The first solid indications about the magnitude of pedophilia perpetrated by priests in Brazil, the country with the most Catholics in the world. Over the past two decades, 108 priests and at least one nun have been charged with sexually abusing at least 148 minors. 60 of the clerics investigated were convicted by the judges, according to an investigation carried out by two journalists of O Globo and that the newspaper has begun to publish this Sunday. In all these years there has been no major scandal of abuse of minors in the Church of Rome in Brazil, unlike what happened in dioceses such as Bolivia, the United States, Spain or Portugal, among many other countries. One in ten Catholics on the planet is Brazilian.
The number of priests convicted is part of the revelations included in the recently published book, Pedofilia na Igreja — an unpublished dossiê on cases of abuse involving Catholic parents in Brazil. With them, this country with 123 million faithful to the Pope of Rome begins to cease to be a striking exception in the question of the crimes of pedophilia perpetrated by priests against minors.
While in much of the Catholic world from 2001 onwards complaints of victims and journalistic investigations or promoted by civil authorities or the Catholic hierarchy were emerging, the most populous country in Latin America continued to be a kind of black hole, where from time to time some denunciation or specific condemnation was known, but which almost always went quite unnoticed.
One of the cases with the most repercussion was the conviction in 2019 of the archdiocese of Paraíba for sexual exploitation of minors because a group of priests habitually paid for sex, with money or food, seminarians, altar boys and valet parking. Three years earlier, the Vatican forced then-Archbishop Aldo Pagotto to resign for covering up those crimes.
The cases now mapped by O Globo journalists offer a first idea of the extent of sexual crimes within the Church of Brazil against children and adolescents of both genders. The priests accused or convicted acted in almost a hundred cities spread throughout almost the entire territory. They belong to some 80 dioceses spread over 23 of the 27 states of this continent-sized country whose territory doubles that of the European Union.
Those investigated for pedophilia cover virtually the entire scale of the hierarchy, with priests, monsignors, bishops, archbishops and even a nun. And they affect various orders, as well as diocesan priests. The cases or formal suspicions are related to Franciscans, Salesians, Benedictines and Jesuits, among others.
So far the Brazilian complaints have been individual initiatives, no organized movement of victims has taken shape so far, as in other countries. Nor has there been a major scandal of magnitude that has opened Pandora's box like this, as generated by the publication of the diary of the pedophile priest Alfonso Pedrajas, revealed by EL PAÍS, which has activated in Bolivia an authentic institutional offensive to investigate the allegations and punish the priests responsible.
The 60 priests convicted in Brazil received an average sentence of 12 years in prison, according to Pedofilia na Igreja. Boys double girls among their victims, who were between 13 and 17 years old at the time of the abuse. Those affected in these cases, who came to ask for 150 million reais (28 million euros), have received compensation totaling 187,000 euros.
At the summit to address pedophilia held in Rome in 2019, the Vatican wanted Brazil to be, with Zambia and the Philippines, a test bed for a pilot project to give voices to victims of pedophiles in the Church. If the initiative had tangible results, its impact on the country has been minimal or non-existent.