The Irish Society for Christian Civilisation (ISCC), a Catholic activist group, has launched a petition against the release of "Benedetta" on April 15, Good Friday, across Ireland and the UK.
The movie, directed by Paul Verhoeven, is based on a real-life 17th-century nun, Benedetta Carlini. The film is distributed by MUBI, a streaming platform and production company.
A synopsis from MUBI reads: "A 17th-century nun in Italy suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. She is assisted by a companion, and the relationship between the two women develops into a romantic love affair."
“This movie is a fraud and nothing more than a blatant attack on the Catholic faith," Damien Murphy of the ISCC told The Belfast Telegraph.
"To launch this film on Good Friday is a calculated insult to Christians everywhere," he added.
“And shame on the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast for permitting this showing at any time, but especially on this highly significant religious occasion.”
The online petition, which has drawn more than 13k signatures, directly addresses MUBI. It says in part: “I strongly oppose and condemn your distribution and promotion of Paul Verhoeven’s film Benedetta. It offends God, and countless Catholics all over the world.”
The petition claims that the movie “blasphemously” features “several Jesus-on-nun intense ‘make outs’”, “a statuette of Mary Most Holy used as a sex-toy”, and “voyeuristic lesbian nuns’ ‘pornography”.
In 2021, the movie's director Verhoeven hit back at critics who commented on the sex scenes in the movie.
He said: "I don’t really understand how you can really blaspheme about something that happened, even in 1625. You cannot change history, you cannot change things that happened, and I based it on the things that happened. So I think the word blasphemy in this case is stupid.”
Other Catholic groups who have protested the movie's release include the American Society for the Defence of Tradition, Family, and Property, who gathered outside the film’s New York Film Festival premiere in 2021 with signs calling the film “blasphemous”.
You can watch the trailer for "Benedetta" here: