An Irish Catholic organization is seeking a ban on the release of a new film featuring a lesbian nun.
Upcoming movie Benedetta, from Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven and film company Mubi, is set to be released on April 15 – aka Good Friday.
Benedetta tells the story of real-life 17th-century woman who becomes entangled in an affair with another nun in her convent, before their romance is discovered by the church.
To further complicate things, Benedetta appears to be marked by stigmata – the miraculous appearance of Jesus Christ’s wounds on a person’s body.
Loosely based on a true story, director Paul set his film on the 1986 non-fiction book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy.
The chosen release date of the film, coupled with the subject, means Benedetta was likely going to cause controversy among devoted Christians, particularly those who subscribe to the notion that being gay is a sin.
And with the release just days away, a Catholic activist organisation is demanding the movie be pulled.
A petition set up by the Irish Society for Christian Civilisation (ISFCC) says it wants to ‘STOP MUBI’s & Verhoeven’s Benedetta Movie (sic)’, describing it as a ‘smart smut attack on the Holy Catholic Church.’
The petition describes the film as ‘highly touted, blasphemous and impure’, declaring it ‘a shocking attack on Good Friday… which horribly insults Our Lady and her Son.’
Addressing distribution company Mubi directly, the petition reads: ‘I strongly oppose and condemn your distribution and promotion of Paul Verhoeven’s film Benedetta.
‘It offends God, and countless Catholics all over the world.’
The ISFCC urged fellow Catholics to sign the petition, which so far has over 13,000 signatures.
According to the ISFCC, Benedetta features ‘several Jesus-on-nun intense “make outs”, a statuette of Mary Most Holy used as a sex-toy (and) voyeuristic lesbian nuns’ “pornography”.’
It called on filmmakers to ‘promote virtue, not vice.’
Benedetta has been effectively outlawed in Singapore, where it was refused classification by the IMDA, and its showing at the New York Film Festival in 2021 was hit with protests by Catholic groups.
While causing outrage amongst Catholics and Christians, critics so far seem to be impressed with Benedetta, with the film so far boasting an impressive 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The French-language film premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival to general praise, but did not win the coveted Palme d’Or.