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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. Freedom

    By the way, Im god and I just had a conversation with your girlfriend...she said its ok though

    May 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  2. BigSir

    Would be a good thing to have no Vatican, no Pope, none of this silly pomp.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  3. NORMAN C CARR

    Scandal or no scandal,i will still go to mass this sunday.The church is more then a few people.I was just confirmed this past Easter.It took me over 23 years to bring myself to joining the Catholic Church and i have no desire to join any other Christian Church.Amen.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I'm sorry to hear that. I hope you know your money you put in the plate goes to the Catholic Church Pedophile Defense Fund.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • NORMAN C CARR

      Remember,abuse happens in any church.These are still men.Allowing priest to get married may not be a bad idea.And allowing women in the Priesthood could help alot.Only time will tell.But the Catholic Church will survive one way or the other.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  4. tp1776

    is this really the church of Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit? Or are we talking about Enron.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  5. Bible just a theory

    I don't recall Jesus saying in the Bible, "Build ye giant expensive churches filled with costly furnishings and staff them with thousands of celibate priests dressed in fancy robes and presided over by a huge secretive bureaucracy of bishops and cardinals dressed in even fancier duds." He actually admonished his followers to do their praying privately in their own homes. Of course, you can't collect billions of dollars from gullible church-goers if you do that!

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

      Thank you for pointing out the obvious ... hopefully, your statement will provoke some to think, rather than just follow.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • NORMAN C CARR

      Remember friend the Bible was put together by the church not the other way around.Theres nothing wrong with the richness of the catholic church.The Temple in Jerusalem was rich loooking im sure.But its when it gose to some bodies head that it becomes a problem.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  6. PJ

    The only way to remain Catholic today is to totally ignore Bishops and anything coming out of Rome. Be an Independent Catholic who receives the Eucharist and avoid the Magisterium.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  7. SugarCube

    Obama will regret the day he ticked off the Catholics.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Jim in PA

      For all you know, you were baptized in secret today by the Mormon Church as a Mormon. Trust me, religion will NOT be made a big issue in this election.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I actually don't know any Catholics personally that are ticked at Obama. There is not even debate here. The church doesn't have to pay for contraceptives nor do they force people to take it. There is no issue. There is no debate.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  8. dogface

    Italy needs to annex the Vatican and put everyone there on trial. Those exonerated should continue to help administer the Catholic Church; those found guilty should go to Turkish prison for life.

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

      While I like the idea of justice, I think your missing the fact that there is basically no law that can do that to the vatican. Unless we throw the laws we have out the window.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Dash

      This could never happen, as this would be nothing short of an act of war.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  9. GFreas

    GayNN attacks Catholic Church; gay comment editor censors comments. Now wonder CNN rating are in the tank.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • BigSir

      I just attacked the Catholic Church and I'm not gay. So, your hypothesis is wrong.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • GFreas

      Nah, you're just a knucklehead; what does your comment have to so with what I wrote? I think the AIDS went to your brain.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  10. Pope Benedict XVI

    Where are all the young boys? Bring them to me!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  11. NORMAN C CARR

    Scandal or no scandal,i will still go to mass this sunday.The church is more then a few people.I was just confirmed this past Easter.It took me over 23 years to bring myself to joining the Catholic Church and i have no desire to join any other Christian Church.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Russ

      Church is a money grabbing cult. There is no God!! How blind can people be to follow some magic man in the sky. Live your life like the so called Christians should and you will live happy and die happy. Sorry you won't be going to heaven or hell for that matter. You will just be dead. Get it? If you don't you will be truly disappointed one day. hahaha (however you won't really know because when you're gone you're just dead and gone.)

      May 30, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Father Good Times

      Join the church of Father Good Times Norm! For the last 23 years, you could of been working on a being a creator of food and giving it away to those needy folks and enjoying delicious fresh salads without chemicals added. Don't Waste anytime . What do you think jesus would do? Go to a big ole church every sunday and do nothing for your temple or get out that HOE and make someones day with a big fat tomatoe sandwich!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  12. Amy

    For this reason and those similiar, I have mistrust for " The Chruch". I am a Christian through and through and have received blessings from God, been saved by Jesus, and will give glory to them. That being said, I can not bring myself to worship through the teachings of those I can not trust. I don't believe that it is God's plan for us to blindly give our choice and will of faith over to corruption. I do believe that Jesus looked corruption in the face and declared hippocrites as being just that.
    I do not believe that true faith has to be so much work.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • IvaPinion

      Well said! Blindly following the Catholic Church is not the same as being a Christian. In fact, to do so is an insult to God and his gift of intellect.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  13. Maude

    Believe in Allah and all will be well.

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

      Ummmmm....have you asked some of the folks who believe in Allah if all will be well? Just wondering.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  14. Jeff

    The pope is infallible only in the dogmas and the teachings of the church. Outside of that, he is as human as any other.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Do you know how stupid that sounds? Why would you put utmost trust in his teachings as perfect if he is not perfect? Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • 0patrick0

      Excuse me, the dogmas are infallible because the whole Church assents to them, and the Pope proclaims them infallibly; the teachings (the magisterium) are individually not infallible. Collectively, one must generally give one's assent to them. That is why cafeteria Catholicism has arisen in the U.S. with Catholics picking and choosing (e.g. birth control, ordination of women) among teachings they will accept. However strenuously the hierarchy insists those two teachings, for example, are orthodox, they do NOT enjoy the level of infallible doctrinces such as the Immaculate Conception or the Virgin Birth.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  15. marty

    I thought you would ant to see this.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  16. boyamidumb

    Better than SNL.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  17. ron

    Raised Catholic, never trusted the Catholic church or any for that matter. Closest religion for me that makes any sense is Buddhism. It does not cram its philosophies down your throat and does not threaten you with brimstone and fire and basically has not been used to start wars throughout the world so for me this would be the most sensible religion if any. It is also all about self enlightenment and improving yourself without relying on believing in God to carry you through all the pain in suffering in life. Just my opinion, I could be wrong or right?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I agree. Belief in the Buddhist way of life does not even require a belief in God, just a philosophy on life and overall well-being. It is probably the only religion I could get behind too.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • TR6

      Not even Buddhism is completely peaceful. The Buddhist magisterium was 100% behind the Jaapanese government in supporting Jaapan’s aggression in WWII.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  18. nope

    Fact: The Pope is also automatically the head of NAMBLA.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Jim in PA

      No way. His influence goes WAY beyond North America....

      May 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Adevilson Silva

      Sorry dude. Just look at him. He IS the Emperor of the Galactic Empire!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  19. Father Good Times

    You know somethings "broken" when people are willing to die or fight to the death without even reading the rule book themselves. You can't pick and choose what you want to believe or not believe out of the bible hobos. Its all or nothing, believe the lies or don't believe but Its great rule of thumb to love one another. I find it just as disturbing Ive met a few people who still think we come from adam and eve and we're all insestual brothers and sisters. Get a clue and a biology book, you would have downs syndrome, because we're designed NOT to breed with our family members. (unlike the kings and queens who ruled with an iron fist chopping the heads off of people while marrying there sisters and cousins- GROSS)

    so instead of spending your hard earned dollars to support evil and waste your pressure time getting all fancy dressed on sunday. Take your family to the park and go for a walk. Go on a nature hike or a day trip to the planetarium. Buy a telescope and look at the sky. Church is what you make of it. Hell, ... do some damn push ups and stop treatin your temple to mcdonalds you loafers. PS. your temple is your body, people treat there pets better then their temple. Techically this is a sin. Technically there is NO sin. Either way ... WAKE THE F UP!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Father Good Times

      GROW A GARDEN and share with your neighbors. The answer to half our problems, food. The church will not tell you to go home on sunday and plant some food. but if you believe anything jack wagon, its Father Good Times and he says stop being lazy and kneeling before lucifer and babbling weirdo prayers and get out with your HOE and RAKE. We should turn all churches into something useful that people can use. Throw away your Made In China Rosaries. You are just another sucker in Decembers.

      Whos scarier?
      the pope or the easter bunny?? Who would you leave alone with your child?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  20. Greenspam

    It's funny now that all the dirty politics of Catholic Church is exposed, people STILL listen to Catholic Church on ideas like contraceptive! Come on, you have it in front of your face that they care more about the nationality of the next Pope than anything else!

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

      Funny, Green. And do you abandon your country because of the bad politics some do? I am guessing not.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • NORMAN C CARR

      As an african American i would hope they pick someone outside of Rome.Maybe even an American.Catholic means universal.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Jacqueleen

      Catholics know that the head of the Catholic Church is Jesus Christ. Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, etc. are humans and humans are fallible. Jesus is cleaning house. He started with cleaning up the molestation and abuse accusations and now He is purging the clergy. It would be wise for the other faiths to do the same for the end is very near and all souls must be ready for we know not the day or the hour of the second coming of Jesus the Christ.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:43 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.