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. Victor

    The Catholic church has taught me to follow Jesus just like his apostles followed him. We don't follow men, We follow Jesus. The teachings of my church are greater than CNN's or any atheist's attempt to sensationalize every dumb story. The attacks on the church are big BUT there is nobody or anything bigger than GOD. The church has withstood worse in its over 2,000 year history. God is perfect and true to his word. "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, AND THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT (Matt. 16:18)"

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

      Contrary to what sheeple Catholics believe ... the Church is NOT God!
      Your statement highlights the biggest problem with this form of organized religion ...

      May 30, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Freedom

      I dont know...Johnny Holmes was at least as big as the sky wizard...except the load he shot was more believable

      May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Victor

      @Ivapinion – sorry! I'm a true Catholic. Not a Sunday mass catholic. I live my faith. Unfortunately that is not the case for people like you who go to mass for 1 hour a week but listen to the sermon from the devil at home, work, the streets, for hours and hours every day.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • closet atheist

      Victor... easy on the fire and brimstone... you're going to give yourself an aneurism. And, contrary to your likely belief, you can't pray yourself out of that one.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  2. Woody

    Its about time the truth be known .

    May 30, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  3. IvaPinion

    I was raised Catholic, went to private school, attended Mass twice weekly and then continued on to teach CCD at my local church. I can't deny that my RELIGIOUS upbringing helped make me the person I am today. That said, I am also intelligent and have used my God-given intellect to come to the understanding that the Catholic Church – a.k.a. the Vatican – is as holy as a large American corporation that views philanthropy as a means to a desired taxable status. The Catholic Church is not synonymous with religion or holiness ... it's a ruse!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Victor


      My child, do not forget my teaching, let your heart keep my principles,

      2 since they will increase your length of days, your years of life and your well-being.

      3 Let faithful love and constancy never leave you: tie them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

      4 Thus you will find favour and success in the sight of God and of people.

      5 Trust wholeheartedly in Yahweh, put no faith in your own perception;

      6 acknowledge him in every course you take, and he will see that your paths are smooth.

      7 Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom, fear Yahweh and turn your back on evil:

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

      Welcome to reality, all of religon is nothing more than a politics. Religon is just a crutch of the weak and a tool of the powerful, nothing more.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • BOBBY

      WELL SAID!!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Savatage

      *** Victor


      8 – WHIPE YOUR BUTT.

      May 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  4. Greenspam

    Church is more interested in playing politics and hiding crimes than serving God.. sounds just like right-wing Republicans here.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:19 am |

      At the very heart of the Church there still is alot of good.Nothing built by Christ is evil but its being run by men.Men who dont always have Christos or Christ in mind.The POPE and the Bishops and cardinals must be reminded that their positions are just that positions.Those seats do not belong to them.They can and should be replaced if they are not doing right.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |

    If the Church is trully universal should not it be possible to pick a Pope outside of Rome and the rest of Europe.The NEXT POPE should be a peoples pope.Some one outside the politics and more devoted to Christ and his church.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Heretic

      Yes... A people's pope... from a people's court... Judge Wapner!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • BOBBY

      stop feeding us religious dogma...I know its hard to come to the realization that everything the church is is meaningless and built around power and control...sorry but the truth hurts...like all other churches...the catholic church is a disgusting example of man made failure.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Savatage

      Just like in politics.
      we will pick the new pope from Peru.
      Why ?
      because they are poor and stupid and we can control them.
      Sounds good to me.

      May 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  6. Code

    You have to earn respect, and the church has not.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Savatage

      If you dont give the church respect you will go to.......

      May 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  7. xxbobsetsfirexx

    This must come as quite a shock to a lot of Catholics like myself. After all, one of the things we were always taught at Sunday school and in the homilies was that God magically and infallibly picked the next Pope during the conclave. Now i'm being told that bunch of under-educated, power grubbing old men running amok in their own mafia-style boys club, complete with half a$$ed political posturing and jockeying for power, is the real way it's done? Just like in our crappy two-party system?
    Uh Oh.... spaghetti O's...
    Is it to late to go back to the Magic?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Freedom

      Religion IS magic...it makes your money and individual beliefs disappear

      May 30, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Greenspam

      What else did your Sunday School get wrong? Pope has always been elected by the Cardinals. He's selected by men, not by God.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Little Italy

      Millions stand outside on this rainey day waiting for the smoke that will tell them if they have a new pope.
      Meanwhile, inside the cardinals sit around drinking wine and smoking cigars,
      selling thier vote to the highest bidder.

      You giva me a villa in the south of France, and 4 alter boys and i giva you my vota.
      No, No, No, i giva you the villa and 3 alter boys, but you gotta buy me a mercedes and trip to Burmuda.

      Hey guys, me gotta funny way to messa with da people, you no thinka ??
      Tell ya whatta we do, we send uppa "red" smoke an watcha dem go crazeee....ha ha ha...

      May 30, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  8. Frank

    You reap what you sow! The truth comes out!

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

      I tried reaping Jessical Alba but my wife walked in on me looking at her pics...

      May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  9. Rabbit One

    give up on the particularly faithless catholic church – just read the bible on your own – and do your religion without the secrecy and the perversions

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

      It's still a joke... humanity needs to come to the realization that when you die... you are dead.

      We seem to think we are sooo special that we can't just die and have that be that.

      get over yourselves and get out of the cults

      May 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • jon

      Exactly. The Catholics are irrelevant in today's world. They need to close up shop.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Freedom

      That reminds me...the mob called and wanted to make you an offer you couldnt refuse

      May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • crackedskull44

      Pascal's Wager everyone..

      May 30, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  10. ObamaJoe

    have fun guys,,,,,,,,,

    May 30, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  11. Freedom

    I remember this one time I was getting it on with a catholic school girl and man she could wack the chrome off a harley twin....not to mention those cans all tightly caged up in that white top...it really is a wonder that priests are as g@y as they are.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  12. Tommy Bot

    It seems that Paolo Gabriele is no Alfred Pennyworth!

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

      Thats funny...well done!!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  13. Mrs. Katz

    This pope has been a disaster. He was once in HitIer Youth.

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

      Now now...he was just a young man doing what he thought was right for his country...

      May 30, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Jim in PA

      Yes, but all veterans are heroes.

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

      The ones on the winning side are called heros...the ones on the losing side are called butchers

      May 30, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • BOBBY

      if i was a kid i would want to wear that cool uniform too!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Father Francis

      Hitler youth was a good program.
      All those healthy young men,
      blue eyed blonds, chisled muscles, working out
      sweating in those tight shorts, eager to please the master,
      marching and chanting and , and , and,
      Excuse me.

      May 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  14. BOBBY

    They better be concerned with who's phukkn OVER who, and less concerned with who's just plain phukkn.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  15. Argonaut

    When will there be an awakening that this whole charade is one big cult? It's a 2000 year old fiction book of tall tales, meant to explain away the unknown to the masses who could not otherwise relate to the world around them. It is truly the opiate of the masses, meant to calm them. 2000 years is enough....grow up...wake up!!! That book is out of date...passe...kaput....debunked....and isn't any more real than Jason and the Argonauts or other Greek mythology that's been long since dismissed as fairy tales and fables.

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

      The awakeing will be that the Catholic Church is a falsehood. Not Christianity. That is still truth. The only name we have ever been called biblically is "Christians". Nothing more. Anything else is man-made and shouldn't surprise people when it's disappointing.

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

      Dude, I couldn't have said it better myself!! Excellent! BRAVO! Mankind needs to wake up!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Father Francis

      Jason isnt real ?
      So now i have to go back to sinbad.
      Oh well.

      May 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  16. john

    People rip the government about problems associated with it and the people that work for it. People rip big private companies about problems associated with them and the people that work for them. People rip organized religion about problems associated with it and the people involved. It is not about governement, the private relm, or religious organizations themselves, it is about the common thread of everything-being organized and run by us, people. Greed, intolerance, ignorance, selfisness, incompetence, jealousy, vengenence occur within any structure or organization. The old saying, "buyer beware" applies to anything being sold or represented to you by someone. Why should I trust anyone or anything? Because some govt. leader, CEO, pope, or anyone says so. I think not. There are many good people and things going on of course, but lead by example and if people want to follow your lead so be it. If you want to be the typical hypocrite and say one thing but do another please shut your mouth and mind your own business.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  17. brich22

    Stop giving money to these crooks.

    The sooner you understand that religion is the biggest con job ever devised by man, then the better off you will be. These con artists will move on to greener pastures.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Tommy Bot

      ....and Jesus wept for you. Sad. Very sad.

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

      Jesus is one cool guy....doesnt he play right field for the Phillies?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  18. BOBBY

    What a bunch of baffoons with no value....complete !d!0t$ that are as far away from "doing Gods work" what ever that is as you can get....a complete joke

    May 30, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  19. mama2esb

    According to the prophecy of St. Malachy, the next Pope is supposed to be the antichrist who brings the world to an end. So does it honestly matter if the next Pope is a better banker?

    May 30, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  20. Jim in PA

    I remember when MY butler was arrested. It reflected very poorly on me.

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

      yeah but did he put his bacon in your smoker?

      May 30, 2012 at 11:17 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.