Catholics are right – erotic lesbian nun drama Benedetta is outrageously offensive. And terrible

Virginie Efira and Daphné Patakia play lesbian nuns in Benedetta

Catholics are up in arms over the lesbian nun movie Benedetta, released on Good Friday, but in this case, they’re not alone.

A petition by the anti-LGBT+ Irish Society for Christian Civilisation against Benedetta – a biopic of the real-life queer nun Benedetta Carlini, who claimed to have had stigmata – has so far been signed more than 13,000 times.

The petition claims that the film “offends God, and countless Catholics all over the world”.

It adds: “This immoral film blasphemously features several Jesus-on-nun intense ‘make outs’, a statuette of Mary Most Holy used as a sex-toy, voyeuristic lesbian nuns’ ‘pornography’… Promote virtue, not vice!”

It’s almost impressive how Benedetta alienates every audience it could have catered to – Catholics think it’s blasphemous, film critics have blasted it as “nunsploitation”, lesbians are left wondering if maybe there is actually such a thing as too much boob, and nuns… well, presumably nuns haven’t had a chance to catch the movie yet.

The film, from controversial Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, the mind behind Basic Instinct and Showgirls, is loosely based on the 1986 book by historian Judith C Brown, which explores the life and sexuality of the real-life 17th century nun, imprisoned for having a sexual relationship with a fellow sister.

Loosely is the operative word.

While Verhoeven covers the basic facts – Benedetta (Virginie Efira) has a relationship with Sister Bartolomea Crivelli (Daphné Patakia) and struggles for power with the formidable abbess (Charlotte Rampling) of the Theatine convent in Pescia, Italy – for some reason, there is nudity in the vast majority of scenes, even in one where an older nun with the plague is having her bubonic lumps inspected.

Throughout the film, written, directed and produced by men, only women are shown fully nude, which begs the question: Is Benedetta art, or is it just plague-ridden lesbian torture porn?

Violence against women is a theme throughout, from self-flagellation to burning at the stake, but one of the most unnecessary and upsetting scenes is when a nun is punished with a medieval vaginal torture device known as the “pear of anguish”. The scene does not appear to serve the storyline in any way, and appears to have been added for twisted entertainment.


Verhoeven has defended the film’s explicit sex scenes, some of which are certainly not consensual, and excessive nudity by insisting that viewers are just “scared of sex”.

Yes, we are, if that sex has extremely high splinter risk from the dildo whittled by Sister Bartolomea out of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary.