Pedophilia Cases Shake Vatican’s Structure
The pedophilia accusations could be an opportunity for the Church to change its attitude, stated Father Lino Allegri.
By Marcelo Raulino
Diário do Nordeste (Fortaleza, Ceará)
April 11, 2010
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Portuguese.]
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The Catholic Church has been the target, in recent months, of attacks that have reached, for the first time, its ultimate authority - Pope Benedict XVI, accused of covering up pedophilia cases, while he was archbishop in Munich and when he headed the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The scandals, committed by priests of the Catholic Church in the United States and more recently in Scotland, have had the effect of an ultimatum for changes in the Holy See’s behavior.
For the first time in history, the Vatican, through its spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, decided to speak openly about the pedophilia cases involving priests. He has been trying to show the steps taken in recent years against this phenomenon, to prove that the pope has not been negligent.
But the facts contradict the information given out by the spokesman. In the United States, for example, a survey by the National Review Board revealed that more than 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons abused at least 10,677 American children between 1950 and 2002.
Of these cases, only 615 have been reported to the authorities and only 384 members of the clergy were prosecuted in the court, in proceedings that led to 252 convictions. The accusations of pedophilia resulted in the expulsion or voluntary renouncement of more than 700 priests and deacons between January 2002 and December 2003 in the United States.
In Ireland, pedophilia has become an endemic disease. In a recent report from the Commission of Inquiry Into Child Abuse, thousands of complaints were filed involving cases between 1930 and 1990 in the so-called reformatories. There, the Irish Government has paid 12,000 abused victims an average of $90,000, on the condition that they release their claims against the Church and the State. However, about two thousand complaints remain open.
Cases involving priests in acts of sexual deviance are popping up in Europe, Africa and Latin America. In Brazil, the most recent case happened in the state of Alagoas. The German priest Benedikt Lennartz, 41, priest of Craíbas, was accused of using the Internet for pedophilia. In Arapiraca, Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa was caught on a video posted on Youtube, performing oral sex on a male adolescent. Barbosa and the priests Edílson Duarte and Raimundo Gomes, also accused of pedophilia, were removed as a preemptive measure.
Father Lino Allegri, 71, former coordinator of the Pastoral for the Children of the Archdiocese of Fortaleza, stated that the common practice was to try to hide the pedophilia cases upon learning about them. "I do not mean to say that it always happened, but the practice was to try to cover them up. Hiding the sick perpetrators would prevent them from getting treatment and at the same time it was disrespectful to the people who were abused,” he stated.
He noted that the publicized complaints can be seen as a wake up call for the Church to change its behavior and forward pedophiles’ cases to the court system. The priest believes that had this attitude been adopted earlier, many cases of pedophilia would have been avoided. “The Church can learn from its mistakes. I do not want to judge anyone, but covering up the cases to avoid scandals could result in much bigger repercussions. When these cases come to light they shake the church’s foundation, and that is what is happening right now,” he noted.
Father Lino stated that even while recognizing no direct link between pedophila and celibacy, he is in favor of celibacy becoming optional in the Catholic Church. "This should not be an obligation, but rather a free choice. There could exist both the celibate clergy and married clergy,” he argued.
The clergyman recalled the case that occurred in 2002, in the municipality of Santana do Acaraú, when Friar Sebastião Luiz Tomaz, now deceased, was accused by children and adolescents of sexual abuse in exchange for food, clothes and money. "When I spoke to the judge, she told me that case would go nowhere, because such practice was common in the region. We should question the system of training and supervising in seminaries and get experts who will detect these cases in time and rigorously screen out both pedophiles and homosexuals, taking in account that pedophilia is a crime and homosexuality is a tendency. There should be more strictness, more attention and care, and an end to this taboo and fear of talking about these issues when training priests,” he stated.
To shine a light
"We know of priests who were removed for pedophilia, but the cases are covered up."
Father Lino Allegri
The Pastoral Commission for Street People
"If the Church does not punish the pedophile priests, it will lose the trust of its parishioners."
Senator (Workers’ Democratic Party - PDT) and former president of the Parlamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) Into Sexual Exploitation
"We must fight pedophilia to preserve the children’s future."
Senator (Republic Party-Espírito Santo) and President of the Parlamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) Into Pedophilia
2002 - In Santana do Acaraú, Friar Sebastião Luiz Tomaz, 69, is accused of sexually abusing 19 girls. The case did not go forward. The friar passed away and, today, many of the girls have moved out of the city, ashamed of the prejudice they suffer.
In August of 2004 - Friar Almeida, in Canindé, was arrested for lascivious behavior against a five-year-old boy
May of 2004 - Priest is accused of abusing an eleven-year-old altar boy in Aquiraz
December 2004 - Father Alfieri Eduardo Bompani, 60, was sentenced to 93 years in prison for sexual abuse of a minor in a parish of Sorocaba
January 2005 - Father Geraldo da Consolação, 48, was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison for indecent assault and battery on an eleven-year-old boy
December 2006 - Father Sebastião Braga, 33, was caught on a cellphone camera having sex with children inside the rectory in the city of Comendador Gomes - in the state of Minas Gerais
January 2007 - Father Bonifácio Buzzi, 46, was arrested in Barbacena, Minas Gerais, and sentenced to six years in prison for sexually abusing a ten-year-old boy in Mariana, Minas Gerais
October 2007 - An investigation was initiated into complaints of corruption of minors by Father Júlio Lancelotti, coordinator of the Pastoral Commission for Street People in São Paulo
June 2009 - Argentine priest Júlio César Grassi, 52, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption and abuse of a minor
March 2010 - Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa, 82, was caught performing oral sex on a boy in Arapiraca in the state of Alagoas. The act was filmed and posted on Youtube
March 2010 - Irish bishop John Magee, who was accused of covering up child abuse in reformatories in Ireland, asked to be removed
Stricter laws cast a wider net
The Commission for Parliamentary Inquiry Into Pedophilia is in full operation in the federal senate, and should complete its work by May of next year. The chairman of the commission is Magno Malta, a Senator of the Republic Party (PR) from the state Espírito Santo, who has emphasized the achievements on behalf of children and adolescents.
The CPI found that Brazil is the country with the highest incidence of crimes of pedophilia on the Internet, and third of the countries that have the highest rate of sexual abuse of children and adolescents. It is said that for every ten cases, six occur inside the victim's own family. The senator cited changes in the legislation to increase the penalty of this type of crime.
"Law No. 11,829, strengthens the fight against the production, sale and distribution of child pornography. It also criminalizes the acquisition and possession of such material and other behavior related to pedophilia, via the Internet,” he stated.
The senator also noted the signing of an agreement for mutual cooperation between credit-card companies and providers of telephone service, to investigate and track down the use of the Internet to commit crimes of pedophilia.
"This includes information concerning Internet connections, and login data of those under investigation, regarding content and IP address," he declared. Another commission on sexual exploitation (2003 -2004), also had a prominent role in the combat against pedophiles.
Senator Patrícia Saboya, Worker’s Democratic Party (PDT), who presided over the CPMI, stated that its greatest achievement was to open the eyes of the public to the problem. Another consequence was the creation of stricter laws. "Now, we need public policies to address the problem, and more financial resources," stated the senator.
The lack of infrastructure and public policies to combat pedophilia in Brazil are noted by Lina Rodrigues, of the Mental Health Movement of Bom Jardim. She stated that in Brazil the cases are handled by the Center for Specialized Reference for Social Assistance (Creas), which uses the same structure and staff of the old Sentinel program. "The demand grew, but the structure and number of employees remain the same. The teams had big demands and their ability to meet them remained small,” she emphasized.