Did gays in the Vatican drive Benedict out?

The latest speculation is that Benedict's resignation was prompted by the discovery of a gay "mafia" inside the Vatican. Not likely. Here's why. Paging Captain Renault...

The latest speculation to fill the vacuum created by Pope Benedict’s shocking resignation is that his almost unprecedented action was prompted by the discovery of a gay “mafia” inside the Vatican.

Horrors! Right? Well, maybe not so much…

The original report came this week from the Italian daily La Repubblica, delivered in breathless prose, of how a select group of cardinals delivered a report on the “Vatileaks” scandal last October to His Holiness and revealed that there was a “network” of gays inside the Roman Curia bringing scandal to the church by opening themselves to blackmail.

That news so shocked the pontiff’s delicate sensibilities that he there and then decided to resign at the earliest possible moment. The story has since zipped around other outlets.

I’m one of those who would say this is pretty massively overplayed. For one thing, Benedict’s resignation was most certainly the result of numerous factors, mainly revolving around the internal problems of the Vatican, of which sexual shenanigans were likely one — but hardly the only one, or even the principal one. His advancing age was the element that pushed it all to the brink.

The other thing is that Benedict would receive the Captain Louis Renault Award (see below) if he were to declare himself “shocked” that gay men inhabit the priesthood and hierarchy, and of course the Vatican itself.

Marco Tosatti, the veteran Vaticanista at at La Stampa, puts it well today when he notes that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent 25 years as a top official in the Curia, much of it attempting to chase gay priests out, or to discipline priests and bishops and even cardinals guilty of sex scandals. And he spent nearly eight years as pope doing the same.

“In short,” Tosatti writes, “if there is anyone who has seen it all when it comes to priests, it is precisely Joseph Ratzinger. It does not seem terribly plausible that the discovery in the Roman Curia, like in the Church, like in the world, that there are “fish of every type” (the words are those of Ratzinger himself, from the Gospels) might have been the decisive blow in forcing the pope to abandon the Throne of St. Peter.”

Makes sense to me. And yes, the Vatican can seem a lot like “Casablanca.” Clip below.

UPDATE: NCR’s John Allen weighs in, in a similar vein:

No, Benedict didn’t quit under the pressure of a “gay lobby.” But the perceived disarray in the Vatican, which may well be one part perception and one part reality, probably made resignation look even better.