The Vatican on Saturday dismissed allegations linking Pope Benedict XVI's sudden resignation to the discovery of a "gay lobby" inside the Vatican.
Italy's largest newspaper, La Republica, reported the discovery, claiming that Benedict received a document detailing a network of gay priests who were being blackmailed. The information, the paper suggested, contributed to the pope's decision to step down.
The Vatican condemned the reports, calling them slanderous.
"It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave ... that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions," the Vatican secretariat of state said in a statement.
La Republica said that the pope resigned the day after he received the document compiled by three cardinals looking into the so-called "Vatileaks" affair.
The paper claimed that the cardinals' report described a group of gay priests who were being blackmailed by laymen with whom they had links of a "worldly nature."