Did Pope Benedict resign because of a powerful gay lobby within the Vatican? That's the contention behind a newly published article in la Republicca. If, like myself, you don't speak Italian, there's always the Google Translate version. It's possibly even less intelligible than a foreign tongue but it's worth reading if only for lines like, "What's the weeds, there are the bad fish."
Fortunately there are some breakdowns of the story for those of us who read better in English. A brief overview of the story can be found in The Huffington Post.
The problem apparently started with an internal report -- one that had been commissioned by Pope Benedict following the Vatileaks scandal. The findings of Cardinals Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi, who were tasked with the investigation, point to massive corruption within the Vatican. As per la Republicca, it was actually these revelations that Pope Benedict was referring to in comments widely interpreted as referring to the sex abuse scandal.
In the article, it is claimed that the cardinals reported that various lobbies within the Holy See were consistently breaking the sixth and seventh commandments, namely "thou shalt not steal" and "thou shalt not commit adultery".
The "stealing" was in particular related to the Vatican Bank, IOR, whilst the sexual offences were related to the influence of an active gay lobby within the Vatican.
Last week, when presiding over the Ash Wednesday celebrations in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict spoke of "divisions" which "besmirch" the face of the church. In a famous homily at the 2005 Via Crucis Easter celebrations in Rome, just days before the death of John Paul II, the then Cardinal Ratzinger had spoken of the "filth" in the church, a comment interpreted by many as a reference to the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal.
Considering that Pope Benedict can get much more exercised over homosexuality than he ever could over children being raped, there's at least a hint of plausibility to this report.
If this is yet another whacky conspiracy theory, the Vatican is being remarkably cagey about it.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said: "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 the observations that are made about this."
He added that interpretations of the report were creating "a tension that is the opposite of what the pope and the church want" in the approach to the conclave of cardinals that will elect Benedict's successor.
In other words, move along folks. Nothin' to see here.
The Guardian also points to la Republicca's assertion that some Vatican officials are being blackmailed by people with whom they have canoodled in various settings around Rome.
They included a villa outside the Italian capital, a sauna in a Rome suburb, a beauty parlour in the centre, and a former university residence that was in use by a provincial Italian archbishop.
This is also not the first time la Republicca has made claims about Vatican officials engaging in the love that dare not speak its name... and hiring male prostitutes.
None of this should come as a shock to anyone who has been following the sex abuse scandal over the years. At a certain point, it becomes apparent that much of the secrecy stems from concerns that if anyone pulls the thread, the whole tapestry of lies about a pure and celibate priesthood will unravel. Lest we forget, in at least one, documented case, one of the worst serial predators in the priesthood, Robert Trupia, tried to prevent his own defrocking by threatening to expose other clergy with whom he'd had illicit, gay dalliances.
See how much easier this would all be if the Church would just let its priests get married -- or gay married -- and focused on the genuinely sinful abuse of children?