- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Sylvester Stallone says he has faith that his TV series about a hip Roman Catholic priest will air in the fall despite the current church crisis.

"I think the Lord will provide," Mr. Stallone said with a touch of wryness.

"Father Lefty," created and produced by Mr. Stallone and starring Danny Nucci as an unconventional Miami priest, is under consideration by CBS for its fall schedule to be announced next week.

"People have come up to me and given me their condolences," Mr. Stallone said in an interview Tuesday. "They said, 'Boy, talk about timing. Who wants to see a story about a good priest?'

"Well, who wants to see a story about a punch-drunk boxer?" is his retort, summoning memories of his unlikely 1976 hit film, "Rocky."

The nation's Catholics have been so inundated with accusations of sexual misconduct by priests that they are "looking to exhale," Mr. Stallone said.

"We know the police are on it, the public is aware of it and [the errant priests] are all being rooted out," Mr. Stallone said.

At least one other drama about Catholicism is a possibility for next season. ABC is weighing "The Calling," about a seminarian searching for God.

CBS has indicated it has reservations about "Father Lefty," which was given pilot approval before the scandal broke, Mr. Stallone said. The network does not comment on pilots during the development period, a CBS spokesman said Tuesday.

"They've been very nice and open to it," Mr. Stallone said. "But it is a controversial subject that would take a great deal of foresight to say, 'OK, we'll take a gamble on this. Let's do a little more cutting edge."

Mr. Stallone, who describes himself as a practicing Catholic with confidence in his local parish, said he believes CBS President Leslie Moonves would have been blunt if the show didn't have a chance.

The series is based on the real-life exploits of a Philadelphia priest, Robert Lefrack, who used a tough, unlikely approach when he was assigned to a gang-infested parish, Mr. Stallone said.

"He's Bruce Springsteen with a collar," Mr. Stallone said.

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