A new report outlining a network of gay Vatican officials might have been behind the Pope's resignation earlier this month, a claim the Vatican neither confirms or denies.

Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that gay Vatican prelates were being blackmailed by people with knowledge of their network, which met and had 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 network was supposedly detailed in a 300-page report to the Pope put together by three cardinals who were looking into the "Vatileaks" affair, a series of Papal dispatches which were stolen and leaked by Pope Benedict's butler last May. The report was given to the Pope on the same day he reportedly decided to resign.

The cardinals found that "various lobbies within the Holy See were consistently breaking" the sixth and seventh commandments (no adultery, no stealing), and were influencing the Vatican. Pope Benedict alluded to the affair in his Ash Wednesday homily, when he railed against vague internal "divisions."

This hasn't been the first recent revelation of a gay sex network in the Vatican (the Vatican bars sexually active gay men from the priesthood). The Guardian reports other incidents in 2007 and 2010:

In 2007 a senior official was suspended from the congregation, or department, for the priesthood, after he was filmed in a "sting" organised by an Italian television programme while apparently making sexual overtures to a younger man.

In 2010 a chorister was dismissed for allegedly procuring male prostitutes for a papal gentleman-in-waiting. A few months later a weekly news magazine used hidden cameras to record priests visiting gay clubs and bars and having sex.

Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi commented on the story, "Let each one assume his or her own responsibilities. We shall not be following up on the observations that are made about this."