With five days to go before Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the Vatican is being rocked by an explosive report that he decided to quit after learning of a network of influential gay prelates who were being blackmailed by gay outsiders.
The revelation stems from Benedict’s ordering a committee of three cardinals to investigate the unauthorized release to journalists of Vatican papers – the “Vati-leaks” scandal – and to make the findings for his eyes only.
Ironically, the two-volume, red-leather-bound cardinals’ report running nearly 300 pages was itself leaked.
Italy’s leading newspaper, La Repubblica, reported this week that the report was turned over to Benedict on Dec. 17 and he decided that day to resign.
The cardinals questioned dozens of Vatican officials and concluded the Holy See was corrupted by rival factions.
“Everything revolves around the non-observance of the Sixth and Seventh Commandments,” the report said, according to La Repubblica.
That’s a reference to “Thou shall not steal” – for the alleged pilfering of the Vatican bank – and “Thou shall not commit adultery,” which alludes to homosexuality.
La Repubblica added that members of one faction were “united by sexual orientation.”
“Some prelates are ‘externally influenced’ – we would say blackmailed – by laity who are linked by bonds of a ‘worldly nature,’ ” the paper said.
A similar report appeared in Italy’s news weekly Panorama, which named a Roman sauna where gay encounters allegedly took place.
Other Italian news media reported that Benedict was shocked by the findings.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi had indicated the pope may meet with the cardinals who compiled the document before he steps down next Thursday.
The newspaper La Stampa said Benedict was considering handing the report to the College of Cardinals when they begin their conclave to choose his successor.
Lombardi yesterday rebuffed efforts to get official reaction to the media reports.
One of the three cardinals who investigated Vati-leaks, Julian Herranz, hinted at the findings.
“There will be black sheep, like in all families,” he told El Pais.
On Saturday, a day before Benedict’s final Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican secretariat of state said the Catholic Church has for centuries insisted on the independence of its cardinals to freely elect their pope – a reference to episodes in the past when kings and emperors vetoed papal contenders or prevented cardinals from voting outright.
“If in the past, the so-called powers, i.e., States, exerted pressures on the election of the pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the church is living,” the statement said.
“It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave … that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi was asked how specifically the media was trying to influence the outcome; Lombardi didn’t respond directly, saying only that the reports have tended to paint the Curia in a negative light “beyond the considerations and serene evaluations” of problems that cardinals might discuss before the conclave.