Angelo Sodano, John Paul II’s secretary of state and Bertone’s predecessor, has not hidden his disregard. “It was quite visible,” said a former ambassador to the Vatican. “Sodano was a real insider, and you could tell that he thought Bertone was a real outsider and that he had no legitimacy in that position.”
But Bertone worked diligently to consolidate power. His allies control the church’s main financial institutions, prompting one official to write in a leaked document that traditional checks and balances had been ignored. “They say that our principal point of reference is the Secretary of State,” the letter read, “yet in many cases he’s precisely the problem.” Bertone’s position also meant he presided over the Vatican Bank, a post he appeared to use to impede Benedict’s financial reforms.
Benedict, for example, had issued a decree for the Vatican to adopt international money-laundering norms to combat the financing of terrorism. This initiative would allow outside auditors to examine the Vatican’s financial books. For an institution historically allergic to scrutiny, this constituted a revolution. He subsequently created a Vatican watchdog to oversee a whole swath of financial activities, from the Vatican Bank to the Vatican pharmacy and supermarket. But the leaked documents depicted Bertone’s efforts to defang Benedict’s watchdog and to keep power for himself.