The New York Times – Vatican Bureaucracy test even the infallible

VATICAN CITY — An Italian industrialist tried to curry favor by donating $100,000 worth of truffles. A Mercedes-Benz executive hoped for an audience to suggest improvements to the Popemobile. But in the final years of the papacy of Benedict XVI, others sent very different messages, too, desperate for the pope’s ear.

A cardinal warned that the pope’s top administrator was undermining his papacy. And two church benefactors sounded an alarm that the Vatican’s governing hierarchy, known as the Roman Curia, was riddled with intrigue.

“Where is the strength in the Curia to resist the temptations of power?” they asked in January 2011, in one of hundreds of letters to Benedict that were published last year in a book that touched off the scandal over leaked Vatican documents.

This is the Vatican inherited by Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, who will be formally installed as pope on Tuesday. In his first week on the job he has shown an uncommon humility, signaling a new direction for the church. Yet, changing the style of the papacy is far easier than changing the Vatican — an ancient monarchy in which the pope is treated like a king, branches of the hierarchy are run like medieval fiefs and supplicants vie for access and influence.