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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. donny

    what is a pope? i dont ever see them do any thing do they preach the word? all i see is people packing them around hmm maybe i need to be one .

    May 30, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      The Pope is the vicar of Christ. He is the Pastor of the faithful. This doesn't mean the flock isn't soiled. It means that he is the defender of the faith

      May 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      As Stalin said, "The pope? How many divisions has he got?"

      May 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      A pope is the leader of the biggest con game in history.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  2. Freedom

    Get some freakin' nuns in there to service these poor old men who havent had their pipes cleared in decades

    May 30, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      If you believe these guys suffer from lakanukie, you are probably sorely mistaken.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  3. Slovensko

    It is because all men are sinners, even the pope. You will never find another perfect human...only one was Jesus, and he's back in Heaven now.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Freedom

      I dont know about all that....although I did read this funny story once where there was a poor virgin girl in the desert somewhere about 2000+ years ago who got knocked up by some invisible man...i wonder if r@pe is a sin?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      So I guess that goes against the doctrine that the pope is infallible huh?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Slovensko

      Wasn't r@pe. God told her what was going to happen beforehand, she agreed/was willing to follow God's will and have the baby. Obvious troll is obvious.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Freedom

      poor poor robot...no will to think for yourself

      May 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  4. Josef Bleaux

    With any luck the Catholic Church and Christianity in general will implode and go the way of the dinosaurs. How that ignorant nonsense has persisted for so many centuries is beyond me. It's all just ancient mythology and superst!tious nonsense like all religions.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  5. GFreas

    Oh, lookey! GayNN attacks Catholicism again. Does anybody pay attention to this site anymore?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Obviously you do.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Freedom

      only if they attack religion...then its totally worth it

      May 30, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Papist

      Especially since this "news" source can't even spell "manager" correctly. "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." Pathetic and sensationalist.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      I think "Manger" is the correct term, so they can corral all the idjits currently in charge and get rid of them.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  6. Hoopla12

    Every religion is a poison to humanity.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  7. john62

    When organized religion stops its political and moralistic grandstanding and decides to work solely to foster the spiritual brotherhood of the human race, this world will be a much better place.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  8. Hoopla

    Stop believing in concepts that have no evidence of being true and this world will become a better place.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  9. Hoopla

    Stop believing in concepts that have no evidence of being true and this would will become a better place.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Papist

      I'll be praying for you, Hoopla. You clearly need it with all that pent up anger against people who believe in something greater than themselves.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  10. Chris B.

    So CNN ignores the 40+ lawsuits brought against HHS and the Obama Administration over the government trying to redefine what a church is and forcing them to provide contraceptives and abortions and focus on this gossip rag worthy story. And you wonder why your ratings are in the tank?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • FLIndependent

      You need to read the Cafferty file on this subject and you'll see the overwhelming response from bloggers that think the Catholic Church is wrong and Obama is doing the right thing. Check it out!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      FL – truth is not a popularity contest.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I guess you weren't reading the news when CNN was doing on articles on it about a week ago (I think it was a week ago, might have been two). I'm sure nothing has developed since.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • 0patrick0

      Stop making news conspiracies up. CNN reported on the lawsuits here. I read it. But they're not giving it day in, day out coverage because, like all lawsuits at the early stage, they just sit there waiting for the court's due process and there's nothing more to report. And get your facts straight: the Obama Administratioh isn't making these religious organizations dole out birth control to their employees; it is saying they may not exempt themselves and deny health insurance coverage for those items to their employees.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Emilie

      Do they have oxygen on the planet that you live on?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  11. Jim in PA

    If the Catholic Church ever wanted to be true to its religion, they would sell the Vatican and its treasures, and use the money to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Popes and Bishops would wear modest clothes, and give up the trappings of wealth and royalty. And the Pope would give up on the silly silly concept of Papal Infallibility, which quite frankly is heresy.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Freedom

      Sure...and usa congressmen would give up their benefits and wear overalls

      May 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      My guess is that you don't understand the doctrine of infallibility. You also seem to ignore generation after generation of religious men and women who have lived simply, taken vows of poverty, abstinence and obedience. All this done in order that the Gospel of our Lord could be delivered to the generations. As it was when He trod the earth, there are those who still spit upon Him, just as He said they would.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  12. Archived

    Clearly the pope is infallible and chosen by god. That's why the cardinals are always acting like politicians and fighting for position. The only difference is that their elections are less regular than most countries. Hypocrisy I name thee.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Jim in PA

      If the Pope really were infallible, just imagine how much money he could make for the Church by hitting the roulette tables in Monte Carlo.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  13. Alex

    So sad to read the comments posted by others about the apparent crisis in the Vatican. These are truly the end of Times. If people took the time to read the prophecies of Fatima which were given over 40 years ago, all of this was predicted. God help us during these difficult times and may our Blessed Mother intercede for the Pope and those of us that support him. May the poison of the words posted by some on this blog, turn into salvation for others.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      The only salvation we need is from ignorant superst!tious nonsense, i.e. Christianity.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • FLIndependent

      You do realize that the Catholic Church is nothing than a business which politics controls, right? The Pope is "elected" just like our politicians, so what makes him anything different than any other political figure?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • bkaiser

      the pope is a joke.. If he is truely a man of god/ gods voice he would give up wordly things and help more poor people. He would act more like Christ not a King, but who am I the judge I'm just an average church going man.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  14. dianegoble

    Sounds like your average soap opera, As the Papacy Turns

    May 30, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  15. JMK

    A giant lawsuit was just filed against the Administration by numerous Catholic archdiocese and other religious organizations because of the health insurance mandate, and all CNN will report on are Vatican scandals and abuse cases, while we hear scarcely anything about the lawsuit. These are classic red herring tactics designed to distract the public and discredit parties who are opposed to the Administration and to CNN's editorial political perspective. AKA, yellow journalism.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Umm, they had stories about it. Maybe you were on vacation that week.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      That's because like every other lawsuit ever filed, most of the discussions are taking place behind closed doors between two sets of lawyers who will barely communicate with their clients until they have something solid to say. You cannot report on what isn't there.

      On this case, though. The Vatican represents 1.2 Billion people worldwide. The author claims the Vatican is run like a 19th Century imperial court. They are wrong. It is run like a 15th Century imperial court based on the way they thought the Roman Empire was run. In contemporary English, that means the people running things have about half a clue. Most of these folks have not had direct involvement with reality since the day before they entered the Seminary. They have been told to do exactly what their Bishops tell them and everything will be all right. The problem is no one trained them for leadership when they eventually became Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, and (yes, them too) Popes.

      Praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance doesn't help in day to day operation of a business the size of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic church.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • FLIndependent

      Check out the Cafftery file....you'll see an article there and also posters who overwhelmingly favor the government's policy over what the Church is doing.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  16. Bob Aussie

    man, and I thought us Mormons had a problem! Bertone to the Pope: " I've got good news, and bad news" Pope: "What's the good news?" Bertone: "It's Jesus Christ, on the phone for you." Pope: "And the bad news?" Bertone: "He's calling from Salt Lake City."

    May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  17. PrimeNumber

    I wonder what CNN would find if it dug into the lives of the average blogger. But minor sleeze wouldn't sell news.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Wow, way to go. You solved the big riddle. Cnn is here to make money. I think you should do a news story about this.

      I would be interested to see what it would find about me too. I can't think of any dirt or scandals I have been involved in. And if there was anything I'm sure it wouldn't be newsworthy or interesting if I can't even think of it.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  18. lms

    If the pope is supposed to be the "voice of God" why isn't he saying "Every pedophile in my priesthood needs to be punished NOW! And you folks down there on earth need to remember this little ditti – "Love Thy Neighbor"" It seems like on the big ticket issues the Pope's voice of God goes strangely silent

    May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Maude

      Speech is the only way to communicate... Look and feel around you my child. You will hear what needs to be said and done.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Instead of only getting your information on the Church from CNN, I suggest you read the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope Benedict. You will discover that what you are asking for is precisely what he has been saying for decades

      May 30, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  19. Lorelord

    Funny how in the midst of Obama and his Soviet Polit Bureau...I mean Administration, trying to strip the Church of the 1st Amendment rights by forcing them to provide contraceptives and abortions, that this story comes out...now. Youre not fooling anyone. Distraction doesnt work on the enlightened.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • andres

      The problem is that so few are enlightened. Distraction is used simply because it works.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Jim in PA

      And yet the GOP is the first group to try and stifle the practicing of Islam. Which is it, fellas? Freedom of Religion or not?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Brian K

      Considering the fact that you believe the church, I find it absolutely hilarious that you attempt to call yourself enlightened. I understand that contraceptives aren't necessary for touching boys, or raping pocketbooks, but that doesn't mean they aren't needed, and besides, how can you complain about contraceptives and abortion in the same sentence? Contraceptives prevent abortions, it's really that simple.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  20. Odin

    John Lennon had it right–imagine

    May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Jim in PA

      Maybe. But Ringo was the band.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:36 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.