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. Convoluted

    too funny most people don't even realize that this religion is based on a fish god! the hat they wear is shaped like a fish head...jesus feed the people with 2 fish....check out the symbolism or check out Jordan Maxwell's page , he has done years of investigating on this issue follow the the literature and see where it leads...everyone gets on their knees for a FISH GOD lol

    May 30, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • crackedskull44

      I ahve a lakefront bridge to sell you..

      May 30, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Murder By Numbers

      A pagan god.
      The fish head that the pope wears on his head.
      And the Christian followers have no clue.

      May 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  2. chineselady

    dear catholics, your pension funds, home mortgages, and college funds are gone into Vatican Inc. accounts via wall street hedge funds such as goldman sachs. next sunday, whatever is left with you is expected to be handed over to your church.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  3. Nikki

    Just the tip of very large iceberg on what's been covered up through the years.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  4. JD

    Vatican City is nothing but a little country of mobsters with a puppet King. It needs to be abolished.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • honesty


      May 30, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  5. ObamaJoe

    They don't really believe in GOD,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,So obvious ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    Fake,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, religious people are slaves of fake religion,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Primewonk

      Your comma key is broken

      You're also an îdiot.

      Only one of these can be fixed.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  6. lolol

    YES! Expose these antichrist bas tar ds !!!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  7. jwcalla

    Seriously... this whole article is gossip. "So-and-so doesn't like this guy. Ohh this guy's got it out for that guy."

    Is this guy a priest or a writer for Hollywood soap operas?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  8. Wiley Thruster

    In the meantime Eric Holder and the IRS have set a meeting with Black pastors from around the nation to instruct them on how to campaign, in their churches, for Obama. Where is the "separation of church and state" outcry from the Left?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      lol, nice twisting of what is actually taking place. There is a faith leaders summit and Holder has been invited to speak to explain what the new voter registration laws are about and how the churches can help their congregations with that and how to do it without endangering their tax exempt status.
      Holder and IRS had nothing to do with calling or organizing it.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Feed Your Head

      Man, did you twist that story.
      You being paid by Faux news ?

      May 30, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Derigible

      CNN story – Little Cindy and her mom walked downtown for an ice cream.
      On the way they met a nice lady handing out President Obama pins, and the lady pinned one on little Cindy.

      Faux story – Today The Obama administration forced an Obama pin on a poor little girl just out
      for an ice cream. An "observer" noted that the poor little girl was crying.....

      You people need to grow up.

      May 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  9. marjee123

    There is so much money collected by the Catholic Church and that money is usually what is involved in all these scandals it tells the truth about what the Catholic Church is all about.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  10. clubschadenfreude

    how fun! But not as pretty as The Borgias. So much for the claims of how the Catholic Church has some magical deities ear.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  11. ObamaJoe

    Naiive,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,scandal is twin of power,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  12. Likeitis

    Lori- You can't seriously think that without religion there would be no peace. Religion is a major factor in wars throughout history. Religion is the reason for terror activities today. Religion brings no peace. It only serves as a means to divide people and/or cultures that have different beliefs. This results in conflict...not peace.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • justtruth

      This is what the communists have always said before they start throwing priests off of cliffs. You need to get a place in your life where you realize that people are people primarily and anything else secondarily. Being a catholic doesn't guarantee you won't sin. Being a powerful Catholic is no guarantee either. I'm amazed that people don't understand that. Exchange the word 'black' for every place you see 'catholic' and you'll see that bigotry is alive and well.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • marco

      agree 100%

      May 30, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  13. Realist

    Religion is, and has always been, about lying to the masses to remain in power and to retain control over said masses. As such, none of this should in any way be a surprise. Given the hapless minions seem to need their religious overlords.. we'll sadly be trapped in the misery caused by religion for the foreseeable future.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • andres

      As is lying and manipulating to retain power in government, business, and personal relationships, What is your point? Religions are imperfect because of the humans, not because of God.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • opnion

      How true!!!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • catholic engineer

      It's different with the enlightened ones like yourself, Realist. All one has to do is give you enough half-truths and you'll lie to yourself.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • I'm Realist too

      most people call us atheists, you know. We are in fact 'Realist'. We should explain to them the difference. An atheist draws argument with god and jesus, as a religionist would. A Realist understands that arguing those is just as silly as arguing the existence of Santa Clause.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  14. Rachel


    May 30, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  15. Honesty

    ..this couldn't be another planned deflection off the child abuse scandal, could it? The pope and bishops denied children, abused, needed help and instead protected the pedo and themselves first. New doc-u–m-ents revealed in Ca, indicate the church knew that abusing children was a priest recruitment effort. Many abused identify with their abusers and became priests. A similar do-cu-ment was found in S. America. In fact one priest wrote an internal doc-u-ment on how to pick up and traumatize small children. When will the world prosecute the pope and bishops for crimes against humanity, small children? Whern. In New York State we have identified over 1000 child abusing priests. One is a bishop in western, NY

    May 30, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • KC

      Source of your "facts"? What bishop in WNY is a pedophile?

      May 30, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  16. sv

    I think selection of pope and his fellows should be a different process. They should take applications. Then they should line up all of them and crucify them at the same time. The last guy to stand should be the pope and the rest can be the bishops..I think this process should become universal for all religious heads.
    Just like license renewal process, the have to go thru the same process every 3 years to be renewed.. Lets see who wants to signup

    May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • catholic engineer

      The same process would not be necessary when electing politicos. We already expect NOTHING from them. Run for office, sv. Maybe you'd be perfectly safe.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  17. jd

    Get a clue people! The Vatican is the oldest form of 'Organized Crime' that control the masses...

    May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • 900rr

      right on... how someone can follow this freaky clown. it's time for religion to die !

      May 30, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  18. wabob62

    The rch is corrupt from top to bottom, they coverd up child abuse by preist, financial corruption,and probaly a murder

    May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  19. answer is cold

    do you know how to keep a pope from drowning?

    take your foot off his head.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      Thats funny !!!

      May 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  20. sane

    I think selection of pope and his fellows should be a different process. They should take applications. Then they should line up all of them and crucify them at the same time. The last guy to stand should be the pope and the rest can be the bishops..I think this process should become universal for all religious heads.
    Just like license renewal process, the have to go thru the same process every 3 years to be renewed.. Lets see who wants to signup

    May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
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