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. thegeneral

    can;t believe anyone still believes in this stuff..get with the program you religious weirdos

    May 30, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Ah.. so we are weirdos now? I assume you have come to this conclusion after 20-30 years of study on Christianity? Oh, you say less than a 5th grade knowledge of Biblical study?? Now, now.. I dare not tell a Brain Surgeon where to cut, but you will tell me that my reasonable faith is ...weird?

      May 30, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  2. cybercmdr

    The Axis of Medieval will never get their act together. Being disconnected from reality is a job requirement.

    May 30, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Guess good works like Mother Theresa did don't count huh?

      May 30, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      If this Healthcare mandate on birth control holds up, you will see some of the good the Catholic Hospitals and Charities do. You won't ever read about it here, but the Catholic Church does a whole lotta good.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • Drew

      But will the Catholic church stop doing that because of the mandate? That would seem very selfish of them

      May 30, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      I don't think it will come to that. Obama has created a nice straw man... easy to knock down with a swing of the pen.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:04 am |
  3. spangler

    After careful study of Biblical texts and (supposed) divine inspiration, the RCC determined during the Dark Ages that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe, covered by a dome, with stars stuck onto or moving within the dome, remaining motionless in space as he Sun and stars moved around it. Just above the dome was the diety and heaven. Their position today is that they only have divine truth about invisible and unproveable things.

    May 30, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Dan Brown? No, wait.. Ron Howard!!! Hmm... BS!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • justsayin


      May 30, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • justsayin

      Makes a great fairy tale, doesn't it.

      May 30, 2012 at 3:55 am |
  4. Bobbo SK

    Hardly a surprise. The Vatican has been playing games with history and truth almost from day one. It 's claim that Peter was the first pope is refuted by a noted Roman Catholic theologian who has written the history of the papacy. The papacy as we know it is a good century AFTER Christ; AFTER Christians had all ready been established in Rome. That Peter supposedly started it all in Rome is NOT based on Scripture, which mentions Christians all ready in place when Disciples make their way to Rome. So much of the power and under girding of the Roman Catholic church is based on concepts created without one iota of biblical base. I know, I know...this places me in the "Catholic hater" category. Well, I am not a hater; I plead for historical honesty, which Catholic theologians themselves admit the church has been woefully deficient is doing! Hang in there with Peter if you must, but remember, he traveled and did his ministry WITH HIS WIFE TAGGING ALONG! And there is so much more...but history has a nasty habit of getting in the way of historical truth...and the Roman Catholic Church has, by its own admission, be quite deficient in clinging to an accurate history. A shame. It has so much to offer...if only...oh, well.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      You sir, are a complete idiot.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Drew

      Far easier to call him an idiot than to actually refute him

      May 30, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Marcus

      Well said!

      May 30, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      These are very common Catholic myths, repeated over and over again. You only become a fool, when you argue with one. Sure would like to know the name of this so-called Theologian, though? Don't worry, he's not Catholic and he's hardly a scholar.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      I hear The Da Vinci Code is looking for more material! LOL

      May 30, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • Drew

      I'm more inclined to believe him than you, because he has actually put forward an argument

      May 30, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Drew, I don't think any amount of truth will sway you. You are what you are...

      May 30, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Drew

      No, I really am fairly open minded about this stuff, but here he's willing to talk concrete history facts with you and you want to make it into a big moral outrage

      May 30, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Take this for starters, "...That Peter supposedly started it all in Rome is NOT based on Scripture..."

      Wow, I mean.. WOW! If you want a scholarly answer, copy and paste this link:


      Otherwise, like I said, same old, same old stuff.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Drew, its simple to attack. You notice, no one attacks Brigham Young, Martin Luther, John Calvin, the list goes on... I have been reading the same old attacks for years, I didn't even need to read his whole comment to know, ah.. the Peter wasn't in Rome thing... There are probably about 8-10 very common attacks that sound great at first, until you dig....

      May 30, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      $10 (monopoly money) his so called theologian is .... wait for it.... Loraine Boettner!

      May 30, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • Drew

      I understand why you feel attacked, but I think it is partly because you claim your beliefs are firmly rooted in fact, instead just acknowledging that they are matters of belief and probably can't be conclusively proven or disproved

      May 30, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Oh I see.. I can't show you God, so he does not exist. Dang it! Thought I had you with logic, ah never mind. That gives me a brain cramp too. Funny thing.. I can't show you "love" either! But I try to live it every day.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • justsayin

      Facts don't register with these folks, but thanks for trying....great overview.

      May 30, 2012 at 3:57 am |
    • DeTamble

      *** Crazyhorse

      You sir, are a complete idiot.

      No, he is correct.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  5. John F. Hudak

    Sieg Heil.! Mein Papa

    May 30, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  6. Dan

    If you need Robert Langdons number let me know

    May 30, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  7. Jim


    Interesting article on Atheists trying to cover up child s.e.x abuse over 40 yrs.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      yeah, real interesting. and fake. you trolling or did you not scroll down? was actually referring to more religious molesters, of course.

      April Fools.
      The news article is real but it actually refers to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, not the American Atheists (read the actual news article below ).

      May 30, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Drew

      hahah Jim you might want to read down a little further on that article. I think you'll be surprised

      May 30, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Dana

      Thanks for the laugh Jim.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • DeTamble


      Interestiing article about Stoner Smurfs.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  8. cck99352

    No offense – but as a former Nazi, how much credibility does the Pope have?

    May 30, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Two names for you.. Joseph Kentenich and Max Kolbe.. since you will never look them up, let me say you know nothing of the Catholic Church.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  9. gman

    However, time and again, it is proven that the Holy Spirit guides the church and pope thru the storms.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Drew

      Or it might be the tremendous wealth and power. Not saying I'm right necessarily, but you must concede that it's a possibility

      May 30, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Drew.. again??

      May 30, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  10. Drew

    And we are supposed to believe that this big cluster**** is the only avenue on earth to salvation?

    May 30, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Never claimed to be. Just claims to have the fullness of truth. Any knowledgeable Catholic will tell you that there is salvation "outside" the church. You are confusing Catholics with Southern Baptist.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Nick

      Fullness of the truth? That's interesting, since the Catholic church fully admits to changing the Laws from the Bible. Like in the book The Faith of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons on Pages 72 and 73 it very clearly says that there is not a single line authorizing Sunday worship, that it rest completely on the authority of the Catholic church. It also says that the scriptures enforce Saturday, a day that the Catholic church never authorized. You clam Catholic's have the fullness of the truth, but they fully admit they changed what God commanded into what a man (Emperor Constantine in 321 AD) commanded.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Oh right, the "Sabbath" argument. That's an easy one.

      But back to this fullness of truth thing. If you think about it, the Catholic Church can ONLY claim this position. Most Christians reluctantly agree we are pretty old. The whole apostolic thing, you know. Jesus gives Peter the keys stuff in the Bible. About binding and loosening... anyways. If Jesus picked Peter, which we say he did, and we agree Jesus didn't write anything (except those guys sins when they wanted to stone Mary Magdalen) – then logic would say, Jesus wrote the truth on the hearts of the 12! Viola! Not just part of the truth, mind you.. the fullness of truth!

      May 30, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Oh yeah.. in case you think Catholics still make stuff up.. It is common knowledge that "public revelation" ended with the death of the last apostle. The Catholic Church has been preaching the same stuff for 2000 years!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 2:18 am |
    • Drew

      That must be false, because canonization didn't even occur until centuries after Christ. You couldn't have taught a canon until there was one

      May 30, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • Drew

      Also the Catholic Church changes dogma dramatically over the course of history, usually making changes when they are forced to by science or culture

      May 30, 2012 at 2:22 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Canonization is what happens when a person is recognized as a Saint. WHO DAT!!

      May 30, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  11. Elias

    For the good of the children and mankind, Baby boomers please hurry up and fade away, take your crazy talk, prejudicial, freakish belief systems with you. The world will be much saner place without you.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Chico

      If it weren't for Baby Boomers, loud-mouthed kiddies like you wouldn't be alive! Show some respect for your elders, you obnoxious twit.

      May 30, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • Elias

      Baby boomers is generation crazy. Politics, economy, creepy religions who cover up their crimes. Not a damn thing worth taking into the future

      May 30, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Feed Your Head

      The generation that follows the boomers,
      Those selfish whiners that want everything handed to them ?
      Those lazy loafers who wont take a job because its beneath them ?
      Those rude azzholes who cant put the phone down in a church or a movie theater ?

      You may not want to go down this road, moron.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  12. Jay

    If you catholics are still put faith in this corrupt inst itution, then I would not be passed believing they are putting hallucinogenics in the incense!

    May 29, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Drew

      If they put hallucinogens in the incense I'd be much more inclined to go. I think we've done ourselves a great disservice by removing mind-altering substances from our religious practices

      May 30, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Drew, thanks for bashing my faith and serving notice that bigotry is still a force on CNN!!

      May 30, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      *** Crazyhorse

      Drew, thanks for bashing my faith and serving notice that bigotry is still a force on CNN!!

      You seem pretty good at dishing it out, but whine when you get it back.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  13. Brian

    Why do people start laughing when they hear the word "Catholic"?

    May 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Random Rambler

      This is because they are ignorant.

      "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.' Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith".

      May 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Jessie

      They don't laugh any more than when they hear the words "fundamentalist", "rapture-ready" or "creationist".

      May 30, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • cck99352

      Nobody will make fun of the Muslims (or Mohamed) because they will kill you?

      May 30, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • TalkingSnake

      I loves me some good Fatwa Envy! Nice!

      May 30, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Is it any wonder that they only make the news when something goes wrong? You're being programed.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  14. spangler

    "Did ye not know it is character which is judged and that love is never a sin?" HoeMowErectus 2:14

    May 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  15. Poorsoul

    The devil strikes again..

    May 29, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  16. Andy 666

    I wish I was surprised.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  17. tony

    Upon Genuflection. . .

    May 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  18. U First

    He's becoming undone.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  19. Engineer in Raleigh

    I've been considering different forms of birth control to use in my consensual, adult relationship. Specifically, I'd like to know if my insurance company should cover it. Does anyone know any virginal, emotionally stunted geriatrics I could consult for advice?

    May 29, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I suggest you contact Chad and Heaven Sent.

      May 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • chief

      also contact gerald the priest

      May 30, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Crazyhorse

      Bigotry alive and well on CNN!! Yippee!!

      May 30, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      Great one, Engineer!

      May 30, 2012 at 5:08 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      Stay away from Crazy Moose.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  20. Bootyfunk

    rumor is the real power struggle started when they were decided who would be head child molester... they all wanted the position.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Would that be the "missionary position"? 😉

      May 29, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      You mean doggy-style?

      May 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Damit Tom Tom you beat me to it!

      May 29, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well, only if you think the missionaries did it 'doggie style'.

      May 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Well no......I just meant.....welll you know I wanted to be somebody! I wanted to a difference!

      May 29, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      MAKE a difference! Dam you GOOOOODDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!

      May 29, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Catholic Bashing.. yay! Nice of CNN to toss you a bone... morons.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:27 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.