The Italian media is reporting that Pope Benedict XVI resigned after receiving the results of an internal investigation, delivered in a 300-page, two-volume dossier, that laid bare a sordid tale of blackmail, corruption and gay sex at the Vatican.
The respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported Thursday that the report stamped "Pontifical Secret," contained "an exact map of the mischief and the bad fish" inside the Holy See.
The newspaper said the findings of the nine-month investigation, headed by Spanish cardinal, Julian Herranz , with the assistance of Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, former archbishop of Palermo, and Slovak cardinal Jozef Tomko, was delivered to the pope on Dec. 17, 2012.
"It was on that day, with those papers on his desk, that Benedict XVI took the decision he had mulled over for so long,'' the newspaper said.
La Repubblica said the panel drew upon "dozens and dozens" of interviews with bishops, cardinals and lay people. It said the pope was kept apprised of the investigation in weekly meetings from April until December. The final, bound in red leather, is being kept in a safe in the pope's Vatican quarters, the newspaper said.
A similar story was carried by Panorama, a conservative weekly.
"What's coming out is a very detailed X-ray of the Roman Curia that does not spare even the closest collaborators of the pope," respected Vatican expert Ignazio Ingrao writes in Panorama. "The pope was no stranger to the intrigues, but he probably did not know that under his pontificate there was such a complex network and such intricate chains of personal interests and unmentionable relationships."
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, has refused to comment on the reports.
"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.
In announcing his resignation Feb. 11, Benedict said that he no longer had the "strength of mind and body" to carry on. A conclave will select a new pope next month.
Lombardi has indicated that Benedict would meet with the three cardinals before stepping down Feb. 28, in one of his final private audiences.
La Repubblica reported that the pope would personally hand the confidential files to his successor, with the hope he will be ''strong, young and holy'' enough to take the necessary action.
The investigation was triggered last May when the pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a hotbed of intrigue.
The papers were published in a blockbuster book. The butler was convicted in October of aggravated theft, and later pardoned.
The three-man panel, according to La Repubblica, discovered an underground gay network whose members organized sexual meetings in several locations, including a villa outside Rome, a sauna in Rome's Cuarto Miligo distirct and even in a beauty salon inside the Vatican.
The gatherings, in turn, left them open to blackmail from people outside the Vatican, the report said, according to the newspaper.
La Repubblica quoted an unidentified man described as ''very close'' to the authors of the dossier as saying it contained information about violations of the sixth and seventh commandments, which forbid adultery and stealing.
The British newspaper, The Guardian, notes that the sixth commandment also "is linked in Catholic doctrine to the proscribing of homosexual acts."
The U.S. website, The Daily Beast, reports that investigative journalist Carmello Abbate went undercover with a hidden camera in 2010 in Rome to produce an expose called Good Nights Out for Gay Priests.
The scandal has erupted as the pope is clearing the decks of his pontificate, tweaking the rules of the conclave, finessing the religious rites used to launch the next papacy and making some eyebrow-raising final appointments before he retires next week.
The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said in editions published late Friday that Benedict had signed a decree earlier in the week making some changes to the papal installation Mass, separating out the actual rite of installation from the liturgy itself.He is also studying the text of a separate document governing the rules of the conclave, though it's not known if it will address the thorny issue of whether the election can begin earlier than March 15, by some interpretations the earliest the vote can start under the current rules.
And on Friday, the Vatican announced Benedict had transferred a top official in the secretariat of state, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, to Colombia.
Some of the documents leaked in the midst of the "Vatileaks" scandal concerned differences of opinion about the level of financial transparency the Holy See should provide about the bank, the Institute for Religious Works. However, Balestrero himself wasn't named in any significant way in the leaks.
Lombardi said Balestrero's transfer had been months in the works, was a clear promotion and had nothing to do with what the Vatican considers baseless reporting.