Tom Kington in Rome
The Observer, Sunday 30 June 2013
A tide of lurid speculation, questionable accusations and possible blackmail attempts is buffeting the Vatican following Pope Francis’s claim that he is preparing to tackle a gay lobby secretly at work behind the Holy See’s walls.
The new pope’s private comments to a group of visiting South American churchmen, which caused a sensation when they appeared on a religious website earlier this week, prompted blushes in the Vatican, but have also unleashed feverish gossip in Rome regarding the contents of a report on Vatican infighting prepared last year for Francis’s predecessor, Joseph Ratzinger.
On his retirement in February, Ratzinger handed his Argentine successor the dossier, which reportedly describes a lobby of gay, senior churchmen inside the Vatican, running a network of patronage while fighting off blackmailers.
The pope’s unguarded remarks, which appeared to confirm the speculation, have fuelled a new round of accusations, beginning with a convicted paedophile priest, Father Patrizio Poggi, who last week named nine fellow prelates in Rome as part of a secret band who used a police officer to supply them with eastern European rent boys. By Friday, Poggi was under arrest, accused of defamation as investigators claimed he had invented the whole story to take revenge on fellow priests who stood by when he was found guilty of abusing children.
On Thursday, anti-paedophile campaigner Francesco Zanardi posted a taped conversation on his website in which an informant told him about alleged secret sex parties inside the Vatican involving 14-year-old male prostitutes and cardinals, as well as rented apartments in Rome where prelates kept a supply of young men.
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