VATICAN CITY - As the world’s Roman Catholics prepare for the addition of 22 cardinals, the Vatican has become embroiled in an embarrassing scandal in which a number of leaked documents have drawn back the curtains on the church’s inner workings.
The internal church squabbling became public about three weeks ago with the disclosure on television and in newspapers of confidential letters written by a top Vatican official who had denounced alleged corruption and financial mismanagement in Vatican City.
The widespread feeling among experts who follow the Vatican is that the letters were a volley in a battle among officials jousting for power in a papal court whose anointed leader, they say, is more concerned with theological questions than with the day-to-day affairs of state.
Journalists who follow the church have described the current controversy as part of “a clash between cardinals in the Curia,’’ even though the Vatican is denying it, said Paolo Rodari, who writes about the Vatican for two newspapers. The e-mails, letters and documents that have been published “could not get out unless they came from someone inside,’’ he added.
The Vatican has not denied the letters’ authenticity, but it has issued numerous statements saying the media have blown the matter out of proportion.
The first missives to be published date to last spring. In them, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, at the time the deputy governor of Vatican City, fretted that he would be ousted after making enemies in his effort to combat overspending and cronyism in the awarding of contracts. He pleaded with his boss, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the pope to let him stay on. Instead, Vigano was named the papal nuncio to the United States.
Letters and documents by other Vatican officials followed, including some that suggested that the Vatican was not adequately complying with international legislation to prevent money laundering.
One document published in a national newspaper last week cited reports that a Sicilian cardinal had spoken vaguely about a plot to kill Pope Benedict XVI before the end of 2012.
The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, called the reports “delirious and incomprehensible.’’