Now that the shock of Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation has settled in, conspiracy theorists are having a heyday trying to figure out if there is more to the story than meets the eye. With no papal funeral to prepare for and the pope’s final appearances fairly routine, Vatican watchers and bored reporters have been fleshing out a number of theories on why the pope may have really resigned.
Was the pope under the influence of a secretive “gay lobby” within the Vatican itself? That’s the claim put forth by Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.
On Thursday, the popular paper published an article alleging that Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign this month was partly prompted by a report that accused Vatican officials of being under the influence of several internal lobbies, reportedly including a gay one.
The Irish Times reports that Benedict commissioned the report after the Vatileaks scandal broke last year. The report, written by a trio of cardinals, concluded that “various lobbies within the Holy See were consistently breaking” the sixth and seventh commandments, “thou shalt not commit adultery” and “thou shalt not steal.”
(The sixth commandment referencing adultery has historically been tied to the Catholic Church’s doctrine banning homosexuality.)
The nearly 300-page dossier would be passed on to pope’s successor, the report added.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, released an arguably vague statement about the accusations.
“Neither the cardinals’ commission nor I will make comments to confirm or deny the things that are said about this matter,” he said, according to the Guardian. “Let each one assume his or her own responsibilities. We shall not be following up on the observations that are made about this.”
The Guardian also reported that a separate Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, mentioned a “disturbing” dossier in an article published soon after the pope’s resignation announcement.
Scandalous revelations involving the Vatican and gay sex have been published by La Repubblica before. In 2010, the newspaper revealed wiretaps and police documents that showed a Vatican chorister and an elite papal usher had been involved with a gay prostitutes ring. Both men were dismissed from their duties, the Telegraph notes.
La Repubblica’s allegations are only the latest in a string of theories relating to the pope’s sudden departure, which has prompted rampant speculation.
Benedict himself has further confused matters with his Ash Wednesday homily, in which he referenced vague internal “divisions.”
Beyond the gossip about why the pope might have really resigned are growing conspiracies that there is a faction of cardinals who don’t think the pope should live inside Vatican City after he retires. Several unnamed cardinals have been quoted in the Italian press saying that it would have been better if he returned to Bavaria in Germany or lived out his days somewhere like Monte Cassino, a hilltop abbey south of Rome. Asked if the pope consulted a group of cardinals about where to live after he retires, Lombardi said that he didn’t have to. “The successor and cardinals will be very happy to have nearby a person who more than anyone understands the spiritual needs of the church and his successor.”
But many Vatican experts in Rome have been writing that whether the former pope should stay will actually be up to the new pope. After all, he will have full charge of all the affairs inside Vatican City. Archbishop Rino Fisichella told Corriere della Sera that he thought the pope should “rethink his plans” even before that, saying that having two popes inside Vatican City can only lead to trouble. Citing a potential “cohabitation issue” Fisichella says that he believes the pope will eventually choose to move out.
Whether any of the rumors will prove true is anyone’s guess. But with little happening beyond cardinals lobbying for the pope’s old job from now until the conclave begins sometime after March 15, there is no question that the rumor mill will keep churning.
Post Script: Salon
Friday, Feb 22, 2013 02:56 PM EST
Did a gay blackmail scandal bring down the pope?
The pope’s abrupt retirement gets stranger: Now an Italian newspaper alleges corruption at the Vatican