(March 4) -- The Vatican is at the center of a gay sex scandal involving a young chorister who allegedly procured men, including at least one seminarian, for a lay member of one of Pope Benedict's inner circles.
Angelo Balducci, a civil engineer and honorary Vatican usher, was quoted in police wiretaps allegedly negotiating with Thomas Chinedu Ehiem, a 29-year-old Vatican choir member, about the kind of men he wanted brought to him. Some of the wiretap transcripts were published Wednesday in the Italian daily La Repubblica.
Balducci has been a member since 1995 of "Gentlemen of His Holiness," an exclusive fraternity of ushers within the papal household who serve during state and special occasions. Members of the group bore Pope John Paul II's coffin in 2005.
This latest Vatican embarrassment, coming not long after Irish priests were summoned to Rome to discuss decades of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland, surfaced inadvertently as a result of a probe into corruption involving public works contracts.
Balducci, who sits on the board of Italy's public works council and is a construction consultant to the Vatican, was one of four people arrested in February in connection with the corruption probe. He has not yet been charged in that case, which remains open.
On Wednesday, La Repubblica published excerpts from the wiretaps and other police documents from the probe, which indicated Balducci was in regular contact with Ehiem, a member of the Vatican's Giulia Choir. Police identified him as part "of an organized network ... to abet male prostitution."
Among the men allegedly procured for Balducci, according to the transcripts, were "two black Cuban boys," a former male model from Naples and a rugby player from Rome.
Ehiem told Panorama magazine in an interview set to run Friday that he had been introduced to Balducci 10 years ago. The Guardian quoted Ehiem as saying: "He asked me if I could procure other men for him. He told me he was married and that I had to do it in great secrecy."