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. Bible just a theory

    What do you expect from a SE##UALLY FRUSTRATED SECRET MALE bureaucracy? They have nothing better to do than enjoy their plots and intriques and conspiracies!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  2. Phil

    Trump for Pope.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Fly Swatter

      I trump your pope and raise you a vicar

      May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Monty Python

      I will raise you 2 bishops
      3 nuns and an alter boy.

      May 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  3. David

    It's not a religion. It's the largest tax exempt organization in the world.

    Two mafias in Itally. One is headed by this thing they call a "Pope".

    May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  4. Truefax

    The church is showing it's true colors, and it's making South Park seem like an oracle.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  5. Rocky

    A long time ago, I left this dysfunctional, power hungry, greedy organization for a more Gospel based church. It is difficult for anyone to look at the Vatican and to in anyway believe that this is the church that Jesus Christ envisioned. It had disintegrated into a group of angry, crotchety old celibate men fighting one another for power. Power struggles is the main reason Christianity is so fragmented into different groups. These men have read the gospels, but have never followed them. The Roman Catholic Church is the most corrupt, disorganized, and destructive organizations on earth. Many have realized it and have left.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • mike

      Even the apostles weren't immune to this. Every notice how the Gospel writers tried to make Peter out to be a buffoon even though his letters are very articulate and thoughtful? Also, the son's of Zebedee tried to prod the Lord into letting them sit at his right and left in Heaven. Man will always fall short of God.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • CJ

      If you want to hate the Catholic church that is your right but keep in mind that this article is biased and does not represent the entire Catholic Church as a whole.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Fly Swatter

      "The ways of this world are not God's ways." Religions of the world is not the religion of God. God loves not the worldly but rather, God loves those who want no part of this world's ways.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  6. Tex71

    For an infallible, perfect agent of God, this guy sure seems to have a lot of issues.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  7. Child of (Project) Apollo

    Why did God go to the trouble of creating the Devil anyway? Isn't pulling ourselves up from the muck with no direct guidance for the last 2000 years hard enough? God either cannot control the Devil or chooses not to. Hence the need for a former Chief Exorcist to counsel us on the evils of yoga and Harry Potter. Google it if you don't believe me.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • mike

      God didn't create a devil. He created angels–a third of which rebelled against him. The one you call the devil is the leader of the rebellion. God his controlling him, but his timeline is much longer than ours. From our perspective, the process unfolds though out millennia, not in what we would perceive as an instant.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Child of (Project) Apollo

      Dear Mike, God created everything so God created the angel that would become the devil, period. God knew this would happen, otherwise, his intelligence is severely limited. Directly or indirectly, God created and continues to tolerate evil to this very day because it suits Him. It sounds like we are pawns and no better than lab rats under this misguided theory.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      *** God didn't create a devil. He created angels–a third of which rebelled against him.

      1) Must have been a good reason to rebel.
      2) If God is so powerfull why didnt he just destroy them ?
      3) If God chose to not destroy them, what is his reason ?

      Sounds like God is not so perfect after all.
      (PS...you can find the same story in the Anunakki, but i guess its easier to
      believe in invisible sky gods than in aliens.)

      May 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  8. serena Ali

    With no disrespect meant, the Catholics actually believe that the holy spirit picks the next pope!. It is all smoke and mirrors. On the larger scale, Christians would believe Moses as son of God, or God if the Bible said so. It is all about unquestioning faith in something written by humans – all because there is a statement in there that says 'all inspired word is from God'. Let us stop enslaving ourselves. I know God's greatest gift to mankind is freedom, but God has also given us brains.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Tex71

      Ssssshhh! Don't tell! They might start thinking for themselves!

      May 30, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  9. Bill

    What's news about this nonsense! The Catholic church has been hoodwinking people for centuries....from selling indulgences to covering for their priest/pedophiles and not allowing criminal prosecution. An exorsist? What next ? They need a thorough investigation for all sorts of shady back-room stuff arund the world!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  10. Fly Swatter

    Shut the lid please! Drawing too meny flies!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  11. crusader12

    It is a joke the church still exists, I cannot believe neither Hitler nor Napoleon had the courage to erase this scourge of human intellect when they had the chance...shame

    May 30, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  12. Pete W

    IMPEACH the Pope! The whole top of the hierarchy has demonstrated complete managerial, fiscal, and ethical incompetence and needs to resign and be replaced. In the meantime, responsible Catholics should withhold all funding for the Church until things change. (Give to charity instead.) Why buy more property to be controlled by the useless hierarchy in Rome? How about some transparency as to where our money actually goes? Do we really need a large staff to enforce orthodoxy, or take years to decide upon petty liturgical questions as bowing before communion or minor wording changes to Mass? Let alone those who come up with pathetic illogical "theology" in support of ridiculous stances such as banning birth control?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  13. Josh

    So, they want the next pope to be one with management skills and experience; a CEO type. And have experience in running an organization with millions of members.

    They want Mark Zuckerberg, no?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Greenpoint


      May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • serena Ali

      What if the holy spirit does not want a CEO? Too bad, let the finances go in the hole.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  14. chefdugan

    The only thing the catholic church suffers from is its very existence. It should be abolished, along with its dress-wearing leader and his host of child abusers. What an abomination@!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  15. Ted Davenport

    Benny's butler was going to pick the next pope???

    May 30, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  16. sonofgadfly

    Can't we just stop having popes? Can't the church just give all its wealth to to poor, and then go quietly practice what they preach?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Greenpoint


      May 30, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • mike

      They only have a few billion dollars, which sounds like a lot, but not really. If it was given to the poor, it would be gone and spent in a matter of hours. The thing is wealth generates wealth, which can be used to help the poor indefinitely, which despite all their faults, they do help the poor.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  17. FW,NiD

    "No less a figure than the Vatican's chief exorcist"... Wonder what the chief astrologer and assistant-chief alchemist have to say about this.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      dont forget the assistant-chief hobgoblin handler and window washer.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  18. just my 2 cents

    there is always bad apples in every organization.
    Even Judas who saw Jesus performed many miracles, raised Lazarus from death betrayed him.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Smoke N Mirrors

      Judas was not a traitor.
      Judas was very close to Jesus.
      Judas did what was expected of him.
      Jesus was supposed to die on the cross.
      How could this happen, if nobody turned him in ?
      That was Judas' job.

      The Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Mary (Magalene)
      have been found.
      The church rejected both as frauds because they fear people may learn the truth
      about what really happened back then.
      The version of "Jesus" being peddled by the church is false.

      Judas was not a traitor.
      Mary Magdalene was not a harlot.

      The truth about the church is this....
      Jesus said your way to god is through your heart.
      The church says your way to god is through the church.
      And the money plate.

      May 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  19. Lori

    Marc – Since you're an obvious atheist you should partake no involvement with this article or your opinions with religion. Without religion, there would be no peace. I say, the world would be a better place without people like YOU who have no valid argument.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • chefdugan

      Without religion about 50 million people would be alive that were killed by that abomination you like so much.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • XxMacleodxX

      hahahahaha....sorry needed that to get my morning started.....love your sarcasm...at least I hope it is as you should realize that 99% of every war (and I am giving them some leeway) is all on the backs of some religion.........if you are not being sarcastic then you realize the pure amount of hate coming from yourself at just one person...you even go as far as wishing death on someone that does not agree with you or your religion....hypocrite much?

      May 30, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • kman821

      And YOU have a "valid argument" you silly girl???

      May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Mick Steffens

      You truly are an idiot. Religion has been the reason for the most wars and deaths in the history of the world. Get a grip girl and pick up a history book.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Bert

      Without religion, there would be no war.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Thegoodman

      Religion is peace say? How about every person in New York who died at the hands of a few Muslims sacrificing their lives for their Allah.

      Literally millions of people have died in the name of religion. Suicide bombers die almost weekly because of their religion. The Christian Right in America supports wars that kill hundreds of thousands of non-Christians and feel justified because of their "god".

      Religion is the bane of our existence. The day we have no religion will be the day when we finally have peace. The Vatican is tyrannical and obsolete, it will fall just as all tyrants fall. The Abrahamic religions will go the way of the Greek and Norse gods soon enough, and good riddance.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • ZCarter

      Yes, because religion brings people together, not apart. Religion has never been the cause for a war...

      May 30, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Pheadrus

      Thank you Lori... That post of yours was wrong on so many levels that I have archived it in my 'inane comments by the religious' file. Trust me... it will be used as an example time and time again.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • pastapharian

      Lori: Please tell me you don't breed.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  20. cnnlicksit

    The church is the oldest, richest, and most corrupt government ever to exist. If there is a God I'm sure it is nothing like the Church says. And by the way this is all religion that is corrupt and evil, Judaism, Muslims, etc... all!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Tx PET

      Amen, brother.

      Kudos to their education and literacy programs.
      Shame on them for the spectacle and endless scandals!

      Shed some light on the church. DEMAND EQUALITY AND TRANSPARENCY !

      May 30, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • serena Ali

      All the worlds religions have been corrupted beyond recognition. The only message preached by Abraham and the prophets who followed him was that we shall worship only the one God, and forget about the humans like Moses, Jesus, Mary, Muhammad, Buddha et all.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:29 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.