SAO PAULO (AP) - 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
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
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
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
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
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
Barbosa also told investigators he is not homosexual and said
what was shown in the video was a one-time incident, Paoliello
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
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)