Sex not only makes the world go round but it makes good drama. And, Italians have found themselves in leading roles. From Hollywood to the Vatican, Italians are in the spotlight.
Pope Francis, an Italian Argentine, is embroiled in a new Reformation of sorts. Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó has demanded that Pope Francis resign for not enforcing sanctions against American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who was to be punished for sexual misconduct. The Pope has also been taken to task by Chilean officials and a good part of Ireland’s Catholics for decades of priestly abuse and cover-ups. Irish government enquiries established that hundreds of priests had abused thousands of children over decades. A recent investigation by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General uncovered a similar outrage here.
If former Pope Benedict XVI resigned amid financial scandals, his successor probably wishes his worse problem was fiscal hanky-panky rather than pervasive pedophilia. Clearly, Pope Francis’s vision of a compassionate and all-forgiving Church is coming back to haunt him.
Pedophilia has exposed a serious crack in the Church’s foundation. Jesus never required celibacy of his apostles. In fact, for more than 1,500 years, popes and priests were usually married. However, by the 16th Century, celibacy became the standard. It may have had more to do with priests giving their offspring Church jobs and property than with celestial purity. No doubt, adult hetero- and homosexual cheating were not uncommon, as was pedophilia. They thrived in silence until now.
Depending on the source, Archbishop Viganó is either fed up with rampant homosexuality in the Church or disgruntled for being passed over for promotion to cardinal in 2011. Either way, this clerical tempest poses the age old question: Can priests realistically embrace chastity?
If this is actually about homosexuality, what to do? If the Church allows priests to marry, would they all marry women? Or, would the Church bless homosexual marriages to control priestly libidos and to keep the seminaries full? They are hardly filled today.
Now, about Hollywood…
One of the first and foremost accusers of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein for rape is Italian actress Asia Argento, herself a film producer. She claims Weinstein performed oral sex on her when she was 21 years old. Despite the unpleasant(?) experience she hung around Weinstein for another four years, having consensual sex with him. She said she did it because she had a movie coming out and “didn’t want to anger him.”
That would be the end of a strange story until a young California man named Jimmy Bennett reminded Argento that she raped him when he was 17. He had photos and email exchanges to prove it. Argento was dating the late Anthony Bourdain when Bennett popped back into her life. To shut Bennett up, Bourdain graciously paid him $380,000 in hush money. Of course, the media found out and Argento has now been labelled a pedophile as well as a Weinstein “victim.”
If you think Argento has any defenders, either among her fellow Weinstein victims or her compatriots in Italy, think again. She was immediately dropped as a judge on X Factor Italy, a popular TV show. In fact, the New York Times devoted a quarter page to detail Argento’s unpopularity in her homeland. Betraying her fellow women by her hypocrisy is one complaint. To many Italian males she is no better than a co-conspirator on the casting couch. In short, she is antipatica among most Italians.
Italian media also questions the coincidence of Bourdain’s suicide amid the Bennett revelations and pay-off. Days before Bourdain hanged himself, Argento was photographed dancing with another man. Argento’s loose lifestyle certainly didn’t relieve Bourdain of any suicidal anxieties.
Whether it’s uncontrolled impulses among celebrities or clergymen, human nature cannot always be contained. We shouldn’t be shocked by old tales in new stories. When the recently-departed Aretha Franklin asked in song for R-E-S-P-E-C-T from men she might have also warned women of R-E-G-R-E-T-S.
As our Argentine pope might say: it takes two to tango. -JLM