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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. boehnersux

    The Catholic church is more evil and dangerous than Al Qaeda could ever be. It would be best if it were completely destroyed.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Aloi

      This is a big joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Come on,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they don't cut off your nose,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  2. Jo

    Rotten to the core!! Read books by Dr. Matthew Fox..he was de flocked because of his writings about the goodness of humanity. Read Original Blessing!!!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  3. boehnersux

    Rick Santorum is available, he's perfect, and knows everything....at least he said he did.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      joke ????????

      May 30, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Joe

      THAT is hilarious!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • boehnersux

      Of course its a joke, I have nothing but disdain for Rick Santorum and the Catholic church.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • wobbles

      Or Obama, but he might not want to settle for just being pope since he already thinks he's God. He might consider it a demotion.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Frank

      God also told him to run for president. I guess he just likes fucking with him and the other losers who he also told to run for president.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Doobie Wah

      I read this from another poster, and still think its funny.

      According to
      Michelle Bachman
      Rick Perry and
      Herman Cain...

      God told them that they should run for president....
      Guess that god is messing with somebody.

      May 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  4. Solitairedog

    When the article quoted " the Vatican's chief exorcist", I turned around and walked out of the room. If thinking adults want to believe this stuff, no intelligent discussion is possible.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • crackedskull44

      Same thing happens to me when I see artists interpretations of galaxies 25 million light years away scientists say exists which we cant physically see..

      May 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Fearless Freep


      Have you gotten medical treatment for your skull yet ?

      May 30, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  5. Larry L

    Men wrote the Bible and created positions of power to control people at every level of society. The ritual and process has grown into a ridiculous spectacle of costumes, bells, smoke and symbolism. The endless lists of saints and saints-to-be simply continues the myth. Confessions to a man behind a screen, a man who often has his own "issues", are yet another means to control the population. Catholotics are now worse than other religions – but certainly no better. It's all mythology created by men and perpetuated to retain control.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Bob

      Bingo. We have a winner. Larry L is absolutely correct.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • PaganObservation

      The same could be said about government. Are you suggesting total anarchy?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Wrong,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you don't know what is man ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Jo

      You got it!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • IvaPinion

      You hit the nail on the head! In fact, the Catholic Church was founded to serve as a government.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • markishere

      Larry L has swayed the hearts of other bigots here

      May 30, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • What

      You are my idol, You are absolutely CORRECT. OMG, I just found someone with a mornal mind

      May 30, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  6. Dukeajuke

    "Chief Exorcist" lol. The Catholic church is in decline. And I applaud anything that hastens it's demise (and all organized religion).

    May 30, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      yeah, be a Mormon ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • markishere

      I applaud the possibility of your proper usage of grammar someday.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  7. Nicholas

    Nice diversionary tactic CNN... what was yesterday's big news? Oh yea... Donald Trump discussing the location of Obama's birth? Today...an article about a city state (important nonetheless) thousands of miles away? Let's talk about the failing economy. Does the Obama Administration provide your talking points?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      There are hundreds and hundreds of storys on CNN,
      but you chose to complain about this one.
      Are you one of those children that are never happy unless
      everything in life is catered to you ?
      That is pretty selfish.

      May 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  8. brasicano

    if anyone here thinks the world is messed up because of religion and to a certain degree I think so too, but you’d not want to imagine the world without it. Religion is a necessary evil, while some of us may know our boundaries, the majority of humans do not know it, that’s when religions come into play and in my opinion it only serves as social controller, it serves as a balancer and balance is the key in our lives. Just believe, you are much better off by seeing praying houses around your neighborhood and throughout the world, the day that they all are to be demolished, it will be the end of human civilization.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Kafkawasright

      Are you out of your mind?? Religion has led to major conflict and strife – ESPECIALLY the Catholic Church. Crusades, the inquisition, pedophile priests, etc. etc.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • brasicano


      Catholicism isn't anywhere near perfection nor any other faith. What I said here is that it would be a lot worse if it wasn't for Catholicism and all the other religions and/or faith.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • GMavros

      99% of Christian followers are not believers, the say they are & go to church just to show & prove their goodness.
      It is the Theater of the Absurd.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      Every civilization needs to grow.
      We may have needed religion in the past,
      but religion is now holding this species back.

      You have a catholic living in luxery in New York voting peoples rights away.
      You have an Islamist in Afganistan poisoning school girls for learning.

      We are not moving forward.
      It is insane to do the same thing over and over and over...
      and expect different results.

      Time to remove religion from planet earth.

      May 30, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  9. Dan

    What a sad, sad anachronism of a dying religion. May it go into the obscurity of the ages without causing any more harm than it already has.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Bob

      Digg up +1000 Dan.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • markishere

      Dying religion? Get your head out of your bigot ass and do some research.

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



      What's that stink brown stuff on your head?

      May 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      Please take the Republican party with it.

      May 30, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  10. Aloi

    I will always be a Catholic. Even if I have to go to hell, I will go to hell as a Catholic. Full Stop.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Don't say that,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,it's not that easy to go to hell,,,,,,,,,,,pat pat,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Howard

      Aloi, from where I sit, it looks like being a Catholic is already Hell itself. At a minimum, it's a major embarrassment.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Don't listen to Satan,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,true belief is a great experience,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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

      Deus vult.

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

      That's it!!!! I feel at home no where else but only in the Catholic Church....

      May 30, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Aloi

      Many churches attack the Pope and his position and yet many churches have been endlessly divided over the position to be the Boss. Who is the dictator in fact??? CNN!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      Enjoy the ride.

      May 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  11. ObamaJoe

    Vatican is not perfect,,,,,,,,,,,But overall it's good for the world,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,period,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • gerald

      Amen. Noone considers the great good done in the Catholic Church. The orgainization is needed to keep it all together. There is corruption because the Church is made up of sinners. Even the Pope goes to confession, weekly I am told. We are all sinners but God works through the Church anyway.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Sounds good to me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      Not perfect ,,,,,,,,,,,,but still,,,,,,,,,,,,,a good tool,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Argonaut

      @obamajoe – there's one born every minute....looks like you were that one.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      What's your native language ????????????

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

      Gerald, I just love it when someone says "God works through the church," or words to that effect. In my catechism, I was taught that God gave man free will. If that's true, how could God possibly try to influence human behavior without admitting that giving humans free will was a mistake? But God doesn't make mistakes, does he?

      So which is it? The catechism was wrong? God was wrong? Or you're wrong?

      Have fun with this one.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Takali


      Replace "God" with "parent", and perhaps you will understand.

      A parent makes a child, yes? That child has free will, yes? The parent should therefore ignore the child, and not provide any sort of guidance, according to your reasoning.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "A parent makes a child, yes? That child has free will, yes? The parent should therefore ignore the child, and not provide any sort of guidance, according to your reasoning."

      you are a pretty poor parent if you punish your kid with eternal damnation for disobeying you.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Frank

      Sure, our pedophile infested cult rapes tens of thousands of children, prevents birth control causing misery the world over, slaughter millions of people but golly, have you seen what we're doing down at the soup kitchen!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Derigible

      ***Amen. Noone considers the great good done in the Catholic Church.....

      The great "good" has been done by those who follow Jesus and his teachings.
      The Church itself has been nothing but a tool for world domination.
      Murder, wars, starvation and misery..... and making money.

      If the church died, those people who follow "Jesus" would still be here doing good.
      You dont seem to understand the difference.

      Jesus said, your way to God is through your heart.
      So why do we need the church ?

      Jesus did NOT need a church.
      Jesus threw the money lenders out of the temple,
      Now the money lenders "own" the temple.

      You spend time defending the church, but ignore the teachings of Jesus.
      How sad for you.

      May 30, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  12. ObamaJoe

    But without Vatican ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,will this world become better or worse ??????????????????????

    May 30, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Lewis Keseberg

      I'll vote for neither

      May 30, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • brasicano

      Worse, without any question.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Wrong,,,,,,,,,,,,,without Vatican,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,there will be much more severely conservative sinner ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Freedom

      When the people learn to think for themselves instead of yet another corrupted system telling them what to think, we'll all be better off...
      All you brainwashed robots out there will have nothing to pray to soon unless you choose another (better) deity. Enjoy suckers

      May 30, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Takali


      Yes, we must all free ourselves so that we have the freedom to think exactly like you.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • One World

      If you have God in your heart,
      you dont need a church.

      May 30, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  13. CJ

    I went to Catholic school and was not abused and non of my friends were abused. I was an Alter-Boy and grew up learning about how to be a good Christian. Growing up in Philadelphia we felt fortunate to have an opportunity to go to Catholic school. There are bad seeds in the Catholic church but I believe that the church as a whole is good.

    CNN likes to write articles that make the Catholic church look as bad as possible. Do they write articles about the food Catholic Charities provide to those staving to death? There are many special people in the Church that have made the world a better place.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Lewis Keseberg

      So, because not all preists are pedophiles, CNN shouldn't report news? Dude, get over yourself. Maybe lay off the jesus-meat, it seems to be affecting your brain chemistry.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Definitely,,,,,,,,,,,CNN wants power too,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Frank

      You should read the book "God is not Great" by Richard Hichens. I too grew up in a strong religious environment so I share with you the many good things that organized religion does. However, in reading the book it truly gives you a whole new perspective on religion on the part it has played over the past centuries.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      God is Great.Stupid human don't realize they are not their physical body,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      May 30, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • gerald

      Christopher Hitchens is not great.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Bob

      Christopher Hitchens was a great writer and debater. Even those who disagreed with his viewpoints recognized that much.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • gerald

      Lewis – the problem is that is ALL CNN reports on. They don't or rarely if ever report on the great good. They report on the 10% that is bad and ignore the 90% that is good. Noone has a clue that the CC is the biggest private provider of healthcare, housing, food, clothing, etc. etc. in the world.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • TR6

      “There are many special people in the Church that have made the world a better place.”

      There are many special people outside of the Church that have made the world a better place. Church is not the determining factor

      May 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • One World

      Most of the stories CNN post are picked up from other news sources.
      CNN is a business and they post stories that will gather interest (internet hits).
      There is also this little piece of information....

      If you dont like the message, its easy to shoot the messenger.
      How about this, if you dont do anything bad, you wont make the news ?

      You hate CNN because it reports something bad about the vatican.
      I like all news, so i can read and determine for myself if, and how, it affects me, and my world.

      People only seem to want to hear news that makes them feel better.

      An Obama hater, would love to read a story that says he has done something wrong.
      A Christian would get mad, because a story was posted about something bad in the vatican.

      A smart human being, would read the story, and depending on the information, make an intelligent conclusion,
      or seek other sources of information.

      Most people do "NOT" do this.
      They come here with pre-concieved notions,
      and only want to find other people with the same notions to make them feel better.

      Its comforting, but it is not realistic.
      I am sorry for saying this, but Christians and Republicans are both guilty of this problem.

      Why did i say that ?
      Jesus was a liberal, in every way possible.
      Yet, today liberals are scorned and vilified by Christians and Republicans.

      If Jesus did come back today, Christians would scorn him, and the Republican party would throw him in jail
      for being a liberal sandle wearing non comformist hippie.

      The religion has been hijacked.
      The "hippies from the late 60's had it right.
      Peace, love, and understanding.

      May 30, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  14. PaganObservation

    If the Pope is supposed to be the "voice of God" on earth, then let God choose. Seems to me that all the political power plays and the dirty undermining of those currently in positions of merit would be against "God's Will." Obviously something is amiss if those, who supposedly perform "God's Will," are not unanimous in any decision. Really makes the Catholic Church look incompetent, hypocritical, and false; an appearance that I am sure they really can't afford to have.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  15. JW

    Christian Mafia.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  16. LUZ

    That's one of the reason i do not believe in organized religion and i am proud of it.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • ObamaJoe


      May 30, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • gerald

      Luz – That same corruption that is goind on is in you. In your heart but you don't see it. You think yours doesn't stink. It does. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • One World

      *** gerald

      Luz – That same corruption that is goind on is in you. In your heart but you don't see it. You think yours doesn't stink. It does. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.

      Whoa !!!
      Sin is a Christian concept, and even they cant make up there freaking minds.
      I am told that i am born with sin.
      Then they tell me that "Jesus" died for my sins.

      Get back to me when you make up your minds,
      you cant have it both ways.

      Religious garbage.

      May 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  17. KC

    Oh chineselady– you are awfully smug! You should look at China's record on human rights abuses before you attack other people!

    May 30, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  18. Dot

    There should be a Council of Laity in each country to review policies and give suggestions to that country's Catholic hierachy and also at the Vatican to review policies. Should be outside audit of finances with 1/3 new members each year that have been trained in audits.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Jim in PA

      Agreed. The leity is the backbone and the conscience of the Catholic Church. Yet the Vatican continues cruising along, oblivious to the fact that it is the root of the problem.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • One World

      Didnt the Republican Christians say they wanted less government ?

      May 30, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  19. shoos

    The whole mess is kind of sad. There are a lot of good people doing good things based on their religious views, even Catholics. You can downplay people's faith, it's not the point. The heirachy that guides and continues the basis of being good are floundering. It will shake a lot of people's faith and faith is a good thing in a world that can be so humanly cruel.

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

      This. Exactly right. I'm not religious by any means, but do agree that it's not the religion that makes people do stupid things, but the leaders of it that guide people for their own personal power or opinions ...most of which are judgmental and create greater ill will than solves.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  20. Lewis Keseberg

    They all just need to sit down and imbibe in some Jesus-blood to get over their issues.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I am not skilled to understand
      What God has willed what God has planned
      I only know at his right hand
      Stands one who is my Savior

      I take HIm at His word and deed
      Christ died to save me this I read
      And in my heart I find a need
      For Him to be my Savior

      That he would leave His place on High
      And come for sinful men to die
      You count it strange so once did I
      Before I knew my Savior

      May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
About this blog

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.