VATICAN CITY -- In private remarks to the leadership of a key Latin American church group, Pope Francis lamented that a "gay lobby" was at work at the Vatican.
It was an apparent reference to allegations in the Italian media that blackmail was taking place within the Vatican against high-ranking prelates who are gay.
The Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious -- the regional organization for priests and nuns of religious orders -- confirmed Tuesday that its leaders had written a synthesis of Francis' remarks after their June 6 audience. The group said it was greatly distressed that the document had been published and apologized to the pope.
Francis is quoted as saying that while there were many holy people in the Vatican, there was also a current of corruption. "The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there . . . We need to see what we can do," the synthesis reads.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Tuesday the audience was private and that as a result he had nothing to say.
In the days leading up to Pope Benedict XVI's Feb. 28 resignation, Italian media were rife with reports of a "gay lobby" influencing papal decision-making and Vatican policy through blackmail, and suggestions that the scandal had led in part to Benedict's decision to resign.
The unsourced reports said details of the scandal were laid out in the secret dossier prepared for Benedict by three trusted cardinals. Benedict left the dossier for Francis.