IT sounded like a fun idea at the time, but an Italian priest’s idea of an online beauty pageant for nuns went tits up when it hit a barrier of hostility from humourless CatholicsÂ who thought it was in the worst possible taste.
Howls of protests followedÂ the Rev Antonio Rungi’s announcement last week that he was organising a contest to give nuns more visibility within the Catholic Church and to fight the stereotype that they are all old and dour.
According to the Times, Rungi said that he expected many applicants to be young, attractive -Â and non-Italian. He added:
Do you really think nuns are all wizened, funereal old ladies? Today it’s not like that any more, thanks to an injection of youth and vitality brought to our country by foreign girls.
He said there were nuns from Africa and Latin America who were “really very, very pretty. The Brazilian girls above all.”
The “Miss Sister 2008” contest was to start in September on the theologian and schoolteacher’s blog, enabling nuns from around the world to showcase their work and their image.
Said Rungi of his Big Idea:
Nuns are a bit excluded, they are a bit marginalized in ecclesiastical life. This will be an occasion to make their contribution more visible.
Visitors to his site would have a month to “vote for the nun they consider a model.”
Nuns would fill out a profile including information about their life and vocation as well as a photograph. It will be up to them to choose whether to pose with the traditional veil or with their heads uncovered.
We are not going to parade nuns in bathing suits. But being ugly is not a requirement for becoming a nun. External beauty is gift from God, and we mustn’t hide it.
Rungi said the idea was first suggested to him by nuns with whom he regularly prays and works. He hoped there would be dozens of submissions once the Web site is started.
Immediately the contest drew fire from the Association of Catholic teachers.
Said the group’s president, Alberto Giannino:
It’s an initiative that belittles the role of nuns who have dedicated themselves to God.
After ditching the project, Rungi said that some people had “deliberately misinterpreted an innocent initiative”.
“My superiors were not happy,” Father Rungi said from the town of Mondragone, near Naples. “The local bishop was not happy, but they did not understand me either.
The priest said he had also received a flood of abusive emails.
One of them told me I would end up in Hell.