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Friday, April 14, 2006

Italian author on teen sex takes on the Vatican

Robin Pomeroy

ROME (Reuters) - Italian author Melissa Panarello, who hit best-selling lists across the world with graphic stories of teenage sex, published a new book on Friday in which she said the Roman Catholic Church's code of morality was all wrong.

After "100 Strokes Of The Brush Before Bed", in which she described losing her virginity at 14, Melissa P. -- as she is known -- brought out her latest book on Good Friday, a major day in the Christian calendar marking the crucifixion of Jesus.

"In The Name Of Love", a treatise against the Church's preaching on sex, was written by the petite 20-year-old Sicilian in the form of an open letter to Italy's most senior cardinal, Camillo Ruini, defending abortion, divorce and homosexuality.

"This book was born of rage, a rage that was born about a year ago when the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI accentuated a religious fundamentalism which I thought only exited in the history books," she said.

Panarello, who has rejected criticism from politicians who say she has no right to preach to the Church, accused the Vatican of a narrow view of sex.

"Bishops talk a lot about life, but it doesn't seem to me that they know much about fundamental elements of life like sexuality," Panarello, who has sold more than 3 million books in 42 countries, told reporters.


She presented her book at the headquarters of Italy's Radical Party, which has battled for decades against what it sees at Church interference in political life and was behind campaigns in the 1970s to legalise divorce and abortion.

Last year, the party lost a referendum campaign to repeal Italy's strict laws on assisted reproduction after Ruini, head of the Italian bishops' conference, instructed Catholics to abstain. The referendum failed because not enough people voted.

"Secularism is an issue which concerns all countries, but perhaps we feel it more in Italy because we have the Vatican," said Panarello, who still uses the abbreviated version of her name that secured anonymity when her debut book was published.

In her new book, she quotes comments by the Pope and passages of doctrine and challenges them with examples -- often from her adolescence in Sicily -- designed to show people cannot and should not live by the Church's teachings.

"The only thing we could do in our area, Cardinal Ruini, was love," says one extract from the book.

"The only thing that could make us feel alive was to give ourselves completely to the other, sliding under the sheets together with the stereo on high so our parents in the room next door couldn't hear the din we made when making love."

Panarello asks Ruini to imagine being a teenager "who can't wait to soothe her hormones" trying to pluck up the courage to buy condoms in a village pharmacy.

"I want the right to speak because I'm fed up with keeping my head down every time my freedoms and civil rights are threatened," Panarello said at the presentation.

"I hope Ruini replies, because I am raising sincere questions."

Panarello has disowned the film "Melissa P", based on her first book, for failing to interpret the true feelings of adolescence.

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This is just another case of a prostitute trying to justify Its warp trade and showing Its lack of human development.~ Q

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