siphoning of donations from the Vatican vaults. The embezzlement and playboy financiers. The nepotism; the prostitutes; the Prada handbags.

But for 73-year-old Giovanni Angelo Becciu—the former high-ranking cardinal and de facto chief of staff to Pope Francis—it has just become all too real. Becciu, who was once considered a papable candidate for the Big White Hat itself, now sits in the hot seat at the first-ever Vatican corruption trial to be held out in the open—a landmark, drain-the-swamp jamboree that hopes to cleanse the Holy See of its lingering evil.