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. Christian

    Man has created God in his own image.

    So long as religious cults exist (all of them man-made, to manipulate & control, religion=cult), man will never be free to grow spiritually, or simply just live ...as there will ALWAYS be someone teaching (forcing) us that we NEED a middle man in order to live a life in communion with ALL.

    Religious cults are ANTI-MAN and ANTI-LIFE.

    Peace & Love \m/

    July 13, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  2. elias godinez

    Is the time por a new cisma (breakdown) like after the first milenium, we see some more scandals due to the pie to share for "investors" claiming their part in the schem of "money laundering" ,that happens always between the mobs, is n't?

    June 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  3. slickteigkcmo

    And the attacks on earth angels, our beloved sisters/nuns, let us follow Jesus and not these human , men...... who are a mess. I am Catholic and so disappointed in the direction, lack of leadership, un Christ like behavior of these vatican "men", men of earth, I will follow the head of the church ( which is comprised of the people not a building or religion) and the leader is Jesus Christ, God who came in human form and died for all of us, but is not a man, not a fallible man, Jesus is the only leader for me , the one true leader of the church ( his people are the one true church and He is the head ) people let us down on so many levels, He will not. When the Catholic "leaders" go after our beloved, so Christ like sisters, that' is about all I can take any more...... they are so good, loving, caring, sharing, many in my family, they care for my elderly mom, look at Mother Theresa, etc, etc, etc. How dare they attack our wonderful sisters who are so "good" in so many ways, oh Vatican what have you done, shame, shame.

    June 6, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, get a grip, Priscila.

      June 6, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 1, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 4, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • slickteigkcmo

      God is real, hope. without him there is no reason to stay in this difficult life, nothing to believe in , I'd check out.... but with Him there is always purpose and hope, thanks be to God!

      June 6, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  5. maytim

    So sad for Catholic and Pope

    May 31, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  6. derp

    Looks like Pope Adolf has his hands full

    May 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  7. Reality

    The RCC continues on its slippery slope to oblivion as do all religions because of their flawed theologies and histories.

    A review of RCC's slippery slope:


    Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!


    May 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Blah, blah... blah! Get over yourself. Catholic Church will be here till the end my friend.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • derp

      "Catholic Church will be here till the end my friend"

      End of what?

      Next month?

      May 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Reality

      "If ex-Catholics were counted as their own religious group, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists, according to the National Catholic Reporter."

      May 31, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  8. Father Francis

    Father Francis is going to bed.
    Just wanted to leave you with a story my children.
    The night after Jesus and Mary Magdalene where married,
    Simon threw up from drinking too much.
    Judas was last seen running in the meadow chasing a goat.
    And Peter and Thomas slept together in the barn.
    Its all in the family people.

    May 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Total moron.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • just sayin

      You forgot Jesus "loving" children.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  9. Spitzy

    I think it is time they appoint a woman with an MBA, probably a nun, to the position of secretary of state. She will be able to knock heads and get the vatican back to what it should be. That is doing the work of Jesus Christ: feed the hungry, cloth the poor, take care of those in need, and live by the golden rule "love they neighbor as thy self" and do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    May 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Sue

      The Catholic hierarchy will never take orders from a woman.

      May 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Spitz, you know zero about the Catholic Church. Might as well tell a brain surgeon where to cut.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  10. Hawk in Texas

    It was said not too long ago that if the truth about the catholic church was to be told , then the catholic church would cease to exist. Oh! and by the way suziecoyote. the wily coyote is also known as the trickster by native americans,

    May 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Sue

      And if the "truth" were told about any of the other denominations, or of Christianity's core beliefs, do you think anyone would continue to call themselves a Christian anymore?

      May 30, 2012 at 6:20 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.