(VATICAN CITY) — He is always at the Pope Benedict XVI’s side.
Butler Paolo Gabriele helps the pope dress in the morning and serves him his meals through the day.
But now the pope’s loyal butler is under arrest, accused of betraying the man he serves by leaking embarrassing confidential Vatican documents to the Italian media.
The arrest has stunned the Vatican, a place familiar with intrigue, but not public betrayal by someone so close to Benedict.
“The fact that this came from somebody who was in the papal apartment and a member of the papal family is great cause for a crisis of consciousness,” John Allen of U.S. National Catholic Reporter said.
The embattled pope is said to be deeply “saddened” by the arrest of one of his closest aides.
But many people remain skeptical about the accusations leveled at Gabriele. Few believe he would have had the sophistication to orchestrate a series of leaks that have consumed the Italian media since January.
Marco Politi, Vatican journalist and author of a Benedict biography called “Crisis in the Papacy,” told ABC News he believes that if the accusations are true, Gabriele did not act alone.
“If it happened, there are others helping him and maybe leading him,” he said.
Monday’s newspapers in Rome say that Gabriele was just a messenger and that there is a network of Vatican insiders behind the leaks and that a so-far unnamed cardinal is orchestrating it all.
In a cloak and dagger twist right out of a Hollywood thriller, a “deep throat” who claims to be inside the Vatican network spoke anonymously and nervously to Rome’s La Repubblica.
“Whoever is doing this is doing this to support the pope,” the insider told La Repubblica, “because the aim of the network of conspirators is to bring to light the rot within the church in the last few years.”
The insider said there are warring factions within the Vatican, as some are out to destroy powerful Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state.
Bertone is the second-most powerful man in the Catholic Church, responsible for the Vatican but also for overseeing the church around the world. His critics say he is too weak to lead the church.
But the insider said others within the Vatican believe it is Benedict himself who is too weak and that he has allowed Bertone to accumulate power and that he is not qualified for such a demanding job.
The leaked documents began appearing in the Italian media in January.
They expose alleged corruption, mismanagement and deep internal divisions at the Vatican. One document detailing corruption was addressed to Pope Benedict personally.
Many of the leaked documents focus on money laundering and kickbacks at the secretive Vatican bank.
The head of the bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was appointed by the pope to clean up the bank and he reported directly to him.
But in yet another blow to the pope’s influence, his friend was fired Thursday.
The insider told La Repubblica that when Benedict XVI heard the news, “he started to cry ‘for my friend Ettore.'”
The now-disgraced butler began his life at the Vatican as a cleaner.
He rose to the rank assistant butler under Pope John Paul II and has been at Benedict XVI’s side since 2006.
Gabriele lives with his wife and three children inside the Vatican walls in an apartment where the secret documents were allegedly found. So far he has only been accused of theft.
Because there is no prison inside the Vatican walls, Gabriele is being held in a room inside the tiny Vatican police station.
He faces trial in a closed Vatican court and if convicted he could go to jail for up to 30 years.
Under a treaty between the Vatican and the Italian government, anyone convicted of crimes by the Vatican serves his sentence in an Italian prison.
Conspiracy and intrigue are nothing new to the Vatican, but traditionally the Vatican has been adept at keeping it inside the walls of the city-state.
Pope Benedict XVI’s seven-year papacy has been consumed by public scandal.
Sexual abuse revelations by priests around the world continue to discredit the church.
In 2006, shortly after becoming pope, Benedict quoted text that inflamed Muslims around the world. He was forced to apologize.
The pope faced demonstrators Sunday accusing the Vatican of covering up evidence in the mysterious 1983 disappearance of the young daughter of a Vatican employee once thought to be buried in the tomb of a mafia don.
Asked whether all this means the pope has had a bad week, Vatican reporter Marco Politi said, “he’s had a bad seven years.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN