VATICAN CITY - The worst crisis in Pope Benedict's pontificate deepened on Monday when Italian media said at least one cardinal was among those suspected of leaking sensitive documents as part of a power struggle at the top of the Church.
The scandal exploded last week when within a few days the pope's butler was arrested for leaking documents, the head of the Vatican's own bank was abruptly dismissed and a book was published alleging conspiracies among the cardinals or "princes of the Church".
Newspapers, quoting insiders who had themselves leaked documents, said the arrested butler was merely a scapegoat doing the bidding of more powerful figures in the scandal, which has been dubbed "Vatileaks".
Documents passed to Italian journalists accuse Vatican insiders of cronyism and corruption in contracts with Italian companies. La Stampa daily quoted one of the alleged leakers as saying the goal was to help the pope root out corruption.
On Saturday, Paolo Gabriele, 46, Pope Benedict's personal butler, was formally charged with stealing confidential papal documents. But leakers quoted by La Stampa, La Repubblica and other media said the leaking plot went much wider.
"There are leakers among the cardinals but the Secretariat of State could not say that, so they arrested the servant, Paolo, who was only delivering letters on behalf of others," La Repubblica quoted one alleged whistle-blower as saying.