A Vatican spokesman has sharply repudiated reports of corruption in the Catholic Church as "gossip" and "slander," and claimed that the media was trying to influence the vote in the college of cardinals. The Pope is due to resign next Thursday. The BBC reports:
An unconfirmed report in one of Italy's biggest newspapers, La Repubblica, suggested that the Pope had resigned shortly after being presented with a dossier detailing a network of Vatican priests, "united by sexual orientation" who were being blackmailed.
Without giving credence to such allegations or addressing the report specifically, the Vatican spokesman said those putting themselves in positions of judgement had no authority to do so.
"Whoever has money, sex and power at the forefront of their mind sees the world through these parameters and cannot see beyond, even when looking at the Church," he said.
"Their view cannot look to the heights or go in-depth to understand the spiritual dimensions and motivations of existence," he added. [...]
Referring to the upcoming conclave, during which the next leader of the Catholic Church will be chosen, Father Lombardi also suggested that the media was exerting "unacceptable pressure to condition the vote of one or other member of the college of cardinals".
The BBC's Vatican correspondent, David Willey, says that this is probably directed towards attempts by the American media to dissuade US cardinals alleged to have covered up clerical sexual abuse scandals from travelling to take part in the vote.
The Catholic Church has been under pressure for quite some time because of legions of people who have been coming forth over the years all over the world citing sexual abuse by priests. With days to go to the Pope's resignation, new rumors of intrigue within the halls of power of the Vatican have been surfacing, and an embattled Vatican is in defense mode. ChannelNewsAsia adds:
The secret report compiled by a committee of three cardinals for the Pope's eyes only was the result of a wide-ranging investigation into leaks of confidential papers from the Vatican that caused huge embarrassment last year.
The cardinals questioned dozens of Vatican officials and presented the Pope with their final report in December 2012, just before Benedict pardoned his former butler Paolo Gabriele who had been convicted of leaking the papal memos.
The Panorama news weekly and the Repubblica daily said on Thursday that the report contained allegations of corruption and of blackmail attempts against gay Vatican clergymen, as well as favouritism based on gay relationships.
Both publications quoted a source with knowledge of the investigation saying that the cardinals' conclusions "revolve around the sixth and seventh commandments" — "Thou shall not commit adultery" and "Thou shall not steal".
The Vatican has declined to comment on these two reports, with spokesman Federico Lombardi saying they were "conjectures, fictions and opinions."
Gossip is nothing new prior to papal conclaves as rival factions battle for control; however, the Pope demoted Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, a powerful behind-the-scenes figure in the Secretariat of State with a major role in handling the Vatican bank's foreign relations in the face of the Vatican bank being accused of a money laundering scheme whereupon Vatican City recently could no longer take credit cards. Balestrero is reportedly being sent to Colombia. German lawyer Ernst von Freyberg has been charged by the Pope to lead the scandal-tainted financial institution.