SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Police in Brazil are investigating three Catholic priests accused of abusing several altar boys and seminarians. The former bishop of their diocese, who resigned in May, is also under investigation for having allegedly extorted money from them in exchange for his silence.
The lawyer of a group of victims said last week he intends to file lawsuits against the Catholic Church, seeking $530,000 in damages for each person.
The scandal in the Diocese of Limeira, in the State of São Paulo, was last week’s cover story in Revista Veja, a major weekly magazine, prompting the opening of new investigations. The Brazilian press has been covering the accusations against Father Pedro Leandro Ricardo, from the city of Americana, since January, when the police opened investigations against him for cases of sexual abuse and he was suspended from his parish.
In May, Bishop Vilson Dias de Oliveira of Limeira resigned after the police and press reports said the Vatican started investigating him for extortion, unjust enrichment and abuse cover-up. But Veja’s story, published on July 12, was the first to disclose details of Ricardo’s crimes and also revealed the alleged crimes of two other priests from the diocese of Limeira, Father Felipe Negro and Father Carlos Alberto da Rocha.
In the story, Ricardo was accused by six former altar boys and seminarians — all of them minors at the time of the alleged events — of having inappropriately touched them before or after Masses. The testimony includes graphic descriptions.
A former altar boy, Ednan Vieira, 35, told the magazine that he was 17 when Ricardo asked him to sleep at the parish house because he would celebrate a Mass the next morning. Vieira claims the priest gave him wine and, wearing only boxer shorts, started to masturbate in front of him and then asked him to perform oral sex. Vieira resisted the priest’s advances and was later dismissed from his role as an altar boy.
One of Ricardo’s other alleged victims, a 25-year-old transsexual named Paula Valentin, accused the priest of inappropriate touching when Valentin was a 16-year-old altar boy.
According to Valentin’s testimony to Veja, Ricardo pretended he would help put on the acolyte clothing and then slip his hand along Valentin’s body.
Valentin also accused Negro of abuse, saying the Limeira priest exchanged money for sex while Valentin was in seminary.
After Revista Veja published the story, a seventh victim came forward and told the magazine that when he was an 18-year-old seminarian, Ricardo used to hug him and touch his penis during confession.
Another victim of the priest, who described how Ricardo touched his penis while driving his car, also accused Rocha, a priest from the city of Araras. According to the man, Rocha molested him over the course of a year, when he was 16. He was a poor teenager, raised by a single mother, who was the cleaning woman at the church. The priest sent him away from the parish when he resisted the abuse.
Meanwhile, Negro was also accused by a woman, who claims that he tried to seduce her when she was 16 and was looking for a job. According to the woman, Negro invited her home, promising he would get her a position as his assistant, and gave her wine. Nothing happened that night, but the priest allegedly told her he would like to meet with her other times. Her parents prevented her from seeing him again.
Negro was suspended from his duties on May 31, 14 days after Oliveira’s resignation. The diocese said Negro was under investigation for misappropriation of funds. According to the news portal G1, the diocese said that at the time there was no suspicion of sex abuse against him.
Last week, the police in Limeira opened investigations against Negro and Rocha. The diocese said that all accusations are under canonical investigation and that a Vatican delegate, Archbishop João Inácio Miller of Campinas, was sent to Limeira in February to investigate the accusations against Bishop Vilson Dias de Oliveira.
According to Veja, Oliveira allegedly asked for money from priests involved in abuse and covered up the cases for years. As a result, the magazine said the bishop has built up a personal portfolio of 10 real estate properties in two different cities.
Roberto Tardelli, the victims’ lawyer, told TV Rede Globo on July 13 that he intends to seek monetary damages in order to “restore devastated lives.”
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