June 17, 2012 – ITALY – The mood at the Vatican is apocalyptic. Pope Benedict XVI seems tired, and both unable and unwilling to seize the reins amid fierce infighting and scandal. While Vatican insiders jockey for power and speculate on his successor, Joseph Ratzinger has withdrawn to focus on his still-ambiguous legacy.
He has annoyed the Protestants by declaring that denominations other than his own are not true churches. He has alienated Muslims with an inept speech in the Bavarian city of Regensburg. And he has insulted Jews by reinserting a prayer for the conversion of the Jews into the Good Friday liturgy.
Since the end of May, the pope’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, has been detained in a 35-square-meter (377-square-foot) cell at the Vatican, with a window but no TV. Using the code name “Maria,” he allegedly smuggled faxes and letters out of the pope’s private quarters. But it remains unclear who was directing him to do so. Even with Gabriele’s arrest, the leak still hasn’t been plugged. More documents were released to the public last week, documents intended primarily to damage two close associates of Pope Benedict XVI: his private secretary, Georg Gänswein, and Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s top administrator. According to one document, “hundreds” of other secret documents would be published if Gänswein and Bertone weren’t “kicked out of the Vatican. This is blackmail,” says Vatican expert Marco Politi. “It’s like threatening total war.”
The Vatican is disintegrating into dozens of competing interest groups. In the past, it was the Jesuits, the Benedictines, the Franciscans and other orders that competed for respect and sway within the Vatican court. But their influence has waned, and they have now been replaced primarily by the so-called “new clerical communities” that bring the large, cheering crowds to Masses celebrated by the pope: the Neocatechumenate, the Legionaries of Christ and the traditionalists of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter — not to mention the worldwide “santa mafia” of Opus Dei. They all have their open and clandestine agents in and around the Vatican, and they all own real estate and run universities, institutes and other educational facilities in Rome. –Spiegel