23 Feb 2013

Did a Gay Blackmail Scandal Bring Down Pope Benedict?

The pope's abrupt retirement gets stranger. Now, an Italian newspaper alleges corruption at the Vatican.

You know what the sudden, surprising, once-every-700-years story of the pope’s resignation needed? What every dramatic story line does: a gay blackmail twist. And so the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica this week reports on a very tangled web that claims to have brought down a pope, under the irresistible headline “Sex and career, blackmail in the Vatican: Behind the resignation of Benedict XVI.”


The paper says that Benedict made his decision to step down on Dec. 17, just one day after he received a revealing 300-page dossier from a trio of elderly cardinals. He’d assigned them to investigate last year’s scandal involving a slew of leaked confidential Vatican documents and letters that purported to show corruption and internal conflict within the Holy See. The “Vatileaks” mess was just another of the embarrassments the church has faced during Benedict’s reign — including a  money laundering investigation and record-breaking settlements in sex abuse lawsuits. But the leaks were a particularly personal humiliation to the pontiff — the documents in question had allegedly been stolen by his own butler Paolo Gabriele. Gabriele later told investigators he released the documents “for the good of the Church.”  “I was sure that a shock, perhaps by using the media, could be a healthy thing to bring the Church back on the right track,” he explained in his earnest pretrial testimony.

Now, La Repubblica says that the trio of cardinals, who’ve been looking into the matter since last year, revealed to the pope a faction within the Vatican  “united by sexual orientation” that had been subject to “external influence” of a “worldly nature.” (The paper helpfully explains this is Vatican-speak for blackmail.) A source it says is close to the cardinals who prepared the report told La Repubblica, with equal poetic obscurity, “Everything revolves around the non-observance of the sixth and seventh commandments.”

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