VATICAN CITY -- An Italian television station is broadcasting the salacious show "The Borgias" during the papal election conclave, despite pressure from a Catholic group to drop it because of its unflattering depiction of the papacy and the effect it might have on non-Catholics who might confuse past and present.
The group, AIART, which represents Roman Catholic television viewers in Italy, criticized the decision by the La7 channel to air the Showtime series, which stars Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia, a scheming, womanizing member of the Borgia family who pays his way to becoming pope at the end of the 15th century.
"It would be opportune for La7 to move 'The Borgias,'" AIART said in a statement earlier this month. "This is a delicate moment for the church, for the papacy, and 'The Borgias' is focused on turbid affairs within the church and the Vatican in the 15th and 16th century.
"Believers are able to make a distinction with the situation today, but can non-believers and those who have a passing religious culture do the same?"
But La7 shrugged off the protest and launched the show March 3, just as modern-day cardinals prepared to enter private meetings ahead of the conclave to select the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned Feb. 28.
On Sunday, two days before the conclave began, La7 aired episodes in which the pope tries to raise cash to pay off the debts he incurred bribing his way to the papacy.
The show arrived in Italy as local newspapers reported that the pre-conclave meetings were focused on reports of corruption, infighting and kickbacks in the present-day Vatican, which were revealed last year when the pope’s butler leaked papal correspondence.
“The scheduling of the show happened a while back, and it is a complete coincidence that it has coincided with the resignation of the pope and the conclave,” said a spokesman for La7.
The show also received a negative review from Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian conference of bishops, which called it full of “errors,” “in part, purely untruthful,” and “history glimpsed through the keyhole.”
Pope Alexander may have sinned, the paper stated, but he deserved praise for reforming the Catholic Church’s religious orders and for bringing good governance to the Vatican -- something critics currently say it lacks.