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. nibiro

    everyday mingada ...

    May 30, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      anti-brain wash movement ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  2. Phillip Anthony Biondo

    I am the rebirth of Jesus Christ. Vote Phillip Anthony Biondo for President 2012 of the Fraternity Party! Brandon Gilligan USN for VP. Free College like k-12. Free Healthcare. All safe drugs, as determined by doctors, prescription and illegal will be legal. Invest in Intel and Amg: Superhuman computer making even smarter superhuman computer designing fusion spaceship. God of the Universe, colonate the Milky Way. Homeless shelters, raman noodles, and a multivitamin for the poor. Environmentally intelligent policy, Big Bang in Physics, Evolution in Biology, Strong Military, Technological Singularity in 2045. Alcohol is a fuel and tobacco is the opposite of green tea, go to the psychiatrist they will remain legal use at your own risk. I'm suing the U.S. government for Violation of freedom of Religion for sacred medicine as illegal actually causes depression as a result from being illegal. Cannabis, dmt, peyote, and psilocybin mushrooms do not qualify as schedule 1. Any intelligent human knows we are Sapiens, a species of Ape closely related to Chimpanzees. Everyone go Meditate in full lotus. JGA: No one can use nuclear weapons. Do the zombies know they are uh magical apes?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Are you born by a Virgin??????

      May 30, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  3. Mike

    "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,"

    Hmmm, so tell me again how the Vatican isn't just like any other soul less money grubbing corporation?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      wrong,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,not all guys in Vatican are bad,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,just like Buffet is a good Wall Street guy .

      May 30, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • mike

      It's worse than a modern corporation. Take a tour of the place sometime (and of other spots in Rome). Just about everything there is ill-gotten. Even the pavement tiles in St. Peter's Square were plundered from elsewhere in Rome.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • mike

      ObamaJoe, the very existence of the Vatican facilities are anti-Christian.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  4. ObamaJoe

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,It could affect who becomes the next pope.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    wow,,,that's the key !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I wish Vatican will have a Kanya POPe,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  5. mike

    This is all CLEARLY what Jesus had in mind: a bunch of wealthy old fools living in a gigantic mansion full of stolen property bickering over who gets a promotion.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Mr. Pope

      We are speaking the word of God my child. Bless you for you have sinned

      May 30, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  6. Danman

    The pope thinks he's got more power than God. He changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. God remembers the right day.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Bob

      Well, as evil as he and his cadre and his religion are, the pope actually does have more power than god:

      The pope exists; god doesn't exist.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Stercus Tauri

      Establishing the Christian sabbath on Sunday was done by the early church to win converts from Judaism; it allowed Jews to adhere to the Mosaic law(s) and yet embrace Christianity. The same thing applied to setting Christmas in December; the Romans already celebrated Saturnalia in December. Many scholars contend that Christ was born in the summer months. Saturnalia was a secular cel;ebration in which the social order was inverted, temporarily. The church was trying to attract Romans; piggybacking the celebration of Christmas on Saturnalia was done to facilitate conversion to Christianity..

      May 30, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • nutcase

      The pope did not change the Sabbath. Get your facts right before making stupid comments.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  7. some

    Religion creates a different kind of racism or prejudice. Its a division between humans. MLK should have not only supported color division but all divisions. Democrats vs. Republican, Christian vs. Muslim, Black vs. White. All are forms of prejudice.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Duke5343

      Funy how CNN and ohter majors WONT Tell you Liberal Maroons of the 48 Lawsuites againt OBAMA for forcing them to provide USSRG birth control BUT THEY can did up trash on ANYONE against the Great Leader of the 57 States – MORE mud slinging Bull S from CNN for the Great Imposter Amature at 1600

      May 30, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Bob

      Get back on your meds, Duke.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      funny duke but i read about the lawsuits on CNN, ah well.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Stercus Tauri

      I disagree that race, religion, and politics are all forms of prejudice; rather, they are forms of segregation in that they ivide people. Prejudice is the passing of judgement before knowing the facts. Prejudice has become mistakenly synonomous with segregation because people have shown a tendence judge others on the basis of superficial characteristics rather than the content of their character [please forgive me for plagiarizing Dr. Martin Luther King].

      May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      How can you tell a drunken racist redneck ?

      Funy how CNN and ohter majors
      48 Lawsuites againt
      THEY can did up trash ....................................

      Its all in the education folks.

      May 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  8. soundsfishie

    such and outdated concept...really does anyone actually believe his job is relevant to modern people?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • gwunderlich

      1.2 BILLION people seem to think there is quite a bit of relevance to them.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  9. oldguy

    I can visualize Jesus just shaking his head

    May 30, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Jesus ???????NO,,,they don't believe in Jesus,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,do they ???????

      May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  10. sosurprised

    shocked, shocked i tell you.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      call 911,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  11. Jesse L

    Quick someone call Tom Hanks!!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      why ????????

      May 30, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  12. I'm Realist too

    Was watching the Hatfields and McCoys on the History channel last night. Reminded me of muslims and christians.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      Republicans and Democrats.

      May 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  13. lolol

    Alberto Rivera has exposed the Vatican/Jesuits and they killed him.
    you should check it out.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • mike

      Are you talking about those comic books that Jack Chick puts out?

      May 30, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • lolol

      no there is a 2 hours interview on youtube

      May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  14. ObamaJoe

    Vatican,,,,,,,,,,,it's OK,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,a better than Bain,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  15. Sussay

    Who cares who the next chief nut in the nut house is?

    May 30, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Wrong,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,get involved,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,that's the only way to found a better world,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  16. I'm Realist too

    Let me get this straight.. the pope, who wears a dress, ruby red shoes and ruby red hat.. thinks being gay is wrong? Now if that just isn't silly..

    May 30, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      tap your heels together 3 times and say 'theres no place like Rome, theres no place like Rome'

      May 30, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  17. just the facts

    The US Civil War..war between the states, 600,000 to 900,000 died, but sides were praying to the same God...for what ? and we claim to be Christians..

    May 30, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      in most wars both sides claim to be worshipping the same god.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • nutcase

      All the current wars including Israel and the rest of the middle east pray to the same God.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  18. chineselady

    turd blossoms tend to attract flies.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  19. ObamaJoe

    Human beings need wisdom,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  20. Andrew

    The Vatican. Discrediting organized religion on a daily basis and defaming ones own religious beliefs and moral values.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:43 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.