Vatican Responds to Gay Blackmail Rumors, Embroiled Cardinal Skips Sunday MassS

Before his farewell address this morning, representatives of the Pope in the Vatican strongly condemned yesterday's media coverage of a report by a group of Cardinals that outlined a network of gay officials inside the Vatican and their blackmail by a gay prostitution ring. The Vatican did not deny or dispute the findings of the report.

Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi wrote:

There is no lack, in fact, of those who seek to profit from the moment of surprise and disorientation of the spiritually naive to sow confusion and to discredit the Church and its governance, making recourse to old tools, such as gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander, or exercising unacceptable pressures to condition the exercise of the voting duty on the part of one or another member of the College of Cardinals, who they consider to be objectionable for one reason or another.

This discouragement of sensationalism comes as the media turns its attention to Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland. O'Brien, who will be voting on the next Pope (possibly one of the Cardinals Lombardi alluded to above), skipped Mass this morning after a report in the The Observer linked him to over 30 years of sexually inappropriate behavior, including a relationship with another priest and approaching a seminarian after night prayers. O'Brien was named "Bigot of the Year" by the Scottish Stonewall Organization for going "well beyond what any normal person would call a decent level of public discourse" while railing against gay marriage in Scotland. He compared gay marriage to pedophilia, arguing "What if a man likes little girls? Can he adopt a little girl and then just have a little girl at home? We are working towards the destruction of any sort of moral standards."

Today the Pope gave what amounts to a farewell address, telling an adoring St. Peter's Square that he was not abandoning the church:

"But this does not mean abandoning the Church. Actually, if God asks this of me, it is precisely because I can continue to serve with the same dedication and the same love I have shown so far in a way more in keeping with my age and my strengths."

A new Pope is expected to be chosen by March 24th.