Dozens of Catholics took to the streets in New York last weekend to demonstrate against Benedetta , Paul Verhoeven’s new film about a lesbian nun. According to the protesters, the Dutch director is guilty of blasphemy with his film. Verhoeven would “insult the sanctity of Catholic nuns”.

The protest took place ahead of the film’s US premiere at the New York Film Festival. The protesters shouted prayers through megaphones.

Benedetta, who was highly regarded at the Cannes Film Festival in July, talks about the lesbian love between two nuns in the late Middle Ages.

The 83-year-old Verhoeven based his film on the reports of interrogations that the Inquisition subjected the women to after their relationship came to light. In one of the most controversial scenes, one of the two women is satisfied with a dildo in the shape of a statue of Mary.

The film was previously banned in Russia. The story about the lesbian nuns violates Russian law, which forbids broaching subjects such as homosexuality and profanity in films.

Benedetta will be in Dutch cinemas from 14 October. Distributor Independent Films says when asked that no one has complained about the film in the Netherlands so far.