In one of the week’s more unexpected developments, the Vatican reportedly played a part in funding the Elton John biopic Rocketman, a sexually explicit, R-rated musical drama exploring the beloved singer’s relationships and struggles with addiction.
According to a report published in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, the Centurion Global Fund — an independent investment firm based in the LGBTQ+ affirming island of Malta — contributed over $1.1 million to the Dexter Fletcher-directed film’s development. Rocketman was released in May to strong reviews and was a financial success, making $195 million on its Centurion-backed $40 million budget.
In addition, the groundbreaking film was hailed as the first studio movie to depict a gay sex scene between its male leads: Taron Egerton (playing John) and Richard Madden (who portrayed his manager, John Reid).
While news that a fairly obscure investment group made a profitable, well-liked movie isn’t usually the kind of thing that makes headlines, the Vatican just so happens to control a majority stake in the Centurion Global Fund. An investigation into the Vatican’s Secretariat of State revealed it accounts for two-thirds of the fund’s capital.
According to Corriere della Sera, the funding came from Peter’s Pence, an annual, voluntary collection from parishioners that is donated directly to the Holy See of the Catholic Church.
Other investments by the Centurion Global Fund included $4.3 million to Men in Black: International, an attempted reboot of the long-running sci-fi franchise starring Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth. That film was widely considered a box office bomb, making less than half of what the Will Smith-starring original earned in 1997.
Centurion also funded eyewear manufactured by Italian businessman Lapo Elkann, the grandson of former Fiat CEO Gianni Agnelli. It’s unclear how profitable that investment proved.
While the Vatican indirectly pays for sexy queer movies and lots of projects involving people wearing sunglasses, the Catholic Church continues to regard homosexuality as a sin. Meanwhile, Pope Francis frequently flip-flops on his support for the LGBTQ+ community — condemning homophobes as akin to Hitler one week, lashing out at medical transitions for transgender people the next.
All this raises, however, a pair of very intriguing questions: Does this mean the Pope has seen Rocketman — and did he enjoy it? I always pictured him as a Bohemian Rhapsody person, which also can’t decide if it likes queer people.