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SÃO PAULO – Driving the parish’s vehicle, a Brazilian Catholic priest hit a burglar with his car after seeing him leave the rectory with stolen goods.
The case happened on May 7, in Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, a city located 213 miles west of São Paulo.
Security cameras captured the moment when Dominican Father Gustavo Trindade dos Santos chased and hit the burglar with his car. The footage showed that the vehicle leaves the place immediately after the collision, making it clear that the priest did not help the victim.
According to the news website G1, the 37-year-old priest celebrated a wedding shortly after the incident. Tatiane de Fátima, the bride, said that she first met dos Santos that evening, moments before the ceremony, and that he was apparently calm.
“I arrived at the church around 7:20 p.m. and I saw the priest arriving in a white car. I did not know him until then, but he was very attentive, making jokes and laughing with us before the wedding. He told me to stay calm, to breathe, because everything would be fine,” she recalled, according to G1.
By 9:30 p.m., as the newlyweds waited for the car that would take them to the wedding party, they heard sirens and were told that an accident had occurred near the church. De Fátima was “in shock” when she learned that the priest was allegedly responsible for the hit-and-run. Later, when she saw the footage, she was able to recognize dos Santos’s car.
The victim, Ângelo Marcos dos Santos Nogueira, 40, was taken to the hospital in serious condition. He had to undergo surgery on his femur and is still hospitalized.
A story aired by TV Bandeirantes said Nogueira had broken into the rectory twice previously. Security cameras showed Nogueira entering the residence through the window and taking clothes from the house. When he was hit by dos Santos, he was carrying three stolen sweaters and a T-shirt. It was a cold night in Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, according to media reports. Nogueira is in police custody for the crime.
Dos Santos is being charged with aggravated attempted murder. He may also be charged with failure to stop and render aid. Over the course of a week, the police requested his detention on two different occasions, but the judge in charge of his case dismissed the petitions because the priest is cooperating with the inquiry.
The Diocese of Ourinhos informed the press that the priest, a member of the Dominican order, was removed from his duties, but Bishop Eduardo Vieira dos Santos declined to give further details to Crux.
According to lawyer Edson Sampel, a canon law professor at the Canon Law Superior Institute of Londrina, the circumstances of the incident must be fully known before any decision is taken, but the priest may end up being “dismissed from ministry.”
“Harming a fellow human being with the intent of taking justice into one’s own hands is a sinful and reprehensible act both according to state law and to canon law, which typifies such delict in canon 1397,” he told Crux. Sampel added that the Dominican provincial may also take measures.
According to lawyer Rafael Ponce, dos Santos “has been praying for the victim’s re-establishment the same way he does every day, kneeled down in a sign of humility, as a sinner in front of the Cross.”
“Father dos Santos acted under two [circumstances] precluding wrongfulness according to the penal code. From the point of view of the defense, he acted in self-defense and according to the regular exercise of his right,” Ponce told Crux.
He added that the priest has the “legal and institutional duty of taking care and protecting not only the souls, but also all the church’s property, something that is established both by the canon law and by the Catechism.”
According to a joint statement issued by the Diocese of Ourinhos and the Dominicans, the priest was ordained one year ago and has been in charge of the Saint Sebastian parish in Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo for two months.
“We inform you that Friar Gustavo is deeply distressed and sorry about such a tragic outcome and summons all churchgoers to pray for the life of Mr. Ângelo Nogueira, who is receiving treatment at an UCI of the city’s Holy House [hospital],” the statement said.