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Vatican scandals lift lid on secret power struggle
May 29th, 2012
01:51 PM ET

Vatican scandals lift lid on secret power struggle

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Bad luck comes in threes, even for the pope.

The past week has seen his butler arrested, accused of leaking secret papers from the papal apartment; the head of his bank sacked for incompetence; and a demonstration on his front doorstep by protesters demanding that he reveal what he knows about Italy's most famous missing-person case.

It's bad PR for the Vatican, but it may be more than that, experts say. It could affect who becomes the next pope.

The arrest of the pope's trusted butler, Paolo Gabriele, came just a day before the board of the Vatican Bank fired its director, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi.

Two days after that, hundreds of people chanted "Truth, truth!" in St. Peter's Square, holding pictures of Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee who disappeared at the age of 15 and has not been seen in the past 29 years.

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No less a figure than the Vatican's chief exorcist said he suspected the girl had been abducted for sexual reasons, adding: "The investigation should be carried out inside the Vatican and not outside."

The timing of the demonstration was probably a coincidence, since conspiracy theories about Orlandi's disappearance have been swirling for decades and police investigations have gone nowhere, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of "Inside the Vatican."

But the butler and bank scandals are significant, and reveal a secret battle going on behind closed doors, he said.

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The effect of each event is the same: to weaken the authority of Pope Benedict XVI's second in command.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, is involved in a power struggle with his predecessor, experts say.

"The reason for this fight is that the secretary of state will have a strong influence over the next conclave which will choose the next pope," said Giacomo Galeazzi, a journalist at the Italian daily La Stampa.

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The late John Paul II's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, is trying to sideline Bertone and put one of his own proteges in place before Benedict dies, Galeazzi said.

"The leaks will end when Bertone is out as secretary of state," he predicted.

He said he expects that Bertone, who will be 78 in December, would be replaced at the end of the year, but not by the cardinal Sodano wants.

Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, isn't the only one who doesn't like Bertone, Reese said.

Bertone "did what normally happens. He brought in his team, the people he likes, the people he trusts, and he put them in key positions in the Vatican," he said.

"There are people who had hitched their star to the previous secretary of state who thought by now they would become an archbishop or a cardinal, and they didn't," Reese said. "These people are unhappy and don't like Bertone."

Part of the reason for the butler and bank scandals is that the Vatican hasn't been run well in decades, Reese said.

"Clerics don't go to Harvard Business School. Bertone is a theologian. He doesn't have an MBA," he said.

And Benedict is no better, he said.

"He is a German professor. He's a person who is into ideas, not a manager, and yet he is running a 1.2-billion member organization," Reese said.

There's a faction within the Vatican that wants the next pope to be "a better manger who can get the shop in order," Reese said.

"A lot of people think that would be an Italian, of course," after two popes from outside of Italy, John Paul II from Poland and Benedict from Germany, he said.

But the undermining of Bertone may work against that faction, he said.

"Bertone is from the Vatican and is Italian," Reese pointed out. "People may say we need somebody from outside who can come in and knock heads together and make it work."

Reese isn't taking a position on where the next pope should be from, but he has strong views on what Benedict's successor should do: "The place really needs to be restructured and reorganized. It still operates in many ways like a 19th century European court."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope John Paul II • Scandal • Vatican

soundoff (1,326 Responses)
  1. s a

    Pope John Paul II rocked!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Frank

      No, he was just another pedophile protector leading a deluded flock of sheep who funded the lavish lifestyles of thousands of child rapists.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  2. jwcalla

    Another non-story making the top headline on cnn.com. So this Reese guy gives his opinions of how he thinks everyone rolls, and this is likened to reporting actual news?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  3. justtruth

    Many of you appear to be too ignorant to recognize your own bigotry.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • ME II

      Is that just all those who disagree with you?

      May 30, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  4. chineselady

    pope = Chief Extortionist Officer, or is it Chief Execution Officer?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      or maybe the grand inquisitor

      May 30, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • KC

      Honey-you shouldn't talk–China has one of the worst human rights records in the world.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  5. answer is cold

    pope on a rope

    May 30, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  6. chineselady

    allo ver the pot of gold that vatican profitted via its wall street investment against its parishioners' homes, pensions, insurances, and wages.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  7. serena Ali

    To all those who are against selection of the pope by a bunch of priests should remember that it was the priests who decided which gospels should and should not be included in what is called Bible (upon which Christian belief is based), and that too by a slim majority. They obviously selected those books that they could use to stay in power. Now the want a pope that they can use to stay in power. duh.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • crackedskull44

      And Mohammed was a child molester....

      May 30, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  8. pastapharian

    Chief of Exorcism??? Seriously???

    May 30, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • justtruth

      Yes. Look it up.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      Why not.
      They also have a "black" pope.
      But he is not "black".
      Just evil.

      May 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  9. wdwbunch

    The Church needs a leader, and that's the Pope, but a Pope who is willing to open the windows and let fresh air in that will remove the stagnation of air that has been in Catholicism for years and years.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      They dont need to open a window.
      They need to open the vaults to the Vatican library.
      They have been collecting every piece of literature pertaining to Jesus
      that they could get by buying, stealing or killing, and locking it up in the library.
      What are they hiding in there ?
      The truth.

      May 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  10. gary

    Catholicism is NOT about religion. It's always been about power, bureaucracy, control. It doesn't take a $B bureaucracy for a person to be "religious", to contemplate eternity, etc. RCC is all about power .... it's a pyramid scheme to empower the pope.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • tom

      take God out of religion and it will thrive

      May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • justtruth

      If you study the lives of the Saints, you will arrive at very different conclusions. Catholicism is about the amazing things God can do in an individuals life who devotes themselves to the pursuit of God. The politics of running a large church are not immune to the failings of individual people. But this is nothing new. It has been happening ever since Judas sold out Jesus. Real Catholics aren't afraid of these scandals. We welcome there coming to light and people being held to account for their failings.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "We welcome there coming to light and people being held to account for their failings."

      which is why priests were ordered to destroy lists of priests accused of child abuse.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  11. serena Ali

    9-11 was also smoke and mirrors used to start a war for the benefit of the rich.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Shut it

      Shut up already....geeez

      May 30, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Murder By Numbers

      They are already rich.
      This is about control.
      Fear makes people turn over liberty for protection.
      Have you noticed that every once in a while we get
      a shoe bomber, or a "underwear" bomber.
      They have to keep that "fear" factor up and keep reminding us that they are protecting us.
      The only thing we need to be protected from is......Them.

      May 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  12. Chaos

    The Vatican has its own "sovereign" authority to arrest, try and punish people. It puts a butler who merely embarrassed the church for its own misdeeds but not a single pedophile or pedophile coddler is.

    It tells us everything we need to know about this corrupt organization. The fact that its followers don't overthrow this 'regime' tell volumes about them.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  13. cutedog2

    I didn't realize Anthony Hopkins was the Pope.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  14. glorydays

    Religion and power seekers? NEVER.......

    May 30, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  15. VA_Jill

    Tee hee........and the difference from any other politics is......? The RCC is nothing but politics in disguise.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  16. Me

    "A lot of people think that would be an Italian, of course,..." Because the Italians are so good at managing their country.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  17. WHEELS

    whats the one thing every religion has in common....everyone thinks what they believe in is right. I think they are all wrong

    May 30, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  18. onestarman

    The HYPOCRISY of this CESSPOOL – The Vatican – Attempting to Impose Its PERVERTED Morality Into American Politics is DISGUSTING. The EVIL of his soul cannot be Hidden on Face of This ANTI-POPE Raised as a NAZI and protector of Pedophiles and Corruption.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Frank

      I agree...this entire pedophile infested cult needs to just disappear from the face of the Earth. They've caused enough unspeakable damage and carnage throughout the centuries on man kind.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Sotzume

      Benedict wants to take the world back to the 15th century....ironically he was educated with some of the most liberal Catholic theologians early in his life. What happened?

      May 30, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Susan

      Yes! Everyone knows that the conservative, evangelical Christian Right has the market on imposing perverted morality Into American politics.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • justtruth

      You are a shameless bigot.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  19. Henry

    We have three kinds of people claiming to be Christian, Mute Dogs, Wicked Fools, and Pew Warming Wimps!!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  20. libfreak48

    That the word "God" is never mentioned in this article concerning money and politics should surprise no one.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:26 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.