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 paper also claims the report details information about sexual meetings organized by members of a gay underground network, who got together in venues across Rome and Vatican City.
(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."
“I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the church, of the divisions in the body of the church," Benedict said, according to the Washington Post.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to include additional information in coordination with HuffPost Italia.
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