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.

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.

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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. LouAz

    Scandal at the home of the world's largest tax free gold hoarding Corporation ?
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha ! ! !
    Couldn't happen to a nicer, more deserving group of men in dresses !

    May 29, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • dogface

      In the middle ages, warring factions fought to see who would be pope. Now, their is a power struggle for the number two position. The Vatican should be annexed by Italy and the papacy subject to Italian Law.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • 900rr

      Right on!!!
      bunch of greedy pedophiles . Most of them should be prosecuted, rest hired somewhere where they will do actual work and benefit society .Regarding they education (2000 years old nonsense) they can work at farms,mines etc...
      Time to stop this ridiculousness!

      May 30, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  2. catholic engineer

    Pope Paul VI supposedly observed "The smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary." But, as promised, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church."

    During a frustrating argument with a Roman Catholic cardinal, Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly burst out: “Your eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?” The cardinal responded, “Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.”

    May 29, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • It is Coming

      They sure think its business as usual since there is going to be one more Pope and then the Catholic Religion will be no more. I'm amazed that the Catholic lie about the NT and Jesus is still going on.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      better start working on plan b

      May 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  3. Ben

    This article is very interesting. It talks about how the Vatican has an internal power struggle, how people inside are upset they didn't get positions they had hoped for. It describes how the leader of a 1.2 billion member organisation doesn't have an MBA and that some want more of a manager as their leader.

    "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."

    "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. "
    Romans 8:28

    The most interesting thing about this article, is that it does not discuss the one thing the "church" is actually there for..... to edify God.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Jake

      I think that is because the writiers of this blog, like many take pleasure when the Catholic Church is under attack, whether that attack be justified or not. Just wait, the world will not stop with the Catholics, the rest will have their day as well.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  4. Yaa

    It must be good to be the pope....1) You know all bible is made up stuff and you have no connection to god.
    2) Everyone else doesn't or doubts....sleeeeek

    May 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • marjee123

      Any this one is the worst Pope I have ever seen. I am 80 years old and have seen quite a few. He stinks.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Jake

      This is a good Pope. He has tried to restore the teachings of the Church. People who don't like him do not because they know that a return to what is moral is inconvienent in modern times. This Pope has made effots to reunite the East and the West. It is the cross that he bears that doing what is right is never popular, especially among secular folks. I

      May 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Ever hear of "begging the question" ? If the church LOST the "real" traditions, why did your god allow that. Obviously your god doesn't care.

      May 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      True. This one is an academic, not an administrator. The next one will most likely be chosen for admin ability.

      May 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  5. Jeff

    World's biggest, richest, most powerful criminal enterprise.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  6. waterman

    They seriously have a post named "chief exorcist" in the 21st century? Lord have mercy.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Hopper

      Just another expresion of the corruption breeding inside this organization. The real unfortunate are the legions of people throughout the world that are blind to all this and that with their support help to mask it as legitimate and serious. The thousands of nuns and many other women around the world should recognize it for what it is. We can all expect another very good cover up of the whole sordid situation, but I seriously hope and pray (to the FSM) they learn something out of this and leave in droves.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  7. Ex

    This should be proof to ANYONE concerned that the Vatican has virtually NOTHING to do with what Jesus of Nazareth intended.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • just sayin

      Jesus of Nazareth ???? And he is who??????????

      May 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Your disdain is evidence of your pitiful state

      May 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Chaos

      His "disdain" is justified nevertheless.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      If you believe in God,
      The way to God is thru your heart,
      not a collection plate passed on Sundays.
      The Vatican is nothing short of the Religious Mafia.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  8. mike harr

    Let's focus on a high priority -the garments that religious wear in the Vatican. I feel that when I was age 6 in Chicago, what the priests wore at Mass, how the said/sang (badly) a language only God knew we didn't -how they moved hands around as we looked at their backs -wow it all just told me THEY GOT SOME ETERNAL SUPERDUPER POWER!
    Now at age 70, I say...ah... you know the rest. Some day all of us - the Rest.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Jake

      I am sorry that no one ever took the time to teach you about the faith you were being raised in as a child. The reason the priest faced the same way the people did was to share in their celebration-the new way allows priests who are self-centered create a show about themselves, now that is sooo much better.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      When i made my confirmation, i was suppsed to kiss the bishops ring.
      When i asked why and i was told it was "tradition",
      I said bullsheep.
      I will kiss his ring when he kisses my azz.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  9. Sra. Julia

    Tsk, Tsk, Tsk what a shame so many problems all coming to a head at once ! Sort of like when the chickens come home to roost huh? All of it caused by gross incompetence, jealousy, intrigue, immoral and criminal acts by the boys in skirts. Sounds like the inner workings of a boys club to me. Watching them scurrying about trying to cover their collective asses does give me a slight feeling of pleasure. I got screwed over by priest at the Vatican in 1971 I hope he is one of these jerks scurrying to cover his ass now it would give me even greater pleasure if that were true.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  10. Obvious Guy

    Maybe the Pope should resign and get a new job at Kinko's or something.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • paganguy

      He is not qualified to work at Kinko's

      May 29, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      Sit his naked butt on the copy machine....
      No thanks.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  11. justAquestion

    Just curious... but if they seriously believe God picks the Pope through divine providence then how do they justify all of these comments about him needing to be this or that? Wouldn't God pick the right person? These contradicts bother me, I can't see how they can be justified.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Jake

      Catholics believe that the Pope will be protected from error when speaking officially on faith and moral teachings. We see the Pope as a man, who can sin like any other, but when making decisions regarding the official teachings, he will be protected from error. The 12 were men who were chosen by God also, many of them having horrific backgrounds. Yes, while the Pope is selected through the work of the a Holy Spirit, it does not stop other men from criticizing him, they too are sinners and many of them seek to benefit their own position.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Yarah

      The Roman Catholic Church is what you call an Apostate Church. I left the Church in Oct of 1993 and would never go back. Not because I don't believe in God but because I do believe in God. The RCC should be ashamed of all that it's doing to bring shame to the name of Jesus.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Jake


      I am sorry that you feel that way about the Catholic Church. It is your choice to worship in a manner you see fit however, how is the Catholic Church the apostate church? Martin Luther was the first to leave, his church and all that branch off are apostate churches, historically speaking. Of course none of those have ever had scandals. Baker, Swaggart, Russell, Green, Lamb, Long, Reves, Caner, and the list goes on and on and on. When people place in men all their hopes, they are bound to be disappointed. Every church has its issues-because churches are made of sinners.

      May 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      It has always been, and will continue to be...
      Politics and money.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  12. Bob

    No doubt, the Pope is as aware as anyone that these intrigues occur in the Vatican because the kingdom of Vatican City and of the international Catholic Church are distinctly of this world, even as the kingdom of heaven is not of this world.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Tired of the Divine Fairy Tale

      Oh, evolve already!! This view of the earth and the "divine" is antiquated, and any inkling of critical thought will lead you to see the countless evidence that perhaps, once again, humanity created a creationist story to attempt to answer the unanswered questions of their time. Not the first time, probably won't be the last time either since people like you refuse to evolve and think critically.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  13. sir_ken_g

    The Catholic Church is crumbling. So of course there is infighting on the way down.
    Perhaps if they got out of the 15th century.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Jake

      Because the teachings of Christ have not changed since the 1st century, the Catholic Church has not changed their position. No one is forcing anyone to be part of the Catholic faith, so if you do not like it, go elsewhere. That does not however, give you the right to dictate to others what they should belive whether or not you feel it is antiquated. Catholics are there by choice, a choice they are free to make.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      jake the fact that you actually THINK "the teaching of Yehua ben Josef" have not been changed, only proves you ignorance of your own cult's history. It was a complex, convoluted historical development process. From the Council of Jerusalem, ti Antioch, to Nicea, to Trent ... it was ALL human FIGHTING each other. It's simply delusional to say it never changed. Again I ask, why is there NO "salvation" in Mark, and it appears in Paul, (written later) ? Answer : Paul made it up. Jesus NEVER said anything about it.

      May 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      *** Because the teachings of Christ have not changed since the 1st century....

      Sure they have, the church has been manipulating the "image" of Christ for thousands of years.
      Do you keep "the sabbath" holy ?
      Nope, the holy day is Saturday.
      It was the church that changed it to Sunday.

      You are one of the blind sheep.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  14. Everett Wallace

    understand this benedict only a woman anointed by GOD THE FATHER and Filled with GOD THE HOLYSPIRIT can come to me so that means you can not send a woman to me only THEY can and do. what makes you THINK you can wear PURPLE! BONEHEAD.

    May 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  15. Oh My God

    Its a business, omg its a capitalist business, omg its a business....i thought Christ chased the money changers away.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Jake

      There are many Catholics that feel the same way-especially here in the U.S. We are tired of the money changers Pope Benedict has made efforts to return to a true body of faithful, and has been widely criticized for it. Just look at what is happening with the nuns here. Many of them are rouge, and now they get called out and non-Catholics criticize, as if they have any clue.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Jack

      Uhh your'e talking about catholicism... enough said.

      May 29, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  16. Chuck

    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,"

    Yes, the Italians are well-known as great business managers.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  17. Sarda

    Please read the book "The Philosophy of Divine Love" by Swami Prakashanad Saraswati.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  18. Chad

    IF you are a man of "GOD" why would you need to hide something so us common folks can't see it?

    May 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      Why would God dictate a tome that is so difficult to understand?

      May 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sam, Not difficult to understand. Difficult to accept

      May 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  19. Why_Bother

    Kind of hope he gets arrested for crimes against humanity. He can share a cell with Assad

    May 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  20. Catholics got the Pope they deserve: A NAZI

    You can take the youth out of Hitler Youth, but you can't take the Hitler out of a Nazi.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Luis

      At Least get your facts right!!!!

      Rumors have circulated for years that the Ratzinger family, especially their father, was sympathetic to the Nazi cause when they came to power in Germany in the 1930s. But in writing Georg Ratzinger's recollection of his childhood, Hesemann said there was no truth to that.

      "[Their father] was a small-town policeman in Altotting and then he got a reputation for being anti-Nazi," Hesemann said. "Just before Hitler came to power, his superiors advised him to get away from the town because the Nazis complained about him."

      In fact, Hesemann said, the brothers decided to follow the priesthood, in part, because of their opposition to the Nazis' anti-Catholic zeitgeist.

      "It was a sign of opposition to join a seminary at a time when you really had to suffer through because you were a seminarian, and you were discriminated, you were laughed at, and you had a very hard time," he said.

      Even rumors that Pope Benedict was once a member of the Hitler Youth were exaggerated, Hesemann said. The law in Germany at the time, he explained, was that young men were forced to join the organization.

      "Joseph Ratzinger, who hated the idea, to go to the Hitler Youth, did everything to avoid it and eventually was successful in avoiding it and didn't have to go," Hesemann said. "Then came the war... and the boys learned to theoretically shoot down enemy planes, but Joseph was too small and too un-sporty to handle weapons and anything like this so he served in a control room."

      Hesemann explained that the pope was eventually drafted into the German army but when asked to report to a Nazi military camp in the last month of the war, Joseph Ratzinger fled, and was not prosecuted as a defector. Even their sister Maria, Hesemann said, gave up her dream of becoming a school teacher to avoid being associated with the Nazis.

      May 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • CHUCK

      "But in writing Georg Ratzinger's recollection of his childhood, Hesemann said there was no truth to that." Oh, we have to listen to this BS as the truth?

      May 30, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      Yeah Luis,
      Even a serial killer will say he didnt kill anybody.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |
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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.