Rapid edits. The music bursts into propulsive chords: the theme of breaking news. Newspaper headlines swoop into focus: ”Vatican Official Caught in TV Sex Sting.” “Told Man He was ‘Hot.'” “Homosexuality ‘No Sin,’ Claims Wayward Prelate.”

In this way we are shuffled though a reality-TV nightmare in which the Roman equivalent of Chris Hansen (the host of our own version of gotcha salaciousness To Catch a Predator) comes out from behind a curtain. And doesn’t this Italian Chris with his Roman nose turn out to be the very same glamorboy who was sipping espresso so availably in the piazza of St Peter.

Out of his briefcase comes the camera. Jagged footage replays the events: entering the lift with his new black-clad friend, going to the monsignor’s office, the leading questions, the turning of the conversation inexorably to the solicitation of sex, and not just vanilla sex — S&M, thank you very much. Confession, absolution, and penance, serious penance.

And when it all comes down –the scam, the tape, the S&M — how does Monsignor Tommasio Stenico explain himself?

I hope you’re seated:

From the U.K.’s Times Online:

Yesterday Mgr Stenico claimed that he was pretending to be gay in an attempt to unmask a Satanic plot to seduce Catholic priests to homosexuality and thus discredit the Church. “I only pretended I was gay to study how priests are seduced,” said Mgr Stenico, a frequent guest on television programmes discussing religious issues. “There are people who go after [priests] . . . I really believe there is a diabolical plan by groups of Satanists.”

Is that brilliant? Is that stunning? All those nasty-faced rent boys hanging around Roman fountains, all those tow-headed altar boys in their crisp surplices — nothing but the cherubs of Beelzebub. (Odd, why didn’t Satan send a full-blown Sophia Loren to temp this scholar of the marriage bed?)

But there’s more:

Mgr Stenico asks the man, “Do you like me?” and tells him that he is very good-looking. When the young man expresses fears that having sex would be “a sin in the eyes of the Church”, the priest replies: “I do not feel it would be sinful.” Drawn on the subject of sado-masochistic sex, the monsignor says that these are “inner choices, the psych- ological basis of a personality”. The young man continues to raise moral and religious objections to actually having sex, until the priest becomes irritated, says that he has no time left and takes him back to the lift. On parting, the Monsignor tells him that he is “really tasty”..

We see. Obviously, it was research.

MEMO TO THE MONSIGNOR: Please contact us so we can send you the award. Act now. Your record is fragile and won’t stand for long. No matter how preposterous the lie, our experience has taught us that some new exotic denial will come kicking and screaming out of the closet in three…two…one…