Lapdance monastery shut after raunchy nun stunt
THE Pope has shut a 500-year-old Rome monastery and kicked out its monks after it gained notoriety for hosting a performance by a lapdancer-turned-nun and welcomed celebrities such as Madonna.
Benedict XVI ordered the closure of the monastery of the Santa Croce in Gerusaleme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem), which holds some of the Roman Catholic Church's most prized relics, because of "financial and liturgical irregularities", a Vatican spokesman said.
About 20 Cistercian monks will be transferred to other monasteries around Italy, after it was found that their "lifestyles" were "not in keeping" with Church doctrine, bringing to an end a monastic presence on the site that dates back five centuries. They reportedly demonstrated "questionable behaviour and a lack of moral discipline" -- a possible allusion to homosexual relations.
The monastery is attached to the Church of the Holy Cross, which was founded in AD320 by the mother of the Emperor Constantine, St Helena, who is said to have brought back the relics from the Holy Land. In recent years it has established a reputation for publicity-seeking stunts and the courting of rich celebrities, including Gloria Estefan and Madonna.
In 2009, Anna Nobili, who spent years working as an exotic dancer and striptease artist in nightclubs before becoming a nun, performed a religious dance in front of an audience of cardinals and bishops, twirling a wooden crucifix. Calling herself a "ballerina for God", she swapped her thongs and high heels for a nun's habit after being "reborn" by her new-found faith and based her unusual form of choreography on stories from the Bible.
The Pope ordered an official investigation, known as an Apostolic Visit, into the monastery in central Rome. The scandal came under his jurisdiction because, in addition to being the leader of the world's Catholics, the church and monastery are part of his diocese.
The findings were sent to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Pope approved a decree ordering the monastery to be dissolved. The findings have not been made public, and the Vatican refused to elaborate on exactly what misdemeanours had been committed.
Fr Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, said the monks had been guilty of "financial irregularities and liturgical abuses". "Their lifestyles were not in keeping with what one would expect of monks," he said.
The decision to close the monastery showed that Benedict XVI "knows how to be decisive and dramatic when it comes to eliminating 'filth' in the Church", wrote Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican expert. The Pope has previously used the word "filth" to describe paedophile priests. (© Daily Telegraph, London)