If Michele Pennisi had his way, the ending to the classic film “The Godfather” would look a lot different.
Pennisi is the bishop of Monreale, Italy. His diocese encompasses the town of Corleone, which author Mario Puzo and filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola made famous as the birthplace of the fictional mob boss Vito Corleone, portrayed by Oscar-winning actor Marlon Brando.
But while “The Godfather” is steeped in Catholic imagery and ends with Vito Corleone’s son Michael serving as godfather for his sister’s baby and taking control of the family crime syndicate, Pennisi wants to quash any connection between organized crime and Catholicism. And to that end, he has now officially banned any criminal godfathers from becoming spiritual ones, per The Guardian.
According to BBC News, Pennisi issued the decree Friday, which would prohibit anyone convicted of “dishonorable crimes” from participating in a baptism as a godparent.
“The mafia has always taken the term godfather from the Church to give its bosses an air of religious respectability,” Pennisi told AFP. “Whereas in fact, the two worlds are completely incompatible.”
According to The Guardian, the decree was the result of an incident last February, when a priest in the diocese permitted the son of a notorious crime boss to serve as a godfather during a baptism. Pennisi blasted the decision at the time, saying he had not been informed of the decision and that a godfather “must be the guarantor of the faith, must set an example with his actions. I am not aware that the young man has ever expressed words of repentance for his conduct,” according to the Associated Press.
Pennisi has both spiritual and government backup on the matter too. In 2014, Pope Francis said mafia members are not “in communion” with God. In 2008, when Pennisi refused to give a Catholic funeral to a local mob boss, he received death threats. In response, he was granted police protection.
While homicides in Italy related to organized crime have fallen in recent years, per a U.N. report, different mafias remain prevalent in Italy, especially in Sicily, which is one of the poorest regions in Italy. Still, mafia members are difficult to identify, a fact Pennisi acknowledged when announcing his ban.
“If someone has not been convicted, we cannot judge people on rumors, without proof,” he told AFP.