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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. bdl1978

    any catholic who has not been living under a rock the past twenty years should have stopped going to church long ago. has there been one week since the late nineties that a catholic priest or bishop or pope or cardinal or etc hasn't been in trouble? seriously.

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

      Forgive and forget

      May 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  2. Dana

    Remove brain. Insert dogma.

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

      Remove lower, insert upper!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • RJ

      I am black from the waist down.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  3. a disgrace

    its time for this disgrace of a church to be closed forever!

    May 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Anne

      Reminds me of the Borgias

      May 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  4. Bart

    I thought they said that God chooses who will be pope? Were they lying?

    May 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  5. Bones75

    These old men are still playing their silly dress-up game?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • nope

      makes the kiddies more likely to play along when it's a game of dressup

      May 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  6. lance corporal

    how anyone can think that these people understand much less represent god is beyond me
    the MOB and other criminals have loooooong been allied w/ the catholic church

    May 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  7. Mary

    When looking at this picture of the Pope I am thinking how much money it must cost to keep it all going.
    What about the poor? The money spent on all the glitter (millions probably) could be feeding the hungry. I dont like being hungry, But I always have food to stop the hunger pains. Praise God. Thank You Lord Jesus.

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

      The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world...

      May 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  8. joe

    This is nothing. If you really want some entertaining reading, look into the history of the papacy during the Italian Renaissance. No news leaks in those days. Just poison, daggers, and "unfortunate" accidents.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  9. Jim

    This will be tragic for the Vatican. Some will make trouble because they want certain people to lead the church, but more will cause trouble because they want the church to disappear.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  10. MaryBeth Bishoff

    What REALLY happened to Pope John 23rd?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  11. euplover

    What a crock of crap. The catholic Church has filed suit against the Federal Government. Never ever before has the Fed Govt. attacked a religious group like this administration, and now the Church is suing the Govt.

    But yet we get silly non-issue articles like this and no mention of the lawsuit? Very revealing Id say, and no wonder CNN is falling fast in viewer and readership.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      They mentioned it last week. They had several articles about it. There probably hasn't been any updates to it. That tends to happen in cases like that. A lot of behind closed door discussions that are not open to the public or the media.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  12. alfredneuman

    You will not find God in a Catholic church or for that matter any church. Those that are seeking him will only find him in their hearts – quit going to church and giving money to these "representatives" of God, instead go up to the mountains or to the beach or anyplace where you can find solace and search your soul – you will find peace.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Dan

      There are plenty of great charities that could use the money instead.

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

      Why take responsibility for your actions when you can do anything and then go to church to seek forgiveness? This allows all types of atrocities to occur like abortion, murder, wars, incest, infidelity, the list goes on and on. If people had to THINK before they acted there would be no reason to pray to some fictional FATHER to ask for guidance and forgiveness because we instinctively know what is right and wrong. The church will always be in power because man is to lazy to self analyze.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Anne

      The Methodist Chrush did my mother very wrong when she was ill years ago. After that she said she didn't need a church to know how much she loves God and her faith in him grew stronger every day.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  13. magnus

    right now all the jews and muslims are so happy. this is a bonding session for them. maybe they can use this common enemy – christianity – as a way to heal.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I don't know any Jewish people that despise Christians.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • magnus

      really? they teach their children that catholics were responsible for the holocaust so that generations upon generations can continue their elitism against the all gentiles.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I have never heard anybody say that ever... until now. Get a grip on reality.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • magnus

      i have a good grip on reality and truth is that religion is the root of all evil because adults teach their children to hate. hate this hate that. i have a very very good grip on reality. Here you go buddy (I have nothing against you, btw):

      http://wisesloth.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/how-christianity-was-largely-responsible-for-the-holocaust/

      that is only one example

      May 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Oh yes, a random blogger. That is a really good source there.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  14. Aardie

    I guess the spell checker wasn't working for "proeteges". This story is from yesterday and it is still not corrected.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  15. Dan

    Why do people continue to give money to these people?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • RJ

      Because of Fr. Kevin- our pastor... he is really nice!

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

      Do you give money to everyone that is nice?

      May 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  16. magnus

    hi everyone, what have I missed?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  17. mzladyfox

    Reblogged this on Lady Fox's WordPress and commented:
    Inner Power Struggles & even fighting over the next Pope appointment. Chaos is even in Religion. Is there truly ANY PEACE in this world today ? Is anything safe ?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Dana

      That was not worth reblogging.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • magnus

      nothing is safe so long as religion rules the world

      May 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  18. Dana

    There is nothing new here. Their whole business model is built on lies.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  19. Daniel Greco

    Anyone who continues to support or make excuses for that miserable bunch of racketeers is complicit in their crimes. This has been going on for centuries but people were afraid to stand up for fear of excommunication in the past. If anyone should be "cannonized" it should be the Pope's butler, before, not after he is boiled in oil by the popish stooges.

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

      Couldn't agree more!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  20. Nerfl

    You mean to tell me that there is human politics involved in the selection of a Pope, and not prayer, conscience and the guidance of The Holy Spirit? Well, I am shocked! Just SHOCKED!!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Next thing you know they'll be telling us Congress is corrupt, the sky is blue, and water is wet.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • catholic engineer

      Of course politics is involved. Karol Józef Wojtyła was the last person the Soviet Empire wanted in the papacy. But when Wojtyla was elected as Pope John Paul 2, it spelled the beginning of the end for that empire. Stalin had sarcastically asked "How many divisions has the pope?" Pope Pius XII responded, "Tell my son Josef that he will meet my legions in heaven."
      Something to remember: the Catholic Church always outlasts its enemies and is usually there to bury them.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      You're right the Catholic Church was usually around to do the burying as they were responsible for their needing buried in the first place. The Catholic Church will go away eventually. If you can't see the decline of the church, you are in a state of delusion.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
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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.