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Pope's retirement sparked by file on gay bishops: Report

This May 11, 2010 file photo shows Pope Benedict XVI, left, and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone during a press conference aboard the airplane to Lisbon on the occasion of the pontiff's four day visit to Portugal. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

The Vatican Thursday refused to confirm or deny a report by an Italian newspaper that Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation might have been sparked by his discovery of a network of gay bishops, inside the Vatican, who are being held to blackmail by outsiders.

La Repubblica said the pope made up his mind to retire Dec. 17, the day he learned of the network from cardinals assigned to investigate last year’s “Vatileaks” scandal, a debacle in which the Pope’s butler was arrested for trafficking Papal correspondence that revealed the Vatican in less than flattering terms.

The newspaper – Italy’s largest mainstream paper – said the cardinals gave Benedict a two-volume report of nearly 300 pages that revealed a number of factions battling it out for influence within the Vatican, including one that was “united by sexual orientation.”

The Guardian called the Italian newspaper’s dispatch, “a potentially explosive report,” especially on the cusp of a historic transition.

Reporting from Rome, John Hooper wrote:

“In an apparent quotation from the report, La Repubblica said some Vatican officials had been subject to "external influence" from laymen with whom they had links of a "worldly nature". The paper said this was a clear reference to blackmail.”

Vatican spokesperson Fr. Frederico Lombardi told La Repubblica: "Neither the cardinals' commission nor I will make comments to confirm or deny the things that are said about this matter. Let each one assume his or her own responsibilities. We shall not be following up on observations made about this.”

The Guardian noted that another Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, made an oblique reference to the report when the Pope announced his plans to retire on Feb. 11.

While the Vatican will be making no further comment, Europe’s chattering classes doubtless will.

READ MORE:  Feuds and betrayals underscore need for a manager pope to reform ‘ungovernable’ Vatican

Bill Schiller has held bureau postings for the Toronto Star in Johannesburg, Berlin, London and Beijing. He is a NNA and Amnesty International Award winner, and a Harvard Nieman Fellow from the class of '06. Follow him on Twitter @wschiller


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