Vatican Denies Report That Cardinal Was Moved To Hide Scandal

The Vatican officially denies a report from an Italian newspaper that Pope Benedict XVI shuttled a senior official off to Latin America to keep him quite from some sordid secrets he may have known.

Some reports hinted that the pope’s decision to promote Monsignor Ettore Balestrero to a post in Colombia was in effect to keep the man quiet, Reuters reported.

The Vatican denies those reports, however. A spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the suggestion that Balestrero was moved to keep him quiet was “absurd, totally without foundation.” He said the decision to move Balestrero was made weeks ago, but wasn’t announced until Colombian officials approved it.

The Colombia post is coveted within the Vatican network, as Bogota is the headquarters of an umbrella group for all bishops conferences in South America.

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will retire at the end of February, citing his age and ailing health. But reports from Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper say that the resignation was related to the leaks of secret documents last year that showed infighting over the running of the Vatican’s bank. Balestrero was allegedly named in the report of the scandal.

Even more insidious scandals have been hinted. Sources say that a group of gay Vatican officials were being blackmailed about details of their network. La Repubblica reported that this group met for sexual encounters in “a villa outside the Italian capital, a sauna in a Rome suburb, a beauty parlour in the centre, and a former university residence that was in use by a provincial Italian archbishop.”

The Vatican has not confirmed nor denied that report.

“Neither the cardinals’ commission nor I will make comments to confirm or deny the things that are said about this matter. Let each one assume his or her own responsibilities. We shall not be following up on the observations that are made about this,” Lombardi said, according to the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Though it is not commenting on the rumor in specific, the Vatican denies any reports that Pope Benedict resigned for reasons other than his health.