Sex, secrets, and the race for the next pope

Pope Benedict is allegedly sitting on a secret dossier of purported scandals at the Vatican. Is there a cardinal alive who can fix this mess?

Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on Feb. 13.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Thursday is Pope Benedict XVI's last day in office, and he's leaving a holy mess behind at the Vatican. On Monday, the pope publicly accepted the resignation of Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien, days after the U.K.'s lone cardinal was accused in the British press of "inappropriate" behavior toward four men — a charge he denies and the Vatican says played no role in O'Brien's resignation, which was submitted in November. But the more salacious story involves a secret papal dossier Pope Benedict reportedly has locked in a safe in his apartment.

Last week, Italy's La Repubblica newspaper reported, without naming any sources, that Pope Benedict had decided to abdicate his position in December after receiving a secret report on financial improprieties, corruption, and blackmail linked to a network of sexually active gay priests and Vatican officials. The Vatican didn't deny that the pope had received the dossier — the work of three cardinals assigned to untangle the problems exposed in the so-called VatiLeaks airing of Vatican dirty laundry by the pope's former butler. But on Feb. 23, the Vatican criticized the "widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable, or completely false news stories" that it suggested were intended to influence the election of the next pope.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.