Pope Francis said a "gay lobby" exists inside the Vatican, a surprising disclosure from a pope who has already delivered his share of stunners, and a resurrection of church conflicts that had bedeviled his predecessor's papacy.
"In the Curia," Francis said, referring to Catholicism's central bureaucracy, "there are holy people. But there is also a stream of corruption."
"The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there," Francis continued. "We need to see what we can do."
Hints that the Holy See contained a network of gay clergy surfaced last year in reports about a series of embarrassing leaks to Italian journalists.
The "Vatileaks" scandal factored in Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV's shocking decision to resign earlier this year, according to some church experts, as it impressed upon the 86-year-old pontiff that the modern papacy requires a vigorous and watchful presence.
Francis' enigmatic comments came during a meeting Sunday with CLAR, the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women, who head Catholic communities of priests, sisters and monks.
The Chilean website Reflection and Liberation, which focuses on Catholic theology, first reported Francis' remarks. The Catholic blog Rorate Caeli translated the report into English.
A Vatican spokesman told CNN, "The Holy See Press Office has no official comment on the private meeting."
Gay and lesbian Catholic groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said, "structure, not sexuality, is the real issue."
"The church is a monarchy. Monarchs are unaccountable. So many monarchs are corrupt. This is true in both secular and religious institutions," SNAP said in a statement.
Other Catholics counseled caution about reading too much into the pope's remarks.
"We don't have any explanation of what 'gay lobby' means," said Rocco Palmo, a Vatican watcher who runs Whispers in the Loggia, a website on Catholic news and church politics.
"Naturally, some in the church will try to polarize or interpret this, but as the rest of us aren't pope, we still have to get further explanation," Palmo added.
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SOURCE: CNN Belief Blog