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Priest child abuse caught on tape, shakes Brazil
The Daily Beast
April 26, 2010
Brazilian street vendors are hawking a video of an elderly priest molesting an altar boy. Dom Phillips reports from Brazil on the pope’s brewing crisis in South America.
In the small Brazilian city of Arapiraca, tucked away in the poor, conservative northeast corner of the country, a hidden-camera video showing an octogenarian priest having sex with a young altar boy is being hawked on the street. For $5 to $10, vendors here will sell you the video, downloading it directly into your cellphone via Bluetooth. The price depends on the quality and length of the footage. According to one street vendor, the most popular download is the “complete” version. Buyers, he says, are “almost everybody—not just the curious.”
Even as the Catholic Church reels from abuse accusations that go straight to the pope, the incidents in Arapiraca are developing into a full-blown disaster that will land it near the top of the Vatican’s growing stack of crises. The sex tape is part of a scandal enveloping three of the city’s most venerated priests, and its release has led to threats, blackmail allegations, and counterattacks from the local church. In a place like Brazil—a country obsessed with sex, religion, and overwrought soap operas—one would expect nothing less than the bizarre narrative currently unfolding.
The accusations, exposed on the TV show Conexão Repórter (Reporter Connection) last month, are deeply damaging. A reporter interviewed three altar boys who alleged years of abuse at the hands of three Catholic priests. With his face hidden, one of those altar boys, now identified as Fabiano Silva Ferreira, alleged that a priest named Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa has abused him for years. Police say Barbosa’s abuse began when Fabiano was 12.
“He was hugging me, stroking me, kissing me,” Fabiano said of Barbosa, who is now 83. He claimed that Barbosa told him, “I love you, I really like you… I want you forever,” and that the priest would attempt to grope him during Mass, warning him, “Don’t tell anybody… This is something between me and you.”
Fabiano is the boy who appears in the sex tape that is being trafficked through the streets of Arapiraca. On the tape, he performs a sex act on Monsignor Barbosa, whose face is clearly visible. The tape was secretly shot by another altar boy, Cícero Flávio Vieira Barbosa (no relation to the priest), who also alleges years of abuse at the hands of Monsignor Barbosa, also beginning when he was 12. Asked why he shot the film, Flávio said, “Because there has to be a good end to this story. I was already his victim. And it brought a lot of fear to do something… I wanted proof.”
The case is front-page news in Brazil, and has sent shockwaves shuddering through what is still a very Catholic country. Meanwhile, incendiary commentary is spreading like wildfire across Brazil’s garrulous blogosphere. “This is the demon in the middle of the Church of Our Lord,” reads one blog comment about Barbosa, written in Portuguese.
“They are already condemned for being pastors of God and to do something like this is shameful and nauseating for us who are Catholics.”
When the interviewer on Reporter Connection asked Barbosa if, in his 58 years in the priesthood, he had ever abused an altar boy, the priest responded, “I can’t tell you this. I can only tell my confessor any sin of mine. I don’t need to admit or deny.”
The two other well-known priests accused of abuse are Father Raimundo Gomes and Father Edílson Duarte. Brazil’s Civil Police agency has begun an inquiry into the charges against all three priests. The local diocese has suspended the trio. And the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission into Pedophilia, which is being conducted by Brazil’s senate, showed the sex video to a shocked audience in the city in April. Monsignor Barbosa, stony-faced, sat watching. He told the inquiry that this was the only time he had had sex with the altar boy.
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