Pope’s resignation linked to “gay lobby”
La Repubblica, Italy's largest circulation newspaper, alleges that some of those prelates were also being blackmailed by outsiders.
According to La Repubblica, Benedict had asked three cardinals to prepare a report on the recent "Vatileaks" scandal, after his butler had stolen correspondence which exposed supposed corruption within the Vatican.
The 300 page report was delivered to the Pope on 17 December. Among its findings was the existence of a strong gay faction which exerts an "inappropriate influence" in the Vatican.
Some of the members of that faction were being subject to "external influences" by outsiders of a "worldly nature", or blackmail, La Repubblica claims.
The report also listed several of the prelates' meeting places in Rome, including a suburban sauna, a beauty parlour in the city centre, and a residence that was being used at the time by an archbishop.
It was knowledge of these revelations which supposedly strengthened Benedict in his decision to resign. He will step down as Pope on 28 February, the first pontiff to do so willingly in 700 years.
Upon his resignation, the report will he passed on to his successor, who is expected to be elected before Easter.
The Vatican has refused either to confirm or deny La Repubblica's claims, or the existence of the report.