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. lunchbreaker

    Just like an episode of The Borgias.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  2. SherryF

    ....but.....but...... Are you saying that these mortal men are driven by greed for power???!!!! How can that be when they're supposedly chosen by a deity? What does the bible say about this, hmm?

    May 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm |


    May 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  4. Elias

    Religion is a baby boomer kind of crazy. Its fading away with them. In a generation the vatican will little more than a museum.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Elias

      edit: will be little more than a museum.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • just sayin

      The Catholic Church is a dying religion and on the decline. It has lost all integrity.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm |


      May 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • 2992

      I'm a catholic, 20 years old. Not a baby boomer:) Nice try though!

      May 30, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • Joseph

      They have been saying that for more then 2000 years now ... don't see the end of the Roman Catholic Church anytime soon!!

      May 30, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • crusader12

      One can only hope you are right!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  5. Elias

    In a cult there is one guy at the top who knows its a scam. In religion that guy has been dead a long time.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  6. ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

    All this is nothing new. Villot and Baggio murdered JP1.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  7. Mike

    The next pope will be Donald duck . What difference doe,s it make?

    May 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      It makes a great difference. Beginning in 1978, the election of Pope John Paul 2 set off a chain of events that brought down the Soviet Empire.

      THe pope also gives talentless, idealess Hollywood something to bash. Bashing the Church always works.
      It also gives the popes enemies a reason to enlessly yell "Irrelevant! Irrelevant !" (If this is irrelevance, what would relevance look like.)

      May 29, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • crusader12

      catholic engineeer – you are an idiot! Pope JPII did not bring down the soviet empire, jesus do christians ever need to pick up a history book they haven't forged. the ignorance is angering...

      May 30, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • tbrnotb

      catholic engineer needs to take a course in history! Keep drinking the kool-aid!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  8. Mike

    Just a bunch of rich people wearing robes. Who cares?

    May 29, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      They're not rich. They used other people's contributions to buy the dresses.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  9. Alien Orifice


    Let's see what you got kid, explain the following to me and you will be my hero:

    Ok, God is Jesus, Jesus is God. God wanted (needed?) to have a physical manifestation of himself on Earth and though he created the heavens and the Earth, Adam and Eve, he couldn't manage a “Jesus” so he knocked up a virgin by proxy who then gave birth to Himself and then he waited for himself to grow up so that he could preach the "truth" to those who would listen.

    Then he set up his own death (suicide) so that he could suffer on a pole to "die" (even thought he can't die) for the sins of all the many billions of people who would be born who had not yet committed any sins but for whom he has a plan and that plan includes sinning for some unknown reason so he needed to die for them. Then he becomes a ghost, takes a little trip to Hades to hang with the red guy and then he "rises" and walks about frightening people and then disappears after telling everyone he would return (an apparent lie) and never shows his face again.

    So my question would be, why?

    And I would offer up this counter possibility. Mary got knocked up by the blacksmith. Jesus was a cult leader. Jesus broke the law and was punished and died.

    May 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Mike

      Your easily impressed.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      Alien, you're shooting at the wrong target. What you need to do is figure out the master psychologist who invented Jesus, convincing thousands to be martyred, whether in Roman arenas or Gulags. Who has set billions of people over time wondering "Who do you say that I (Jesus) am?" The same psychologist who invented Jesus, sending throngs of atheists to the drugstore for Prozac. This same psychologist has caused Christians to await his return for 2000 years, and the atheists to spend 2000 years trying to get Jesus to go away.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Your NEED to see all that, and explain ALL that, in ONE simplistic explanationsuggests one might really NEED a psychologist. (The "master" part is your own se'xual peccadillo). 😉

      May 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • CJA

      That fact that many millions actually believe the first version of your story should tell us something about humans. What? I don't know. I think out brains evolved over billions of years and "logic" is just something that was added in the last few thousand years. We are not so good at logic as we think. Obviously.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Mike: Why do you say that?
      CE: Ask a simple question, get a complicated answer from someone the question wasn't intended for.

      The obvious simple answer is the story is so absurd if you try to answer it, you prove your utter lack of intelligence. I was just having a little fun with the weird sortakina person.

      May 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Joseph

      Just shows you understand absolutely nothing about Christianity. Try reading about the the Christian doctrine of the Trinity before inventing stories...


      May 30, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  10. wayne

    I don't trust the 3 p's police, politians and priests

    May 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Fidelio

      I'll give you $1 and you can phone someone who gives a damn about your p for problems!

      May 29, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Nico

      I don't trust people that aren't capable of spelling words such as "politicians"

      May 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  11. Answer

    "evil wins when you don't think it exists. You can do anything you want. Which is what you are doing."

    A lazy statement of pure ignorance on a real psychotic level. Go seek help for such stupid rantings.

    May 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I don't find his statement psychotic in the least. The first lie a liar will tell you is "I'm not lying"

      May 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  12. mr. butters

    I can't believe they are talking about an Italian pope. I remember when they were talking about who to choose to replace John Paul II, religious commentators were saying it's time to get someone from outside Europe to be pope. Considering the huge Catholic population outside of Europe, it was potentially alienating and harmful to the Catholic faith.

    I expected the next pope to be from outside Europe, but now I see them talking about going all the way back to Italy..

    May 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Colin

      I think it is time for an openly gay Pope.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Fidelio

      "People are saying the next Pope will be Italian......!" Grow up man, This commentator has heard a couple of Italians chatting and thought ot would be a good idea to take it out of context and make it look as though the Hierarchy are saying it.
      And YOU fell for it! I've got and underground Airline for sale.......!

      May 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      I think if the next Pope were a Gay Italian that would be alright.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Colin and Alien – when you have nothing useful to add it's easy to fall back on your favourite subject I suppose. Shame you both appear to be victims of the failed American education system – 29th in the world in Math [Duh] and 200th in moral values.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      (love yer opera man ... "the quartets are the apex of Western Civilization, (Leonard Bernstein), anyhoo, they already tried it once, (the opposite). Why do you think they thought a Pole was the answer to Villot-Luciani. The question is, ...is there enough wine and ar'senic left lying around.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • just sayin


      I think it is time for an openly gay Pope.

      I would think all the Alter Boys he has poked would already establish that?????????? Everybody knows that priests are gay...this is why they are priests.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      What is wrong with a Gay pope? How is being Gay a moral value? It simply is not and you can NEVER win that argument because it is catagorically incorrect.

      May 29, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  13. catholic engineer

    @Colin before an exorcism is ever considered, serious psychological testing on the "victim" is done on orders of the diocese involved. Consider the following from the Synod of Rheims in 1583. "The too credulous are often deceived...lunatics often declare themselves to be possessed and tormented by the devil; and these people nevertheless are far more in need of a doctor than an exorcist." What that means is that the church understood these things two hundred seventy-three years, that's 273 years, before the birth of Sigmond Freud. Colin, sarcasm is not the same as scholarship.

    May 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Colin

      "before an exorcism is ever considered, serious psychological testing on the "victim" is done on orders of the diocese involved."

      Are you even reading what you type? Before the church decides that an evil spirit is possessing somebody, they do a psychological test?? Dear god, man, devils don't exist. Ghosts, goblins, trolls, spectors, fairies etc. do not exist. This is crazy.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Thank you for your information for those who would rather not know, and revel in their ignorance.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Colin, evil wins when you don't think it exists. You can do anything you want. Which is what you are doing.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      We don't really imagine demons as the little red guys with pointed tails, horns, and so on. Colin possesses (no pun intended) intelligence. But there is such a thing as pure intelligence. It stands to reason that beings with pure intellegence could be malevalent.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Charlotte

      I dread to think how many have suffered/died at the hands of religious "exorcists" and similar. Witch burnings and inquisitions come to mind. It's beyond sad that anyone still clings to old superstitions such as what the Catholics have still got going on. Incredible, too.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Charlotte – you mean like the Salem witch trials? Where the witchfinder used his "job" to examine women intimately to satisfy his own lack of manhood?

      May 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Oh oh. "There's no such thing as 'pure intelligence' ". Sorry CE, you just refuted your deity. So sad, too bad.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • The Burning Heretic

      I have an inquisition: Were all the heretics that were burned alive for disagreeing with the church now considered saints?

      May 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • The Burning Heretic

      Did the Vatican "scientists" who carried out these rigorous psychological tests" ask Galileo why he thought the earth was not the center of the universe? Did they offer any alternative theories regarding the observed motion of the moons of Jupiter, for which Galileo was declared a heretic?

      May 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Richard

      I believe anyone that has seen the movie 'The Exorcist' in the last 40 years is aware of your revelation that the church first requires psych testing. Trying to sound bright by recitng common knowlege is rather self-defeating.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • atheistengineer

      Right – just like the church always knew that the earth was round

      May 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  14. just sayin

    Vatican's Chief Alter Director of Boys is the most sought position in the Catholic Church.

    May 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk


      how do you get a nun pregnant?

      dress her up like an altar boy.

      May 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Look up the word libel, so you know what you're doing.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Bleah

      Libel cannot be done from an anonymous comment section on the internet.
      Just like any judge that accepts an anonymous tip as justification for a warrant deserves to be disbarred.
      Study the law before you go flinging around words like "libel". And talk to a lawyer about it if you are too lazy to look things up.
      Send an email to one that you "trust" and see what kind of answer you get about "libel" in an anonymous blog.
      I can threaten you with death right here and it means nothing and is not illegal.
      I can say the Pope is a slimy piece of crap and it is true that he is exactly that – in my opinion, of course.
      The opinion of an anonymous person on the internet is not cause for legal action.
      If you weren't stupid you'd already know that.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • just sayin


      Look up the word libel, so you know what you're doing.


      I would insult you but I believe you truly are too stupid to insult.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • just sayin

      I wonder how many Alter Boys the Pope has had his way with?

      May 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      psst ..... "alter" means "to change", an altar, is what one does one's sacrifice on. Pardon me, I have to go slay the goat.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  15. Alien Orifice

    The Pope – the Holy Father himself – has this very day blessed Michael Corleone; and you think you know better than the Pope?

    May 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Bootyfunk


      May 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Andy23


      May 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Well ok then. Sorry Mikey, you should have never been pulled back in.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Oh, and don't go to the opera tonight....

      May 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  16. Alien Orifice

    I love his pretty dress. It just makes me think..........Jesus. Amen.

    May 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Your tag says a lot about you. Your sister must think you are very clever.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Please go on.......I don't really understand your statement.......

      May 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Fidelio

      If you don't understand the statement you shouldn't use the name and leave yourself open to ridicule!

      May 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Ridicule from who? I still don't understand the statement. My sister? My handle is a Frank Zappa song you morons.

      May 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  17. Colin

    "No less a figure than the Vatican's chief exorcist....."

    Any insti.tution that, in the 21st Century, has a "chief exorcist" to drive out evil spirits is not worth taking seriously. Do they also have a chief witchdoctor or principal raindancer?

    May 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      I don't think so Colin, but their lead Alto Sax player is a young lion who really cooks man.

      May 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • sam

      @Alien – LOL

      May 29, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Evil wins when you don't think it exists. You can do anything you want. Which is what you are doing.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Of course evil exists. I saw it in a red suit with horns, on Saturday Night Live.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  18. Bleah

    I dispute that "1.2 billion" number of adherents!
    Millions of Catholics have left the RCC, but they are never counted as a non-Catholic for just this sort of reason – to inflate their supposed numbers, to give the illusion of solid support, but I am convinced that they do not have such large numbers or even solid support.
    They are an international criminal organization.
    Playing musical chairs at the top doesn't change the fact that they are criminals who deserve to be executed for crimes against humanity!
    And Italy needs to lead the way or invite an outside agency to bust the Vatican wide open and arrest everyone inside.
    Anyone who wants some of that gold to help their struggling economy could certainly come out the other side with a considerable sum of money, gold, artifacts, records, etc., plus the thanks and admiration of the whole rest of the world!!

    May 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      I know some of these "millions" that have left. Most need only 3 minutes to tell everything they know about the church. Others have a mad on about something the priest said or did (Note, Bleah: 1% of priests perpetrated 80% of pedo cases. But you can adjust this number according to your needs.)

      May 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Bleah–are you the new Jeremiah? Prophetess here! Knows all ! Tells all!

      May 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • just sayin

      And 90% + of the Catholic leadership protected and supported the r a p ists.

      May 29, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  19. Rundvelt

    My question is, if they're so holy and what they do has a divine mandate, why are the papers hidden? Why isn't everything out in the open. Would Jesus approve of his Church keeping secrets from people? Absolutely not.

    May 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Since you need to know EVERYTHING, the Pope had an egg salad sandwich for lunch, and the Vatican sent out an order for pencils yesterday.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  20. Ecclesiastes 7:17

    With an organization that large..is it any surprise things like this happen?

    May 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
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