The recent outing of gay priests by a male prostitute has shocked the Italian Church and prompted several dioceses to address the issue of homosexual activity among their clergy.
Francesco Mangiacapra, a former lawyer who works as a prostitute, announced recently that in late February he forwarded to the Regional Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Campania a detailed record of his meetings and conversations with 34 priests and 6 seminarians.
The folder is 1,300 pages long, and contains Whatsapp conversations, texts, and photos. The priests involved are from the southern Italian region of Campania, surrounding the city of Naples.
Many priests and seminarians named in the dossier are from the Diocese of Teggiano Policastro, although the report was given to the Archdiocese of Naples.
Bishop Antonio De Luca of Teggiano-Policastro stressed that “the report on scandalous behaviours of some of the members of the clergy of many dioceses of Southern Italy causes great pain to our diocesan community.”
He added that the dossier was forwarded him by the curia of Naples, and this “will allow us to investigate the individuals named and to take the appropriate canonical initiatives established in these cases by the Holy See.”
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, underscored in a press release that “there are no names of priests belonging to the Archdiocese of Naples.” Beyond that, the Cardinal added, “the alleged fact are very grave.”
Cardinal Sepe concluded that if the allegations are proven true, “those who failed must pay and must be helped to repent of the evil they did.”
Since the news of the presentation of the dossier broke, Mangiacapra has appeared on several Italian television shows.
On one TV show, Mangiacapra said that his only aim is unmasking the “dirty life” of some the priests in Campania.
However, Mangiacapra’s modus operandi also sheds light on himself and on his work, giving the priest a lot of media exposure. This is the second scandal involving priests that has arisen from Mangiacapra’s allegations.
The prostitute is also the main witness and accuser in the investigation against Fr. Luca Morini, nicknamed Fr. Euro, a priest of the Italian diocese of Massa who is accused of cheating lay Catholics and priests, allegedly borrowing a huge amount of money later invested in diamonds and cocaine-filled parties.
The Italian Public Prosecutor will decide March 8 whether to indict Fr. Morini. The charges could be misappropriation, fraud and extortion.
The information about “Fr. Euro” came from a book by Mangiacapra, “Numero Uno. Confessioni di un marchettaro” (Number One. Confessions of a gigolo).
Both the Church and the Italian magistrates are now called to investigate and — in case Mangiacapra’s allegation are proven true — to punish those who are guilty.
However, both the dossier and the allegations against Fr. Euro seem to be part of Mangiacapra’s media campaign, which has led him to be a special guest on many radio and tv shows in Italy.
In many talk shows, Mangiacapra has advanced innuendos, violated the privacy of people investigated people and contributed to generate a “media circus” that is merely intended to attack the Catholic Church.
At the beginning of the dossier, Mangiacapra wrote: “I drafted this list of rotten apples not with the aim of digging up dirt on the Church, but rather with the aim of contributing to eradicate the rotten that would contaminate what is still good.”
Mangiacapra also attacked the “attitude of those bishops who have been already informed and that have not taken any measures,” saying a bishop should intervene when he hears allegations and not only when “a scandal breaks.”
Speaking in an Italian radio show, he added that “I am not going to sue anyone, but I did send a dossier to the Curia, since we are talking about sins, not about crimes.”
Was the Mangiacapra behaviour proper to tackle the issue? And what will happen in case these priests, whose names are now on newspapers, are found not guilty?
These questions are floating in Rome, and it is not the first time. Similar scandals have previously used to attack the Church, though investigations have not let to much.
In 2010, an undercover investigation by an Italian magazine generated the same scandal. The article denounced the habits of some homosexual Roman priests filmed while having intercourse.
The Vicariate of Rome, led at the time by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, delivered a strongly worded release condemning the behaviors of the involved priests and pledging to clean up the Church.
However, the cardinal also noted that “the intent of the article is evident: generate a scandal, defame all priests on the basis of declarations from one of the people interviewed claiming that ’98 percent of priests’ he knows are homosexual.”
These investigation led to the publication of a book (titled in English ‘Sex and the Vatican’): a sign that generating scandals about the Italian Church can offer further publicity.
Beyond the media campaigns, the problem of homosexual behaviour among priests has been addressed by Church in recent years.
In 2005, an instruction issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education — at that time entrusted with overseeing seminaries — stressed that “in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture."”
The instruction — drawing from previous documents of the magisterium — had been under study for while.
In the end, it is obvious that the Church is aware of homosexual behavior among its priests, and should be. But, in the Italian Church, it seems clear that other motives can be in play in the drama of public exposés.