ROME—Father Luca Morini did not practice what he preached. In fact, the Catholic priest apparently did a lot more than preaching at the two parishes he led in rural Tuscany where he earned the nickname “Don Euro” and where he now faces charges for fraud, embezzlement, drug dealing, extortion, and money laundering.
His impropriety was first exposed after a male escort named Francesco Mangiacapra discovered that the consensual sex-for-hire relationship he had with Morini, who he thought was a high-powered judge, was not quite what it seemed. Mangiacapra, who trained as a lawyer but who apparently found the male-escort business more profitable, had made the discovery quite by chance, when he recognized his high-dollar client in priest garb.
He says he then began to wonder how a simple priest could afford such expensive dinners and gifts as his favorite client bestowed on him. A devout Catholic himself, Mangiacapra says he was worried that Father Morini was dipping into the collection plate and duly reported his suspicions to the diocese of Massa Carrara-Pontremoli in Tuscany. But only after a local investigative television show caught Morini snorting cocaine, lounging at a gay spa, and kissing other gay men did they suspend him due to an undisclosed illness, according to several conservative Catholic websites. He was then reportedly tucked away inside a private villa for rehabilitation and is not attending his own criminal trial.
The experience with the double-life priest was not isolated, and Mangiacapra soon learned that most of his clients who were friends of the priest were also members of the clergy, and that he’d somehow found himself quite unexpectedly the favorite boy toy in a gay-priest sex ring. He did what any self-serving male prostitute might do and started researching a book about it called Il Numero Uno. Confessioni di un Marchettaro (The Number One. Confessions of a Prostitute) based on WhatsApp messages, screenshots, and videos of various priests in compromising positions.
But the church, it seemed, didn’t pay much attention to the book, which was published last March, so Mangiacapra brought it to the attention of various high-ranking cardinals by compiling his raw research into a 1,200-page dossier focused on nearly 40 priests across Italy that he took to the archdiocese of Naples, led by Cardinal Cresenzio Sepe, who decided to act and sent the dossier straight to the Vatican. Sepe told Corriere della Sera that Naples “didn’t enter into it” and that none of the gay priests were Neapolitan. “Our diocese was used like a post office,” he said. “We just delivered the message to Rome.”
The Italian equivalent of Drudge Report, Dagospia, was allegedly able to see some of the dossier from which it published various excerpts, including screenshots of messages. Several show what appear to be “dick pics” of priests with messages about where and how they wanted to have sex with each other and the escorts. In one, an apparent priest invites the escort along to an ordination, after which they would have sex nearby. The message ends with “see you later, I’ll tell you when the mass is.”
Mangiacapra says he means no harm to the church. “I want to explain right away that mine is not a gesture that goes against the Catholic Church, indeed, it is paradoxically in its favor,” he said in an interview with Catania Today, which also published a screenshot of an exchange in which one priest sent him a naked picture in front of the bell and asked if he liked his penis.
“My book and the content of the file that I delivered in Naples is to bring to light the reality clearly in contradiction to the obligations imposed by the cassock,” he says.
The escort says the gay priests primarily used Telegram, a preferred service with a number of gay priest chat groups where clergy can find escorts and other priests in their areas. He said the priests paid “hundreds of euro” and seemingly had no qualms about the premium prices. Mangiacapra says he wants the errant priests to be more honest about their sexuality.
“We are talking about sins, not crimes,” he said. “I only want this out so that these people will stop preaching hatred towards gays.”
Now that Cardinal Sepe has pushed the dossier to the Vatican, Mangiacapra told Catania Today that he will get out of prostitution, having grown tired of the “indignity of selling my body.”
“I did it for the health of the church. We are talking about bad apples which, in my opinion, should be reduced to the lay state not to be punished but to have the opportunity to come into contact and reconcile with their own homosexuality,” he said. “As a person who enjoys sexual freedom, I do not condemn the homosexuality of the priests: Homosexuality is not a crime, what is condemned is the incoherence of these priests.”