Catholic Priest On Trial After Using Church Funds To Hire Escort, Buy Drugs

Documents given to the archdiocese of Naples out some 60 priests from across Italy.

A massive corruption case against a Catholic priest has reportedly exposed dozens of closeted clergy in Italy.

Father Luca Morini is facing charges of embezzlement, fraud, blackmail, and drug distribution after spending hundreds of thousands of Euros on a male escort. The scandal broke after Francesco Mangiacapra went public with his relationship with Morini, who served two parishes in Tuscany. Morini initially claimed he was a judge, but when Mangiacapra learned the truth he began to investigate how a parish priest could afford the lavish gifts and expensive dinners Morini was buying him.

According to Church Militant, Mangiacapra suspected the money was coming from his parishioners and decided to report Morini to the diocese.

The church was reportedly slow to act—only doing so after learning the TV show Le Iene was investigating Mangiacapra’s claims. Morini was relieved of his duties “due to illness” and transferred to a $250,000 home bought especially for him. Bishop Santucci also gave Morini $5,500 from his personal accounts and an additional $1,200 from diocese funds. It’s believed Morini blackmailed Santucci for the sweet deal, “threaten[ing] to expose to the public eye unpleasant facts about many diocesan priests,” according to Le Iene.

The aired segment shows Morini snorting cocaine and cavorting with several male escorts. It also featured priests claiming Morini had bilked parishioners for money for decades, telling them a saint had mentioned them by name.

A police investigation traced nearly $900,000 in cash and $180,000 in diamond investments to Morini.

Last week Mangiacapra handed a 1,200-page dossier to the archdiocese of Naples—including sexually explicit photographs—that linked him to 60 priests across Italy.

“The goal isn’t to hurt the people I’ve mentioned [in the dossier], Mangiacapra told Corriere della Sera, “but to help them understand that their double life… isn’t useful to them or to the people who rely on them for guidance. Their behavior is, in many cases, a result of the impunity that the high hierarchy of the Church has made habitual.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.