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Analysis: Intrigue is age-old part of Vatican politics
The Vatican today appears rocked by scandalous rumors and resignations just as church leaders must gear up to replace frail Pope Benedict XVI within weeks.
But Vatican experts say if you think the world's largest non-governmental institution is in unprecedented chaos right now, think again.
"Have you ever heard of the Borgias?" quips professor Terrence Tilley, chairman of the theology department for Fordham University, New York. They were the larcenous, adulterous, murderous, election-rigging, Renaissance-era family of renaissance popes "who ran the papacy for decades like a private fief."
For all the sex, money and power headlines wafting out of Rome these days, at least no one has been murdered. Infighting and innuendo, though, are ancient traditions that have moved into the bright lights of the 24/7 news cycle social media.
"It's high season for reporting chaos," Tilley says. "There have always been rumors about money, power and sex in the Vatican. The question is not whether but how much. There's a lot of smoke, right now. Is there a spark, yes. If it's a fire, is it a small campfire or a five-alarm conflagration? No one knows."