Story By: James King, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
Italian cops have revealed that a charismatic parish priest arrested on suspicion of theft of church funds to fund gay sex parties is HIV positive and had not told this to the dozens of partners he had had over the years in weekly orgies.
Father Francesco Spagnesi, 40, from Prato near Florence was originally arrested over the suspicion of the theft of funds from his parish, and cops revealed that they were interviewing hundreds of people that attended the orgies that he organised.
The parties typically involved the priest and a drug-dealing friend of his, and usually at least one other who they found on gay dating sites. But on occasion, they could be much larger with up to 20 or 30 participants.
Of the 200 people interviewed from the parties that took place on an almost weekly basis, 15 have become witnesses for the police.
The priest had been ordained in 2007 and made a parish priest in 2009, and since the allegations emerged, it was revealed he had gone on a sabbatical for “health reasons”.
He was caught when a friend of his was arrested for importing drugs from the Netherlands for use in the orgies including date rape drug GBL and cocaine, and they discovered it was being funded with five-figure payments of cash from parish money.
The priest had initially claimed that the missing funds had gone to poor people in difficulty, but he later admitted that he had a drug addiction.
Police said that the charges against him are now being upgraded to serious assault and could be upgraded again while health checks are done on his partners, some of whom have said they had unprotected sex together.
They said that the HIV diagnosis appeared to have been made in 2011, but he kept it a secret. The fact that he knew he was infected and had sex with partners anyway makes him liable for criminal charges.
According to local media, two or three people who also attended the parties have tested positive for HIV, but it is unclear if their infections came from their connection with the parish priest.
The lawyer for the priest said it still needed to be proven that he had not been taking the medication that prevented him from being infectious and it had also not been proven that he had unprotected sex.
The bishop Giovanni Nerbini has appointed a new administrator for the parish who has been working with the faithful to help them to deal with the shock of the allegations against Father Francesco Spagnesi.