Calling Dan Brown: Pope’s Resignation Connected to Network of Gay Bishops?

The existence of gay priests and bishops within the walls of the Vatican is not exactly earth-shattering news. But how about when the first papal resignation in six centuries is tied to the existence of a secret report on a network of gay prelates, their favorite cavorting spots, and their possible subjection to blackmail?

Italian newspaper La Repubblica (via the Guardian UK) has written that the pope’s decision to resign came on the same day in December he received a dossier put together by cardinals assigned to look into the “Vatileaks” scandal. But the leak of internal documents may be far from the most interesting thing cardinals will be talking about as they prepare to choose a new pope:

According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising “two volumes of almost 300 pages—bound in red” had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope’s successor upon his election.

The newspaper said the cardinals described a number of factions, including one whose members were “united by sexual orientation.”

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

La Repubblica said the cardinals’ report identified a series of meeting places in and 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.

Vatican officials declined to comment on the substance of La Repubblica’s report, but a spokesman told the paper that interpretations of the internal report were creating “a tension that is the opposite of what the pope and the church want” in the lead-up to the conclave.

*National Catholic Reporter Senior Correspondent John L. Allen Jr. weighs in here.  

Peter Montgomery, a Washington, DC-based writer, is an associate editor for Religion Dispatches and a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way. His work focuses on religion, politics, and LGBT issues. Follow him on twitter @petemont.