Secret Vatican Rentboy Ring Turns Out to be Part of a Pedophile’s Revenge Plot

This story has all the drama of a Vatican soap opera, and it’s moving at a breakneck pace. Don’t blink, or you might miss it.

First, the media got wind that Don Patrizio Poggi, a former parish priest once convicted of abusing young teen boys, had filed an explosive complaint with the Italian police. He alleged that a former police officer had been recruiting underage boys living in poverty to sexually service Catholic clergymen in Rome.

According to Poggi, the ex-Carabinieri “pimp” would approach youths at saunas, gyms, gay bars and discotheques. Most of the boys were Eastern European immigrants in need of cash. The unnamed pimp would lure the boys with offers of modelling and acting jobs, opportunities that invariably fell through. Instead, the boys were paid €150-€500 ($195-$650 USD) to engage in a variety of sex acts with Catholic priests, both retired and active.

Granted, the story seemed a little bit funny in places, especially when Poggi alleged that the group also profited from the sale of consecrated hosts for use in Satanic rites. (Those boy prostitutes don’t pay for themselves, you know!) But the disgraced priest was accompanied by Monsignor Luca Lorusso, a highly credible figure in the Vatican, and that gave his allegations some heft. Moreover, three of the clergymen Poggi identified as members of the trafficking ring were placed under formal investigation by the Vatican. On top of all that, the Church has developed a certain reputation for pedophile priests that makes the story sound fairly plausible.

But it turns out that Poggi was lying all along.

On June 28th, investigators in Rome arrested him for aggravated slander (article is in Italian). Officially, prosecutors called the allegations “untrue or based on mere hearsay.” It seems that Poggi harbored animosity against certain Church officials who refused to reinstate him after he served his time for his own crimes against children. He concocted the story out of a desire for revenge. In a wiretapped conversation with his mother, he admitted that if he had the money for it, the priests who wronged him would “get killed and they wouldn’t even know why” (also in Italian).

Catholic apologist blogger Jimmy Akin admonished the people who jumped to conclusions upon hearing about the Vatican’s rentboy ring (a group that can’t possibly be very large, since the story broke in the English press only a few days before Poggi’s arrest):

It is well known that the Italian press is rumor-driven and often contains inaccurate information (even more than the American press). Consequently, one should not disturb the peace of others by rushing to repeat sensationalistic rumors before the facts are clear… We shouldn’t be too quick to take the word of a convicted felon who applies for reinstatement and who then starts making highly inflammatory and, in fact, criminal allegations that reflect on the people that didn’t reinstate him.

Far be it from me to criticize anybody who’s calling for a greater level of critical thinking about the news media. Akin is absolutely right; we should pause for reflection, question our assumptions, and avoid sensationalism. We can acknowledge that the Church has a sordid history of concealing child abuse without assuming that every story about Vatican pedophilia is necessarily gospel truth.

What Akin is less likely to note, however, is that it’s the Church’s sordid history that’s directly responsible for how plausible the story seemed to most readers. (Minus the part about selling consecrated hosts to Satanists.) The only reason Poggi’s plot came close to working was because the Church has been caught dealing in child abuse and lying about it so many times before. A rentboy ring in the Vatican? Priests molesting little boys? It’s happened so many times, it’s hardly even news anymore.

So when a story comes out and people don’t have all the facts, they judge its authenticity based on their prior knowledge about the individuals and organizations involved. They judge the Catholic Church and its leaders by past child-abuse allegations and how the Church handled them.

If the Church wants to prevent people from making assumptions whenever a child-abuse case arises, it needs to start making news for its positive response to victims’ pleas for justice, rather than for its scandals and cover-ups. When readers uncritically assume any story about a pedophilia cover-up at the Vatican is true, the Church is reaping what she’s sown through decades of sheltering abusers at children’s expense.

(image via Shutterstock)

About Sara Lin Wilde

Sara Lin Wilde is a recovering Catholic (and cat-holic, for that matter - all typographical errors are the responsibility of her feline friends). She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she is working on writing a novel that she really, really hopes can actually get published.

  • DougI

    I doubted the story when I heard about the selling of crackers to Satanists. Only Christians believe the nonsense about Satanic rituals. Everyone in the real world knows the only Satanists are rebellious kids engaging in a silly joke and they wouldn’t bother wasting money on a few crackers they know don’t have any real magical powers.

    • Gus Snarp

      Yeah, that definitely made the guy much less credible. Buying consecrated hosts for Satanic rites? He might have made it if he hadn’t had to stick some garbage that doesn’t even pass the sniff test just to really make the priests seem evil. But you can see why he did it. The guy’s a pedophile. We all know there are a lot of pedophiles in the priesthood. So obviously they don’t think that’s that bad. He had to paint them as really evil. Raping little boys wasn’t enough, they had to be in league with Satanists and violating sacred crackers, which as we all know is worse than any crime a Catholic can commit besides sanctioning abortion and ordaining a woman.

      • WallofSleep

        “Buying consecrated hosts for Satanic rites?”

        Of course it’s bullshit. Everyone knows a real satanist would just steal them.

        • baal

          Well, they’d need to break the locks on the tabernacles then. Holy communion wafers are kept under lock and key in blessed boxes.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            But once you’ve laid out a plan for cannibalizing a god, buying a mini-boltcutter at Lowes for burglary purposes seems kinda trivial. It’s like how the Kurgan doesn’t give two fucks about shaving his head once he’s made the commitment to covering his neck scar by shoving dozens of safety pins through it.

          • WallofSleep

            That’s what makes the whole ritual more sacre-licious. Mmmm…

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Maybe Poggi is telling the truth, and this is all part of a conspiracy to discredit him.

  • Gus Snarp

    Wait, is there another Vatican prostitution scandal, or is this the only one?

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • cag

    I believe that Poggi is actually a RCC spin doctor who is trying to paint the church in a better light than what the reality actually is. /sarcasm

  • Carmelita Spats

    “They judge the Catholic Church and its leaders by past child-abuse allegations and how the Church handled them.” The RCC is an organized crime syndicate. We are beyond being “surprised” at its horrors. Here’s news, “Catholic Priest Grows the Hell Up and Has Consensual Sex with an Unmarried Adult Female”…It’s not The Onion…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/father-alberto-cutie/bishop-gabino-zavala-and-celibacy-vows_b_1186903.html

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      We may no longer be surprised but we are still repulsed and we still demand justify for the victims of this criminal organization.

  • Mario Strada

    FYI, things may have changed since I lived in Rome, but you can buy “crackers” (Ostia) at any Pharmacy. My mother use to get them because they make swallowing pills easier (slippery when wet).

    That satanists would have to smuggle these crackers seems absurd. Sure, they were not consecrated, but that consist of some old guy waving a crucifix over them. Hardly a patented process.

    As far as the other accusations, they may be fabricated, but like in the movies “inspired by actual events”.

    I sometime got into contact with the dark underbelly of the City of Rome and news like this would not even make me break stride on my way to brush my teeth.

    In my days they used to be poor kids from the south or rural areas in the center-north. Nowadays they are immigrants from the former eastern block, Albania and so forth.

    • indorri

      Well, consecration is a rather specific ritual that is only done by priests, so if there were actually Satanists who bought into this, just buying crackers in the same shape wouldn’t work. They’re not important to Catholics either. It’s specifically the ritual said during the mass by an ordained priest that consecrate them.

      • Artor

        I’ve known a few Satanists. Most of them would snort in amusement at the idea of paying for black-market communion wafers.
        I also went to Catholic school, in a building in the shadow of a cathedral. I saw the priest making his own wafers once; he had a stamp like the one notaries use to officiate a document, and he just stamped the wafers out of slices of Wonder Bread.

        • indorri

          Most of them would snort in amusement at the idea of paying for black-market communion wafers.

          I’d expect as much. The idea that there are those knowingly in line with the devil and seeking to destroy the church through such a being is a fantasy of the church.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Many years ago, I was wandering around a long-neglected part of a movie studio backlot in Hollywood. There was a façade of a grand and elegant building that had been used in a movie made before I was born. It still looked impressive on the outside, but inside it wasn’t just the wood frames holding plywood that you would expect of a movie set. It was full of decay, termites, and dry rot. There were rats that sheltered in it even as they contributed to its deterioration. It was rotten to the core, and looked like the next mild wind would bring the whole false front crashing to the ground. I carefully backed away to a distance greater than the height of the spectacular, decrepit deathtrap.

    • Artor

      I wonder how far is a safe distance from the towering, rotten edifice of the Catholic Church. It will be spectacular when it finally loses to entropy.

  • Sunny Day

    “Church officials who refused to reinstate him after he served his time for his own crimes against children.”

    Color me surprised. I would have thought they would let him right back in, no harm no foul all is forgiven.

  • The Other Weirdo

    So, if we boil this entire article down to its absolute essentials, Don “Italian Cliche Name” Poed the Catholic Church? Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. With all the sex abuse and subsequent coverups, it’s infinitely likely that the allegation could be true. The Church has no one to blame for this other than themselves.

  • arslonga

    I am a woman and was involved in an intimate relationship with Mons. Luca Lorusso last year. The church and the people shouldn’t put their trust in him. My post with the story is here:
    http://www.ildialogo.org/phpBB302/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=81

  • Goodly

    Dougl, that is a fairly ignorant view. We don’t know, what we don’t know. … I have met someone, who was traumatised from what they partook in, regarding human sacrifice of people, including VERY young children.

    Re. They would just steal them? Some rituals need to be done at specific times & maybe it’s not always easy to have what you require. …

    Come on, let’s be real. The pope made it illegal to report sex crimes against children, not long after this story broke. … It was due to hit mainstream media, then disappeared after it became illegal. … That alone has to be enough to make reasonable, caring, compassionate people, reconsider an allegiance with religion. A relationship with God, does not need the highest earning business, the church, to be strong. In fact, it must surely weaken it, once someone knows their church has made it illegal to report sex crimes against children.
    A child to be sacrificed, would indeed be more valuable if they were consecrated at the Vatican, than if they’d been picked up, off the street.


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