By John L. Allen Jr.
NCR Rome correspondent
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A Brazilian newsmagazine has reported that two priests recently convicted for sexual abuse of minor boys kept diaries of their experiences, often featuring graphic sexual details, as well as in one instance a set of "rules" for selecting victims -- such as that the target be a young male from a poor family and preferably without a father.
The magazine also names two other Brazilian priests recently arrested for abuse of minors, including one caught in early November in a hotel room in northeastern Brazil with four young boys. In that case, the priest has denied charges of abuse.
The Brazilian newsmagazine Istoè, a nationally circulated newsweekly, published these findings on Nov. 16, suggesting that they represent a broad pattern of sexual misconduct among Brazilian clergy. The Istoè report was given prominent treatment Nov. 21 in Corriere della Sera, the leading Italian daily newspaper.
The magazine reports that in at least two instances, priests eventually convicted of sexual abuse of minors had previously been transferred from one assignment to another by church officials after initial complaints had surfaced.
According to the same report, one emeritus bishop in Brazil has been accused of sexual misconduct by a young priest whom he ordained.
Corriere della Sera's coverage suggested that sexual abuse of minors by priests is no longer a phenomenon associated largely with the United States, pointing to scandals in England, France, Croatia and Ireland, in addition to Brazil.
The original Corriere della Sera report claimed that 10 Brazilian priests are currently behind bars for abuse of minors, with another 40 missing.
According to that report, a 48-year-old Brazilian priest named Tarcisio Tadeu Spricigo, convicted in 2003 of the sexual abuse of a nine-year-old boy, kept a diary in which he listed 10 guidelines for identifying potential victims and acting with impunity. They included:
- "Age: 7, 8, 9 or 10"
- "Sex: Male"
- "Social condition: poor"
- "Family condition: preferably a boy without a father, living with a single mother or a sister"
- "Where to find him: in the streets, in schools or in families"
- "How to lure him: guitar lessons, or service as an altar boy or girl"
- "Very important to keep the family at a distance"
- "Possibilities: an affectionate young man, calm, without inhibitions, missing a father, without moralisms"
- "Find out what pleases the young man and, departing from that premise, lead him to give everything to me"
- "How to present yourself: always certain, serious, dominating, like a father, never ask questions, always have certainties"
The diary, according to the Corriere della Sera report, came to light after Spricigo accidentally gave it to a religious sister, who turned it over to the police.
Likewise, according to Corriere della Sera, a Brazilian priest named Alfieri Edoardo Bompani, 45, also kept a diary of his sexual encounters with young men. Bompani was convicted of abuse in 2004 and sentenced to 93 years in jail, considered a symbolic gesture since the maximum sentence under Brazilian law is 30 years.
Quotes from his diary provided in the Corriere della Sera account include lurid, and sometimes repugnant, sexual details.
The magazine also quotes from a written complaint filed in the Vatican by Brazilian priest Fr. Alberto Mendes, against emeritus Bishop Antônio Sarto, 79, who resigned from the Diocese of Barra do Garças in 2001. The magazine reproduced a May 20, 2003, letter from the Roman Rota, the main Vatican appeals court, to Mendes indicating that his complaint had arrived.
In the complaint, which dates back almost 20 years, Mendes details -- once again in graphic detail -- sexual advances Sarto allegedly made toward him. Mendes told Corriere della Sera that he tried for 14 years to lodge a canonical complaint against Sarto in a Brazilian ecclesiastical court, without success.
The most recent case to arise is that of the priest apprehended in early November in a hotel room with four boys, Fr. Felix Barbosa Carreiro. In that instance, the vice-president of the Brazilian bishops' conference, Bishop Antônio Celso Queiroz of Catanduva, told a press conference in Brazil Nov. 10 that Carreiro should be subject to both civil and ecclesiastical prosecution.
Corriere della Sera reported that Pope Benedict XVI sent a commission in early September to investigate the reports of sexual of minors by clergy in Brazil. The magazine quoted from what it identified as that commission's conclusions.
As of late Monday, however, NCR could not independently confirm that such a commission existed.
The logical Vatican agency to have impaneled the commission would be the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has responsibility for cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests under a February 2001 ruling from Pope John Paul II. A Vatican source told NCR, however, that the congregation was not aware of any commission sent to Brazil, or anywhere else.
A spokesperson for the Brazilian bishops' conference told NCR late Monday that the conference was also not aware of any such commission.
Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to attend the meeting of the Latin American bishops' conference, CELAM, to be held at the Marian shrine of Aparecida, Brazil, in May 2007.
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is email@example.com
November 21, 2005, National Catholic Reporter