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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.

Nuns at odds with Vatican meeting this week

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. 'Nother-Son-'O-Ursus

    Re: "...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..."

    What's missing from the pic accompanying this article, (which shows Jo Ratzinger with his hands in the air), is the S.W.A.T. team to take him & his criminal associates into custody...

    May 30, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • BE

      They are no different than other religions – just more organized.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  2. pat carr

    it never had "moral authority" to begin with. it was a cult from day 1

    May 30, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. aramis

    Look for the Girl in the iron mask.
    fact is stranger than fiction

    May 30, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  4. NannyB

    Why should we be surprised?? The Vatican has been corrupt for centuries! These are just different players on the same stage.....

    May 30, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • BE

      Same as most other religions.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  5. MCO

    Or is this just a clever plot to try and distract the world from the fact that priests have been molesting children for generations and the church has been covering it up and enabling them to continue?

    The Catholic Church no longer has ANY moral authority at all. None.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  6. Steve

    Really? The Pope has a butler? No wonder I no longer attend Catholic churches. I don't have a problem with wealth but I certainly have a problem with people who live off of donations pretending to do "God's work" and then living like Kings.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • John Lubeck

      Steve, I'm no longer a fan of the Catholic church as it continues its drift under the direction of the current Pope from a church to being part of the Republican political party, but if you did not know that the Pope is waited on hand and foot then you do not know much of anything about either the church or history in general.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  7. Mike D

    Catholicism is a joke and always has been, but the faithful continue to march in lockstep over a cliff. If only it were a literal cliff.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Emmsy

      Yeah, it's a joke how they feed and serve the poor without discriminating, isn't it?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Mike D

      You keep believing that, Em. Mostly they feed and serve themselves.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Emmsy

      Really? Because the last time I checked my husband was walking out the door to visit those in prison and give them unconditional love and hope!! Our Catholic school was down serving food to the homeless in town. The people in my community give generously to the programs for those who are trying to lift themselves out of poverty. My daughter is working for free this year, living in a dangerous neighborhood to serve the poor. So, I don't know what planet you live on dude. Open your eyes and look at the facts. Love you neighbor, like the Catholics do.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Mike D

      Sure, Em, and on the backs of you selfless do-gooders is a huge and viciously corrupt global religious organization that is making an easy living off your blood, sweat, and tears. Whatever good you do in your life, you can do without supporting any variety of organized religion.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Emmsy

      There is no corruption in truly loving your neighbor, which the Church teaches! You slander, but have no facts to back up your slander. The Church is all of us! Wow, your hate and anger is palpable but I doubt it has anything to do with the Church. You are angry about something in your own life and want to take it out on an imaginary oppressor. You don't even like people who serve the poor or "do gooders" as you call it.!! You are in a bad place my friend and I will hold you in my prayers to the Prince of Peace for peace.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Mike D

      If you want facts, Em, simply google "Catholic corruption." The evidence is out there for centuries of every type of crime and hypocrisy within the Catholic church. Not that this is unique to Catholicism, mind you...every organized religion that gains political power trips over the same stumbling blocks.

      The notion that I'm ranting out of some projected personal issue is pop psychology at best. The evidence is out there. It's in this very CNN story.

      And there is no "prince of peace." There is no more evidence for your Jesus than there is for Krishna or Odin.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  8. MennoKnight

    For some reason I don't think this is what Jesus and the disciples had in mind 2000 years ago.

    There should be no Vatican, Church and State should never be interconnected.

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

      The vatican has a seat on the United Nations. What does that tell ya?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • MennoKnight

      That he has no right to have a seat there. He can come and visit as an important dignitary but the Vatican City should not exist. It flies in the face of the whole New Testament!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  9. Tzedekh

    Oh, yeah, the Vatican needs someone with an MBA, seeing as how well the suits have managed the economies of Western Europe and the U.S. What they Vatican needs is someone with forward-looking vision, not the dinosaurs who have tried to stamp out new ideas as though they were vermin. The Vatican is waging war on nuns, who are trying to follow Jesus' mandate by caring for the less fortunate. Instead, the hierarchy wants them to fight birth control, abortion, and gay marriage - three subjects Jesus himself never addressed. I hope the nuns stick to their convictions and flip the Vatican the bird. It'll look even sillier excommunicating the nuns and then trying to disband them and confiscate their real estate holdings. That could take decades, further drain already strained diocesan coffers, and become a public-relations nightmare. The Church hierarchy have sway only by agreement of rank-and-file Catholics, but the Vatican is losing the faith of the faithful. I can see a revolution brewing, and unless the Vatican reforms, it will be on the losing end.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Voxhumana

      Hard to imagine that this bunch of old tired men, intent on power at any cost, rife with the blood of innocents on their hands, thirsty for your money, intent on keeping women out of power, and woefully unprepared for this century, let alone managing billions of dollars in funding, should be in charge. Not that they should bring some Swiss bankers, mind you. I say redistribute the wealth to the poor, strip your churches of your finery and reduce yourselves to the "rock" that the church was built upon. Then you will find something worthwhile.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  10. Christine

    It's about time all these jack@$$es are held accountable for their actions.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  11. Laurie

    From the pope
    Suggestions have multiplied, amplified by some media which
    are totally gratuitous and which have gone well beyond the
    facts, offering an image of the Holy See which does not respond
    to reality," Benedict said

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

      I guess he would say that. But in a way he's right: what the media have reported is probably not the complete picture. In all likelihood, the reality is far, far worse.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  12. htv834

    Just goes to show that "religion" is a man-made phenomenon. What do power and money struggles have to do with worship? The Catholic Church has never recovered from the middle ages when people began to realize that the world wasn't at all what the Church would have them believe.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  13. Phllyphan

    The catholic church is on it's way out- as well as it should be,

    May 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • pat carr

      The sooner the better

      May 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Emmsy

      Actually it's not! More and more people are seeing the beauty in Catholic teaching that has nothing to do with the hate and absolute ignorance that is being displayed by the many on these posts. The numbers are growing folks and their is joy in our parishes!! The Catholics I know are the ones who are serving the poor and assisting those who are suffering in our society!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • htv834

      Emmsy, you may have hit the nail on the head. No birth control for Catholics so they can keep producing more Catholics to enjoy the beauty of the religion... and keep the money flowing. Catholics do many wonderful things but , like politics, the higher you go the more corruption you find.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Emmsy

      Htv, like I said, the ignorance in these posts on Catholic teaching is amazing. You can keep slamming what you don't bother to really want to know what the truth is(ie: birth control,etc.) and live in ignorance and hate. From your posts, it seems like you are stuck there. May God Bless your heart with an openness to love those whom you judge falsely and to come to love your neighbor as yourself! Peace!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  14. Laurie

    watch all the mainstream media capitalize on this as an opportunity for maligning the Catholic church. The gates of hell will not prevail however.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • htv834

      The gates of hell are standing wide open for pedophile priests and money and power hungry administrators.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • pat carr

      Maligning the catholic church – LOL. Lady get a clue, it's been maligning us for centuries

      May 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Russ

      There is no hell, or heaven for that matter. When you die you just die. You're dead and gone. Fortunately for all you believers you'll have something to look forward to, except when you get there you'll never know the difference because you're just dead and gone. The rest of us accept that fact. Most of us make better Christians than you purported Christians.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Emmsy

      Wow, some of the responses! That is true, goodness, truth and hope are alive and well in the Catholic Church!! Go Jesus!!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  15. The Truth

    Religious people are idiot lemmings. Pathetic!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • NudeTruth

      You make them sound like Obamites.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Russ

      The Truth.....you are absolutely right. NudeTruth.......how the hell do you tie Obama to this? You come off as just another racist Repulican that can't stand that fact that America elected a black man as president and is finally waking up to the fact we don't need to be run by old angry white men.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Emmsy

      The Catholic Church teaches us to love those who persecute you! May God touch your heart in a profound way today with peace, joy and love!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  16. NudeTruth

    The Pope disapproves of Obama's abortion mandate and all of a sudden scandals crop up.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  17. MikeTexoma

    This is to be expected when men are running God's church – men with egos, men who like to control things, men who have an active self interest, power seekers, men who plot and scheme and manipulate to gain this advantage or that – in short, ordinary men. And this happens when leadership is weak or wrongheaded, and key people are not committed to the goal.

    When a chruch becomes so big that it has to be run like a large corporation for the benefit of the large corporation and not of God's people, then it is probably too big. I do not expect them all to be like Mother Theresa, but I expect them all to be committed to a Mother Theresa-like goal. And that absence is the fault of leadership.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • htv834

      Well said, Mike!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • laurab68

      Your basic premise is sound. It applies to any large conglomerate. This is one of many reasons I do not do relgion in any way, shape or form.
      The vatican is more about profit and power than they are about beliefs. They use the words of the Bible for their own profitability. Religion is big business and as long as the Catholic population continues to follow the catholic religion like sheep, and indocrinate their children to follow suit, it will continue to grow.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Emmsy

      Isn't it interesting that Christ himself gave men the authority to serve the Church! "What sins you retain shall be retained,"etc., remember that? 🙂 Be informed on actual history and facts! The Church belongs to Jesus and the gates of hell, displayed on may of these posts, will not prevail against it!! We have the Joy of the Lord and you are welcome to join!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Emmsy

      They are, but like you and I, are sinners. We all fall short! But we get up and keep trying.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  18. tbrnotb

    The Catholic church has become just another religious cult with waaaay too much money for its own good. They should use some of their cash to help the poor instead of buying Prada slippers for this ex-Nazi Pope!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • htv834

      The Catholic Church has controlled massive amounts of wealth since very early in it's existance. If the Bible says you shall not worship idols, then how in the world does the Church justify all the golden props, stained glass, expensive silks and whatnot? Jesus was a simple carpenter. Bring back the simplicity and devoutness of the early times and perhaps the Catholic Church will be worthy of following.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Emmsy

      You should look at all of the philanthropic things the Church does all over the world. The Catholic Church is the number one contributor in programs and dollars in the fight against aids. They go into the trenches to serve the poor. There are many in the Catholic Church who are laying their lives down for Christ in the poor and needy. What have you done? Leave your ingrained prejudices and open your eyes! Go faithful Catholics, you are awesome!!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  19. dito

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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

    All of these names in the article...sound like a scene out of "The Sopranos"....

    "Hey Angelo....I think we gotta whack that Galeazzi guy...he's startin to get too smart"

    May 30, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • John Alan

      Or, more appropriately, an episode from The Borgias....

      May 30, 2012 at 11:52 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.