Let's flashback to this past February when Italian newspapers were abuzz about reports that Pope Benedict XVI decided to call it quits not because of his old age but instead to avoid the fallout that could come from a secret 300-page dossier compiled by three cardinals he tapped to look into last year's leak of confidential papers stolen from his desk.
The most-attention-grabbing detail from those reports, you may remember, was the suggestion that there was "an underground gay network" within the church. Just in case that wasn't enough to pique international interest, the reports also claimed that some of said officials had been blackmailed by outsiders. At the time, the Vatican denounced the reporting as "unverified, unverifiable or completely false."
OK, now let's flash-forward to the present day, via CBS News:
Pope Francis lamented that a "gay lobby" was at work at the Vatican in private remarks to the leadership of a key Latin American church group ...
The Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious — the regional organization for priests and nuns of religious orders — confirmed Tuesday that its leaders had written a synthesis of Francis' remarks after their June 6 audience. The group, known by its Spanish acronym CLAR, said it was greatly distressed that the document had been published and apologized to the pope.
In the document, Francis is quoted as saying that while there were many holy people in the Vatican, there was also corruption: "The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there ... We need to see what we can do ..." the synthesis reads.
The Vatican has so far declined to comment on the report, saying only that the pope's remarks were made to a private audience. CLAR, meanwhile, is standing by its account, albeit somewhat bashfully. The group released a statement saying that the summary was written by a half-dozen of its leaders for their private use, but stressed that it was not intended for public consumption. "It's clear that based on this one cannot attribute with certainty to the Holy Father singular expressions in the text, but just the general sense," the group said.
Nevertheless, the pope's remarks as documented obviously come as quite a shock both for their candidness and because they appear to confirm at least a portion of the earlier reports about the secret findings of the investigation into the leaked papers. Those papers, known as the "VatiLeaks," raised questions of financial impropriety and corruption at the Vatican. The investigation that followed, however, has proved even more uncomfortable for church officials.