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. gilamosnter

    Wait? The Vatican is a religious organization? LOL wow! this is news. The RC church has been corrupt for a thousand years. Past Popes, Cardinals, Bishops have commited the greatest of evils toward their fellow men .. all in the name of God. They are the true antichrists.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Kevin

      America, the nation, has had some corrupt people too. Do you think it's America is a joke?

      May 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Anne

      There's a local "church" in Columbus where the Pastor says to his congregation "God needs your money more than your son needs new glasses." He drives a Mercedes and shops at hi-end stores and his wifey wears furs.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • CJ

      @Kevin. If your comment is made to defend catholicism by saying america has corrupt people too, then that is asinine. America does not pretend to carry the moral torch for the world. The church repeatedly stakes the claim that they are the arbiters of morals and ethics and as such should be expected to behave irreproachably. They do not. They do not even come close. In fact, they behave worse. And saying that a girl's disappearance should be 'investigated internally', is tantamount to saying they to not want consequence for their actions. That is a license to abuse and complete disregard for human welfare.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  2. CJ

    The vatican has an office called 'chief exorcist'? Wow. Do they also have a 'chief alchemist'? The bronze age is alive and well in catholic land!

    May 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Dave

      It's a tough job.
      He flies first class around the world, staying in Presidential suites, telling people that they're not possessed.
      It's a REALLY tough job.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  3. Dale Clemens

    The next pope may very well be the new Cardinal Dolan.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  4. midogs2

    Isn't God in charge?

    May 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Dave

      They'd really like for you to think that.
      And it worked for a long time.
      Then we put a man on the moon.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  5. AJ

    i think it is time for HIM to destroy this church and rebuild it in 3 days.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  6. Elliot

    And the whole time I thought God talked to them and told them who would be the next pope? Lol. I called BS on the church when I was in 3rd grade and had to go to CCD. I still obeyed my mom and went to church until I was 15 and got confirmed but after that I couldn't stand going anymore. It was pretty funny though, you could tell that the vast majority of the people going were like me, they didn't believe a word but just felt like they had to go to appease a parent or grandma. At least the Catholics in my church back then were real and didn't pretend to be all overcome by the lord like all the lemmings in the evangelical world. Actually lots of them don't have the brain capacity to critically think so they probably actually believe all the nonsense.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Kevin

      So simple-minded. If you don't think the Catholic Church has produced critical thinkers, then you really weren't paying attention.

      Catholicism teaches you to constantly question your faith and seek philosophic answers. You missed that part too.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Elliot

      Obviously you miss read my post Kevin. I mentioned that the catholics in my church were real and could think and the evangelicals are the ones who don't have the brain power. Please re-read.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Anne

      Kevin, what I get from the people I know who are Catholic is it's an obligation and if they go on a day other than a normal day they say "that counts" and then they don't have to go on a "normal" day. What a way to worship.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • CJ

      So Catholicism teaches you to question the accuracy of ancient supernatural claims such as the physical resurrection of jesus? or the virgin birth? I don't think so. You are told to take those on faith even though there is not the slightest evidence that such events took place. For example, jesus' resurrection could have been independently verified by uninterested roman authorities who would have been justly amazed. But no such records occur at all. Do you question that jesus died for your sins? Thought not. You think 'critically' about details of what your faith my mean to you. But you do not question the faith and that is what it means to think critically.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  7. Grumpy

    Which came first, the Mafia or the Vatican?

    May 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  8. Lardeau

    I thought The Church was above all menial and monetary things. If we entertain thoughts of power struggles within the Church it makes the Church no better than the Mafia. I was disappointed to hear that.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • CJ

      Above all monetary things? Those hundred million dollar payouts for child abusing priests came from a long, long tradition of being allied to monarchy and those in power. Nice palace they have too. And the more people are aware that these people behave like every other organization that wants to maintain their financial and social power despite their talk of focusing on the 'hereafter', the better.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Jahoobie

      Above menial and monetary things? Have you seen all the gold in the churches all while their people starve?

      May 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  9. I love womens sports

    The catholic church and religion is the biggest scam there is. 1.2 billion brain washed souls. What a shame.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Kevin

      What about atheist Josef Stalin? He was a big time jerk. Oh wait, he wasn't committing those acts in the true name of atheism? Yeah, well, neither were these "catholic" guys.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Atheism is not a religion. There are no atheist doctrines or dogma.

      Really though, if you think about it, Stalin was following right in the God of the Old Testament's footsteps. Lots of comparisons can be made to how they did things. Silly laws with harsh penalties for the good of the state (or kingdom). Lots of Capital Punishment. Genocide. Destructive wars for land that supposedly belonged to them. All kinds of stuff. Hey you guys liked the OT God so it stands to reason you'd probably like somebody who ruled like Stalin too.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • allenwoll

      I take exception !

      The C-Church is only ONE of the biggest scams . . . . .

      ALL Religions are right up there with Party Politics and Corporate Life ! ! !

      May 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  10. Reformed Catholic

    At long last the church is looking for people who can manage it like the business it has always been and will always be! The Vatican is, was,and ALWAYs will be about power & money just like the mob and wall street only they wear silly robes to hide only god knows what...

    May 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  11. GenYer

    Because this is such a surprise...........: /

    May 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  12. Kevin

    This, on the same day that a professed atheist, Julian Assange, appears to be extradited for devious behavior. Of course, atheism will never be lambasted the way Catholicism is because atheists don't commit evil under the guise or cover of atheism. Which is natural and doesn't help or hurt atheism. If the merits of religion or non-religion are to be judged by some individuals' poor behavior who are not committing those acts in the name of religion / non-religion, then it's stupid to assign those acts to that religion. Boom. My post alone eliminates like 85% of the comments here that bash religion.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      There is no atheists commandments or atheists rules that you are supposed to follow. It isn't a church and you can't compare something like the Catholic Church and atheism. It is just interesting to see the higher-ups in the Church trying to hold the world to a higher standard while they themselves are down in the dirt with the dogs.

      I agree with you that people are good and bad. However, you have instances of religions harming people based off of their flawed rules based on books that have no relevance today. There is a quote from Steven Weinberg that perfectly illustrates this: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”

      May 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Amy

      I agree with you.
      It is normal for people to rationalize their behavior, and for some that means that they can rationalize certain behavior as being " OK" because they are athiest, and on the contrary...some can rationalize other behaviors because they are " devout".
      I believe the " truth" comes from the intent of our actions and thoughts.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • copanut

      Religion is belief in the unbelievable (i.e., "faith"). Atheism is the lack of belief in the unbelievable. I don't see how you can possibly compare the two side by side. The fact that theists claim moral superiority to atheists means that they should be held to a higher standard accordingly. If they don't behave better than atheists then what is the point of theism? By contrast, atheists make no claim of moral superiority and don't act on behalf of atheism. A bad atheist is merely a bad person. A bad theist, on the other hand, behaves badly in the name of some god and under the guise of some presumed godly authority. See: taliban.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • nadinesh

      You are right, Kevin, to say that the actions of a few corrupt people should not necessarily cast aspersions upon all of his or her co-religionists. However, I think you may be overlooking the fact that churches - specifically, now, the Catholic Church - tend to cloak themselves in (literally) infallibility and moral superiority, which gets very shocked when people behave like, well, people. But also, and much more seriously, the Catholic Church has a long, sad history of refusing to acknowledge their crimes and systematically (as with pedophile priests) trying to evade prosecution and detection. You can't accuse atheists as a group of doing that.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • nadinesh

      Copanut, I think you state it very well and I agree with you - except that it always makes me laugh that scientism simply *posits* that there can't be any metaphysical reality - and then acts perfectly religious about that belief! The actual fact is that reality is something we have only the slightest perception of, and the empirical viewpoint, while very helpful for unraveling physical dynamics, has only the slightest connection to "belief" because not all perception is understandable.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • TR6

      The problem with your idea is that when an atheist behaves baddy he is usually not doing it for atheism or because atheism told him to do it; but, when a theist behaves baddy he usually justifies his behavior with religion (god told me to, the bible told me to…). Assange has not used atheism as an excuse for his actions unlike Christians that fire bomb abortion clinics using the excuse that the bible told them abortion is a sin.
      Or the preacher that wants to put all gays behind an electric fence using the excuse that the bible says being gay is a sin

      May 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Dobro

      Gosh, you're right! That's it, I will never, ever talk badly about christians again. Honest to god!

      May 30, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  13. damianpreiss

    The Bible foretells the destruction of all false religion in the book of Revelations. ¿Could this be the beginning of the end for religion? Many are having their eyes openes to the corruption of the religion empire.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  14. Dobro

    Just more proof that the Vatican is really no different from other corporations.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  15. Leslie

    THINK FOR YOURSELF it will be a better world!

    May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  16. Reality

    The RCC continues on its slippery slope to oblivion as do all religions because of their flawed theologies and histories.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  17. Catholic

    I am a Catholic. As Catholics and as part of the Christian umbrella of followers, we are taught that lying is a sin, that we are called to serve one another, be light for each other, set the good example for others to follow, and live our lives as close to Christs as possible. Well Vatican, its time for you to step up and practice what you preach, what Christ wants you to do. Do the right thing, come forward and bring the truth to light. In this day of age when people are highly educated and the mass media travels faster than light, there is no more place to hide. To hide means people will dig harder, deeper, and never relent till the truth comes out. This is not the 1500's. People will not quit till the truth comes out. So step up Vatican and show the world that you indeed follow Jesus the Christ's teachings.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  18. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    “Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.” Christopher Hitchens

    May 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  19. AGeek

    The Vatican (and RC Church as an extension) is *all* about power, control, and domination. Any employment of religion is merely a tool for coercion by this dynasty of hypocritical, war-mongering miscreants.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • 0patrick0


      May 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Dobro

      Are you really questioning that they are war mongers? Snicker.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • AGeek

      patrick, a one-word answer should suffice. "crusades".

      War-mongering is the most polite term I could use. The RC Church makes Genghis Khan look like a complete pansy.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • BADGUY

      The Pope and his ArchBishops were MORE concerned about abortion, contraceptives and gay marriage than voicing concern over Cheney's Iraq War. Yeah.."War Mongering!"

      May 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Dave

      Would you deny that the church has NEVER been involved in, or even provoked, a war it it's almost two centuries of existence? Early history may be early, but it's history. Papal support (or denial) has ALWAYS been a part of global relations, it just has much less "oomph" nowadays than it once did. Look up Clement VII. While you're at it, Benedict IX was a tool, and though the story on John XII is supposedly "questionable" ,the source that has maintains the story is questionable is the Catholic Church itself.

      I consider myself Catholic, as I was raised in the church, but I no longer practice. I have a very strong moral base that I live by, learned in the church as a youth. I was an altar boy at a time when being one wasn't met with crooked stares, or looks of wonderment, and when those looks and stares became more common, I was almost embarrassed to have been one, if anything because of how some people I know were DIRECTLY affected, while the Vatican has done nothing for them. They settled in a court of law. How does man's law compare to God's law? The Vatican doesn't care. So long as they can maintain. So long as this ancient club can exist for another 5 or 100 years. They preach to protect the meek, but when push comes to shove, meh, they'll have earth. (They don't even get into heaven! They're MEEK!)

      When I went to college, and started to actually study RELIGION as a subject, did I realize how messed up the RC Church really is, as has been for its entire existence. If those men that run Vatican City REALLY believed what they supposedly preach (do people in the Vatican actually preach anymore?) there would BE no scandals. There would only be truth.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Dave

      @ BADGUY

      You know the Church has been around longer than the Republican party, right?

      May 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  20. 0patrick0

    Ludricrous idea that, given the mess of the Italian economy, electing an Italian Pope will somehow straighten out the lousy way the Vatican bank and all its other offices are run. Italians are known for their pointless bureaucracies. You need a permit from the police department to turn on your TV, for God's sake.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • AGeek

      The Vatican is a sovereign state, separate from Italy.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • noly972

      @0patrick0 – TV tax isn't unique to Italy. It's also paid in the British Isles and other European countries. Oh, by the way, you don't pay your TV tax to the police in Italy; you pay it to the post office.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
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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.