In Naples, Italy, handsome young Francesco Mangiacapra is a self-identified “marchettaro,” a male prostitute servicing gay men. The Cardinal Archbishop of Naples is 74 year-old Crescenzio Sepe, who was made a Cardinal by Pope Saint John Paul II, and had a terrific Vatican career before his star crashed when he was farmed out to Naples by Pope Benedict XVI under a cloud of financial corruption.
Mangiacapra and Sepe are two typical players in the everyday drama that is Naples, a city guided by its patron Saint Gennaro whose blood has, for the last six centuries, liquefied on his feast day, Sept. 19, to indicate good things, or, remained dust to indicate his disapproval of something.
Recently, Mangiacapra sent Sepe a personal 1,200 page dossier exposing 40 Italian priests as his clients, Sepe did not bother to consult with Saint Gennaro. Instead, he forwarded the dossier to Pope Francis, who may have it on his nightstand, on top of “The DaVinci Code.”
Cardinal Sepe is charged with announcing what the saint’s blood is doing.
Having spent a considerable amount of time in Vatican City in the 70s where I had sex in the papal household, I contacted Mangiacapra who was more than happy to do an interview about the dossier. We are both sufficiently bilingual to get into trouble on either side of the Atlantic, but Mangiacapra gave me permission to brush up his auto-generated English.
He also asked me to shout out his book published on Amazon in 2017 in Italian, “Il Numero Uno. Confessioni di un Marchettaro.” Now that you know what a marchettaro is, no translation needed for a title like that.
I asked Mangiacapra the obvious question: why give Cardinal Sepe a dossier exposing 40 gay and sexually active priest-clients? His response morally transcends what you might expect from a prostitute talking about hypocritical priests.
“I released this dossier because I wanted to expose the ‘bad apples,’ not to throw mud at the Catholic Church but to help her get rid of the rot that contaminates the healthy part. The behavior of these priests is, in many cases, the fruit of bad leadership in which priests are allowed to do the opposite of what they preach,” Mangiacapra said.
“This kind of ‘schizophrenic’ morality is typical of the hierarchy. The paradox of my relationship with the clergy is that there is a role reversal in which I am a sinner denouncing the priests who are the supposedly moral leaders but are committing sin. Those priests throw stones from their glass houses and the bishops make sure that all those stone-throwers are never exposed! In my book, and now with this dossier, I demonstrate that there is a real lobby of gay priests, a freemasonry, an underground."
Mangiacapra continued that "because they know each other, help each other and support each other together with their wide circle of sympathetic friends, I do not pass judgment on priests because they are gay. I like to think that the priests who have sex with me are not souls to be saved but only hearts and minds to be liberated from their hypocrisy. Basically, my sex work is a ministry similar to that of priests, but more scrupulous.”
What did Cardinal Sepe do when he received the scandalous dossier?
“Cardinal Sepe responded that the priests I denounced were not part of his territorial jurisdiction. This a laughable response, as if the real problem were one of legal jurisdiction rather than widespread immorality. I turned to Cardinal Sepe because he personifies for me the whole institutional Church. I suffer because he viewed my complaint in terms of jurisdiction rather than morality,” Mangiacapra said.
“As always, the hierarchy responds only when bad headlines force them to react. But how will they respond? Sadly, the most that will probably happen will be a shuffling of guilty priests, as if they were pawns on a chessboard. That will be the extent of their disciplinary punishment. In this game, the hierarchy creates the rules and then hides the players who break those rules, with the Church losing all credibility,” he added.
When I asked Mangiacapra what he hoped to achieve by releasing his dossier, he said, “I am not under the illusion that my revelations will end the nonsensical ecclesiastical system in which the manhood of priests is mutilated and distorted because they are forced into lives that are unnatural. I throw light on the situation and force the hierarchy to view it with honesty.”
Is Mangiacapra, despite his sour experience of hypocritical priests, still a practicing Roman Catholic?
“I have always considered myself to be a rational atheist. It took me several years to request and obtain the removal of my name from the baptismal records of the Catholic Church.”
After all, the Catholic Church uses those records to proclaim the size of its worldwide membership that is, in reality, much smaller. It is close to impossible to force the Church to remove your name from that registry. Just try it. Contact the church in which you were baptized and brace yourself for some serious frustration.
Mangiacapra feels that his renouncing of baptism is a "symbolic gesture that clarifies the difference between spiritual and secular authority." He would very much like to see the Catholic Church evolve to embrace a world that is vastly different for what it was hundreds of years ago. Despite the modern marketing practiced by Pope Francis, he is not optimistic about serious change.
I asked Mangiacapra, who is trained as a lawyer, if he plans to continue pursuing that career. He responded, “Probably not. I would rather sell my body for a fair price than sell my heart and mind for peanuts.”
Having been on both sides of this bed – first as a Catholic priest for five years, and then, very briefly, as a Manhattan hustler – I find myself empathizing with Mangiacapra who also says that while prostitution is fast money, it is not easy money. I know a little about this also from my own experience more recently in Naples, where I am a tour guide for gay men (HEtravel.com/tony)
“If it was easy," Mangiacapra said, "everyone would do it.” Meanwhile, it's the latest sex scandal to cause convulsions in the Italian church and the Vatican, and it has made waves in the international press all month.
When I left the active ministry, the first thing my angry bishop did was to discontinue my health insurance and try to coerce me to pay back my student loans. He re-assumed that obligation only when I threatened to contact the local newspaper about it. He did not care about the fact that I had no money and no income. Having been trained to respond to the sexual overtures of older priests, I took the logical route in my new circumstances.
While interested in marketing himself and his book, Mangiacapra’s moral posture is convincing and seems to be authentic. I believe that the names of the 40 priests in his dossier constitute just the tip of the iceberg of those leading double lives. While I do not expect that Mangiacapra’s revelations will change the hearts and minds of the hierarchy, I think his juicy dossier will help Catholics in the pews see their priests for the not-so-celibate men they really are.
According to the Associated Press, Mangiacapra came forward with his list because he wanted to expose the priests’ alleged hypocrisy. That he does most assuredly. It will make for a continuing saga for us to cover as Mangiacapra's whistleblower story unfolds on the worldwide stage.