Brazil priest, 83, detained after pedophilia accusations

By Tales Azzoni, AP
Monday, April 19, 2010

Brazil priest detained after pedophilia accusation

SAO PAULO — Brazilian police have detained an 83-year-old priest after a congressional hearing produced allegations he molested boys as young as 12, fueling a growing scandal involving Roman Catholic clergy across Latin America.

The pedophilia allegations against Msgr. Luiz Marques Barbosa are the most lurid of sexual scandals to hit the church in one of its most powerful centers recently, driven home by a TV station broadcast of a sex tape of him in bed with a 19-year-old widely distributed on the Internet.

Sen. Magno Malta, the Brazilian lawmaker leading the legislature’s sexual abuse probe, said Barbosa’s detention late Sunday was a milestone in the fight against child abuse in Brazil.

He said the investigation is not an attack on the church, but on child abuse.

But Barbosa’s detention came amid a cascade of accusations of abuse against Latin American priests for alleged sexual abuse of minors, and a controversial declaration last week in Chile by Pope Benedict XVI’s second-in-command that homosexuality and not celibacy was the primary reason for the abuse — even though Latin American girls and women also say they have been abused by priests.

The scandals have made huge headlines throughout Brazil, which has more Roman Catholics than any other nation in the world, and where media attention has been intense on sexual activity by priests in Europe and the U.S., plus accusations against them throughout Latin America.

Just this month, church officials in Uruguay confirmed they had not revealed the whereabouts to police of a defrocked priest who fled home to his family in Uruguay after a nun accused him of raping three children in Bolivia. And a priest in Chile was charged with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including a girl he had fathered.

A Mexican woman in March charged that the deceased, scandal-tainted founder of a conservative Catholic religious order abused one of the two sons she said he fathered with her. The Legionaries of Christ, the order founded by the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had acknowledged a little over a year earlier in a separate case that Maciel had molested seminarians.

Around the globe, The Associated Press reported last week that reporters had found 30 cases of priests accused of abuse who were transferred or moved abroad by the church and some escaped police investigations. Many had access to children in other countries, and some abused again. The probe spanned 21 nations across six continents.

In Brazil, judge Romulo Vasconcelos told Globo TV on Monday that he requested Barbosa’s immediate detention out of fear the priest might flee the country.

The case now goes to prosecutors, who will decide whether to file child abuse charges.

Congressional investigators said more than 20 witnesses were called and some testified that Barbosa and two other priests in the same northeastern archdiocese had abused boys as young as 12, plying them with money, clothes and other gifts.

Bishop Valerio Breda of the Penedo archdiocese in the northeastern state of Alagoas said recently that all three priests had been suspended and that the church was conducting its own investigation.

Breda said none of the alleged victims or their families had ever contacted the church with allegations of abuse, but the diocese was cooperating with police.

One of the accused priests, Edison Duarte, was given immunity for cooperating with authorities, Malta said in a statement issued by his senate office. The third priest — Raimundo Marques — also is being investigated but denies any wrongdoing. He has not been arrested.

Church officials have not responded to calls requesting information on where Barbosa and the other priests had worked in the past, and it was not immediately clear if Barbosa had a lawyer.

Barbosa told investigators that “he is not a pedophile,” but after three former altar boys testified he had abused them, he asked for forgiveness, said Renato Paoliello, a spokesman for Malta.

Barbosa also told investigators he is not homosexual and said what was shown in the video was a one-time incident, Paoliello said.

The video — secretly filmed in January 2009 — was broadcast by the SBT network last month. It was not clear if the 19-year-old, identified as a former altar boy who had worked with Barbosa for four years, had previous sexual relations with the priest.

SBT said the video was sent anonymously to the network, and reporters went to the city of 200,000 people to investigate.

Confronted by the network, Barbosa said pedophilia “is more (a problem) of homosexuality than pedophilia.” Asked if he ever abused boys, Barbosa said he could only answer such a question “in confession” and cut off the interview.

Latin America also was the setting for widespread criticism of the Vatican’s No. 2 official after he said during a visit to Chile last week that the church’s sex scandals stems from homosexuality rather than the celibacy requirement for priests.

“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told reporters on April 12 at a news conference in Santiago. “That is the problem.”

The comments by Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, were condemned by gay advocacy groups, politicians and even the French government.

will not be displayed