June 11th, 2013
01:35 PM ET

Pope Francis: `Gay lobby' exists inside Vatican

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - Pope Francis said a “gay lobby” exists inside the Vatican, a surprising disclosure from a pope who has already delivered his share of stunners, and a resurrection of church conflicts that had bedeviled his predecessor's papacy.

“In the Curia,” Francis said, referring to Catholicism’s central bureaucracy, “there are holy people. But there is also a stream of corruption.”

“The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there,” Francis continued. “We need to see what we can do.”

READ MORE: The pope said what? Six stunners from Francis

Hints that the Holy See contained a network of gay clergy surfaced last year in reports about a series of embarrassing leaks to Italian journalists.

The "Vatileaks" scandal factored in Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV's shocking decision to resign earlier this year, according to some church experts, as it impressed upon the 86-year-old pontiff that the modern papacy requires a vigorous and watchful presence.

Francis' enigmatic comments came during a meeting Sunday with CLAR, the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women, who head Catholic communities of priests, sisters and monks.

The Chilean website Reflection and Liberation, which focuses on Catholic theology, first reported Francis’ remarks. The Catholic blog Rorate Caeli translated the report into English.

A Vatican spokesman told CNN, "The Holy See Press Office has no official comment on the private meeting."

Gay and lesbian Catholic groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said, "structure, not sexuality, is the real issue."

"The church is a monarchy. Monarchs are unaccountable. So many monarchs are corrupt. This is true in both secular and religious institutions," SNAP said in a statement.

Other Catholics counseled caution about reading too much into the pope's remarks.

"We don't have any explanation of what 'gay lobby' means," said Rocco Palmo, a Vatican watcher who runs Whispers in the Loggia, a website on Catholic news and church politics.

"Naturally, some in the church will try to polarize or interpret this, but as the rest of us aren't pope, we still have to get further explanation," Palmo added.

Church experts say the Chilean report rings true since the wide-ranging conversation centers on concerns that Francis has made touchstones of his nascent papacy.

In contrast to the buttoned-up Benedict, Francis has earned an early reputation for speaking off the cuff, often ditching prepared remarks in favor of more informal conversations.

On Friday, Francis nixed his “boring” speech and instead took questions from young Catholic students. Asked by a little girl if he wanted to be pope, Francis laughed and said that only someone who “doesn’t love himself” would want the position.

Last month, the pope sparked a worldwide debate by suggesting that atheists might be able to earn a spot in heaven.

"He has said some things that would turn Benedict whiter than the papal vestments," Palmo joked.

Francis told the Catholic leaders on Sunday to focus on the poor, that the Vatican must be reformed, and joked that whoever wagered on his long-shot election as pope “won a lot, of course.”

But his comments on the "gay lobby" are likely to gain the most attention, especially in the West, where Catholic leaders have been mounting a fierce fight against same-sex marriage.

After Benedict announced his resignation in February, reports circulated that a “gay lobby” had forced his hand.

Cardinals appointed by the former pope to find the source of the leaks investigated high-level Vatican clergy involved in homosexual affairs who might have been vulnerable to blackmail, according to La Repubblica, a leading Italian newspaper.

La Repubblica reported that the cardinals found evidence of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican but gave few details about it.

"Some high level clergy are exposed to the `external influence' – what we would call blackmail – of lay people to whom they are connected through ties of a `worldly nature,'" La Repubblica wrote.

The Vatican blasted the newspaper reports as “unverified, unverifiable and completely false.”

Francis is one of the few Catholic leaders to have seen the Vatican report.

The so-called Vatileaks scandal led to Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, being convicted on charges last year of leaking private papers from the the pope's private office. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

'Gay lobby' behind pope's resignation? Not likely

John Allen, CNN’s senior Vatican analyst, has said it would have been odd if the Vatican report had not considered the possibility that "insiders leading a double life," including sexually active clergy, might be vulnerable to pressure to betray the pope.

“It seems a stretch, however, to suggest this is the real reason," behind Benedict's resignation, Allen said.

In one of his first actions as pope, Francis created a council of eight cardinals, including Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston,  to offer suggestions on reforming the Vatican.

“The reform of the Roman Curia is something that almost all Cardinals asked for in the congregations preceding the Conclave,” Francis said, referring to the meetings that led up to his election in March. “I also asked for it.”

But Francis said that he cannot promote the reform himself. “I am very disorganized,” he said, adding, “I have never been good at this.”

Instead, the pope said, he is relying on his eight appointed cardinals to move the reforms forward.

CNN's Richard Greene contributed to this report. 

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • Gay rights • gender issues • Homosexuality

soundoff (1,872 Responses)
  1. Francis


    June 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Alias


      You'll know they are gaining influence when the bishops start dressing better.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  2. hrdwrknjoe

    "Naturally, some in the church will try to polarize or interpret this, but as the rest of us aren't pope, we still have to get further explanation."

    I see this Prophecy has come to fruition with the IDIOTS posting their wisdom-less one finger typing here.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  3. billy

    Dah, The church is the oldest and longest running pedophile ring in the history of planet earth. Tell us something we don't know.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • JamesK

      What does pedophilia have to do with being gay? Plenty of men have molested littler girls, right?

      June 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  4. PetTocqueuse

    Geez, first the Knights Templar and now this!

    June 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  5. aspblom

    That straight lobby has gotten out of hand, though.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • ThatsWhack!

      Yeah, it makes me sick the way they flaunt their straight lifestyle in everyone's faces. Sheesh!

      June 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  6. Peter

    Gay people are everywhere. Always have been. Get used to it.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  7. JamesK

    Not too long ago, the only real place where a gay Catholic men and woman could go to escape the pressure of getting married and starting a family was the clergy. At least that Catholics had this; I can't imagine the pain that gay protestants went through all those years.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • LPC


      June 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  8. palintwit

    Michele Bachmann isn't going to run for another term in Congress. This means she will be able to spend more time with Sarah Palin strategizing for 2016.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Alias

      Every comedian in the country will pray that those two run on the same ticket.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  9. Pat

    While most Catholics such as myself do not agree with the idea of being gay and would prefer a clergy without gays and lesbians, it is an undeniable fact that a significant number of them exist, due in part to their vows not allowing them to Marry.
    So here are my thoughts on this subject: having the Pope acknowledge the existence of the "gay lobby" is really a good thing. Particularly for clergy that are gay, such an acknowledgement by the hierarchy removes some of the stigma associated with being gay, and if they need to act on their needs they will seek out consenting adults for their partners, rather than abuse children.
    If such an acknowledgement from the Church means that one less child is abused, then this statement was well worth the embarrassment.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • sam

      Being gay has zero to do with being a child molester. ZERO.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • sam stone

      "the idea of being gay"?

      June 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Alias

      "and if they need to act on their needs they will seek out consenting adults for their partners, rather than abuse children."

      You really aren't seeing the world the same way sane people do. Get help.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • JamesK

      Yes, it certainly says nothing about all the grown men who have molested little girls, for example.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Albert

      So fornication is Ok even if the Bible says its not?

      June 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • mrpgeek

      Being gay and being a pedophile are completely different things. Gay people are gay from birth, it is not a choice. Why would anyone choose to be discriminated against, abused since childhood and looked down by most of society? I know a good number of gay people, all of them in stable, committed relationships. All of them are good citizens, have jobs, pay their taxes, donate to charities and in some cases raise children. Nothing to do with a criminal child abuser. Please open your mind and your heart.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • @chad

      Female Catholic clergy?

      June 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • JamesK

      In all fairness, many pedophiles have their own families, pay their taxes, do charity and all that in an effort to gain people's trust, and not be suspected. They're predators, and many use "normal-ness" as their camouflage. Deep down, people know this, so it never fails to amaze me that people talk about gays as the big risk when they stick out more than anyone else in the community.

      June 11, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Uncle Marsh

      Pat = clueless, ignorant moron and claims to speak for most Catholics: "While most Catholics such as myself do not agree with the idea of being gay." What is the "idea of being gay?" What a tool.

      June 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • The real Tom


      June 11, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  10. blakenaustin

    Remove them from any position of influence within the church.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Stu

      There would be a lot of job openoings if that happened.

      June 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  11. snowboarder

    hardly surprising. there are likely h0m 0se xuals pretty much everywhere.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  12. tb63

    I'm gay, and I can't believe that my red telephone under a glass cheese keeper hasn't rung to inform me of this!

    June 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • My Own Private Idaho

      Mine's pink.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  13. doug

    Gay Catholics? Impossible.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  14. booger

    Aye captain, warp speed.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  15. JJ

    Er...I thought it was common knowledge that most priests are gay.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  16. SokrMom

    Only the lobby?

    June 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  17. Mary

    So the main lobby of the building has been painted pink and gold then? That does sound cheery and gay.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  18. Doris

    I toured the Vatican and I didn't see a gay lobby. Don't get me wrong – the whole place was pretty decked out in gold and glitter, but it's not like there was some obvious separate entrance or welcoming committee.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • sam stone

      Maybe it was reachable through the back door

      June 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Chuckles



      June 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • IrishinToronto

      I'd say it's more of a vestibule

      June 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • Will

      Did you try going in through the rectory?

      June 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      "rectum? damn near killed him!"

      June 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  19. Reality

    Another nail in the lid of the coffin of the RCC !!! Run Catholics before you are buried in the crumbling churches of "fems" (flaws, errors, muck and stench) the eats away at the foundations of all religions.

    June 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • JJ

      If they haven't left yet because of the thousands of priests raping hundreds of thousands of children then I can't imagine anything that would make them grow a brain and morality and leave the cult.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      John 1

      1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
      2 The same was in the beginning with God.
      3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
      4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
      5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.


      June 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • Reality


      One of your major delusions is that the simple preacher man is/was somehow "god, incarnate"!!!

      John 1:1-18 where you have found this incarnation mumbo-jumbo no where else in the scriptures making it a single attestation. Most contemporary historic Jesus and NT exegetes have concluded that the passage is simply more embellishment by the "great embellisher" John (who btw was not the Apostle John)- See Father Raymond Brown's epic 800+ page book, An Introduction to the New Testament for added information.

      From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

      "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

      "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

      "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

      And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,
      "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

      See also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html

      June 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Attracting More

      No, Reality, actually as the Church pushes forward through Pope Francis to become more inclusive by revelations such as this, it can only attract more fair-minded people to Support it financially and otherwise. It is bound to happen as the stigma of Gays and Lesbians begins to erode and leave the RCC. There is great rejoicing going on at this point!

      June 12, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Marbran

      @JJ Really? "hundreds of thousands" Hyperbolize much?

      June 12, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  20. NonDoD Fedup

    Heh the Vatican said something was "unverified, unverifiable", oh the irony ...

    June 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • The other Tom


      June 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Thus it must be true, if it's unverifiable. Haven't they heard of faith?

      June 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.