POPE'S BUTLER AND VATILEAKS IS THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
By Thomas R. Horn
June 3, 2012
Vatican insiders are abuzz this week following news that Pope Benedict XVI's butler, Paolo Gabriele was arrested by magistrates as the source behind leaked documents, the so-called Vatileaks scandal that has plagued Rome since 2011. The same experts are quick to speculate that at least one Cardinal may be operating behind the scene with the butler likely a pawn in a deeper, internal power struggle, the words "'scapegoat', 'plot' and 'conspiracy' tripping off their tongues." 
According to confidants, at the center of this crises and Machiavellian conspiracy is one man in particular—the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a priest who has enjoyed solidarity with Pope Benedict for many years.
After being elected pope in April, 2005 and taking his place as successor of John Paul II as Sovereign of the Vatican City State and leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Ratzinger as “Pope Benedict XVI” quickly appointed Cardinal Bertone to replace Angelo Sodano as the Cardinal Secretary of State. On April 4, 2007, Benedict also appointed Bertone as his Camerlengo to administrate the duty of the Pope in the case of a vacancy of the papacy. Benedict has since made decisions that indicate Bertone could be (or once was) his choice for successor, and both men have at times appeared to be stacking and massaging the Red Hats in Bertone’s favor for the next conclave.
This was noted in the May 13, 2011 National Catholic Reporter article, “A Triptych on Benedict’s Papacy, and Hints of What Lies Beyond,” when NCR Senior Correspondent John L. Allen Jr. spoke of the shake-up inside the Roman Curia (the Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Vatican and, together with the pope, the central governing body of the Catholic Church) in which Italian Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu was appointed the Substitute for General Affairs by Pope Benedict XVI. Becciu, who replaced Archbishop Fernando Filoni for the job, seemed at first an odd selection to Vatican insiders. “Given how difficult it is to master the role [of Substitute], many observers found it curious that Filoni would be shipped out after less than four years, to be replaced by someone in Becciu who has no previous experience at all working inside the Vatican,” observed the NCR.  But then the nail may have been hit on the head when the news service added, “When the dust settles, the most obvious beneficiary of these moves would seem to be Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, who will not have to be concerned about the new substitute forming a rival center of power. ” 
The job of the Substitute for General Affairs has been described as the most complicated and demanding responsibility in the Roman Curia due to the staggering amount of concerns the Substitute must carry on a daily basis. Roughly compared to a White House Chief of Staff, the Substitute meets with the Pontiff usually once per day to administer Vatican affairs and also regularly reports to the Cardinal Secretary of State (currently Cardinal Bertone). The organizational “success or failure of a papacy often rests on his shoulders,” added the NCR. And those who have handled the office well over the years “have been the stuff of legend: Giovanni Battista Montini, for instance, was the substitute under Pius XII from 1937 to 1953, and went on to become Pope Paul VI; Giovanni Benelli, who was Paul’s own substitute from 1967 to 1977, was widely understood to be the power behind the throne”. 
But if positioning a Vatican novice in the role of Substitute in order not to challenge future papal possibilities for the Italian Cardinal Bertone was telling, Pope Benedict even more-so aligned the group-type from which the next pope will come, when on January 6, 2012 he named twenty-two new cardinals, most of them Europeans, primarily Italians already holding key Vatican stations. By elevating these advisors to the Sacred College of Cardinals at a February 18th ceremony in Rome, the German pope certified that “Europeans will now number over half of all cardinal-electors (67 out of 125), and nearly a quarter of all voters in a conclave will be Italian.”  As a result, Benedict seemed to put his definitive stamp on an Italian successor and lined up those who could give Bertone the so-called apostolic chair of Saint Peter. Evidently this wasn’t Benedict’s idea alone, as careful observers “put the large number of Italian appointments down to the influence of the Pope’s deputy, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, whose hand in these nominations, they say, is clearly visible.” 
Also interesting in lieu of recent reports regarding Pope Benedict’s diminishing health was the February timing of the consistory for the new cardinals to receive their red hats, rings, and titular assignments in Rome. Of course the scheduling around the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter could be cited, but some who work with the pope had been pushing him for a June (Feasts of St. Peter and Paul) or November (Feast of Christ the King) consistory, and more often than not Benedict has held consistories in November (2007 and 2010). So what was the hurry this time around? If Pope Benedict is considering a 2012 departure as some Cardinals have speculated and the Pope himself has argued for, the date and timing in February made perfect sense as a final opportunity to stack the deck in Bertone’s favor.
Having stated these facts, one could think with some certainty that Bertone may be a shoo-in for the next pope. But as we move through 2012, cracks have appeared in the foundation and not everybody in the Curia—including Pope Benedict XVI, himself—may wind up as eager to support him as they once were. As the pope’s health weakens, the sharks smell blood, and claims of mismanagement have been increasing from competing factions in the Church that are more than happy to seize opportunity to cast aspersion on Bertone in order to elevate their own standing among the College of Cardinals. This may include Archbishop Vigano, whose personal letters to Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bertone concerning his reassignment as Nuncio were partially broadcast by an Italian television news program in January 2012, evidently routed to them from the pope’s butler through a middle-man. The letters, confirmed by the Vatican as authentic, exposed a blistering relationship between himself and Bertone involving political jockeying and financial deal making including charges of “corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to contractors at inflated prices.”  One of the letters to Cardinal Bertone, dated March 27, 2011 (eight days before the letter to Pope Benedict), complained of Bertone removing him from his post and of Bertone “breaking a promise to let the archbishop succeed the then-president of the commission, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, upon the latter’s retirement.
According to the letter, Cardinal Bertone had mentioned unspecified ‘tensions’ within the commission to explain Archbishop Vigano’s reassignment, but [Vigano] suggested that a recent Italian newspaper article criticizing the archbishop [Bertone] as incompetent had contributed to the decision.”  Most Vatican sources agree that an internal campaign involving Machiavellian manipulation and maneuverings—what Phillip Pullella for Reuters called “a sort of ‘mutiny of the monsignors’” —is playing out behind the scenes against the pope’s right-hand man, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The same sources say “the rebels have the tacit backing of a former secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, an influential power-broker in his own right and a veteran diplomat who served under the late Pope John Paul II for 15 years.”  If Sodano was behind the pope’s butler with a campaign to undermine papal possibilities for Bertone, suspicions deepen that he may have aspirations himself for the conclave to elect Benedict’s successor, if he isn’t arrested by Vatican magistrates in the meantime. And was it just coincidence that the Vatican Bank ousted its president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi this past Thursday as well?
Subscribe to the NewsWithViews Daily News Alerts!
Enter Your E-Mail Address:
Whatever the case may be, the January 26, 2012 headline at The New York Times said it all: “Transfer of Vatican Official Who Exposed Corruption Hints at Power Struggle,”  and echoed the fact that, just like in American presidential politics, today’s rising star at the Vatican can all-to-soon become crushed under the juggernaut of ambitious and motivated men if one does not vigilantly maintain every bit as much cunning as their challengers.
And as Nicole Winfield for the Associated Press observed, Church officials, sensing an increasingly weak and aging pontiff, “are already preparing for a conclave.”