Church paedophilia scandal grows in Latin America

Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa is accused of abusing boys as young  as 12. Photo / AP

Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa [right] is accused of abusing boys as young as 12.

SAO PAULO – The detention of an 83-year-old priest in Brazil for allegedly abusing boys as young as 12 has added to the scandals hitting the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, even as Chile’s bishops asked pardon for past cases.

The allegations against Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa – and two other Brazilian priests – have made headlines throughout the world’s most populous Catholic nation amid accusations of sexual abuse by priests around the world.

The scandal erupted when Brazilian television network SBT last month broadcast a tape of Barbosa in bed with a 19-year-old that was widely distributed on the internet. The station said the video was secretly filmed in January 2009 and sent anonymously to the network. 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 reporters went to Barbosa’s house and confronted him. Asked if he ever abused boys, Barbosa said he could only answer such a question “in confession” and cut off the interview.  Brazil’s legislature launched a sex abuse investigation, which produced allegations that Barbosa molested boys. The elderly priest was detained late Sunday. Prosecutors will now decide whether to file child abuse charges.

Barbosa’s lawyer, Edson Maia, plans to seek his release from detention, citing the man’s advanced age and arguing he has a fixed address and does not pose a flight risk, the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported.  Congressional investigators said more than 20 witnesses were called and some testified 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 could not be reached Tuesday.  The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops does not plan to comment on the case and all questions should be directed to the local diocese, spokesman Geraldo Martins said.  Latin Americans priests have faced a cascade of accusations of abuse of minors.

A priest in Chile was charged recently with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including a girl he had fathered.

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