Sex scandal embroiling Catholic Church in Brazil

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian authorities are investigating three priests accused of sexually abusing altar boys after a video allegedly showing one case of abuse was broadcast on television, police and church officials said yesterday.

The case came to light after the SBT network aired a video purportedly showing an 82-year-old priest having sex with a 19-year-old altar boy who worked for him for four years. Other young men appeared on the report saying that they, too, had been abused by Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa.

Also under investigation are Monsignor Raimundo Gomes, 52, and Father Edilson Duarte, 43, for allegedly having sexual relations with boys and young men.

According to a statement from the church, the three priests are “supposedly involved in acts [yet to be proven] of sexual abuse.’’ The statement did not say whether the men admit or deny guilt. None of the priests could be located to ask about the case, and the church would not provide contact details for them.

A church official in the Penedo Archdiocese, in the northeastern state of Alagoas, said the three have been suspended. A police official said the men are free pending the investigation, which should last until the end of April. Both the church official and the policeman spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said officials there were aware of the case.

In its report last week, SBT showed footage of a man who looks like Barbosa having sex with the 19-year-old. It said the footage was secretly filmed in January 2009 by a 21-year-old man who alleges Barbosa had abused him since age 12.

SBT said the video was sent anonymously to the network, and reporters went to the town of 200,000 people to investigate last month.

An SBT reporter visited Barbosa’s house to conduct an interview and confront him with the allegations.

Before raising the allegations of sexual abuse, the reporter asks whether the priest had ever sinned.

“Who has never committed a sin?’’ Barbosa responds.

The priest is then asked whether the region has problems with pedophilia.

“I think it is more [a problem] of homosexuality than pedophilia,’’ Barbosa says.

Asked directly whether he ever abused boys, Barbosa says he could answer such a question only “in confession.’’ He then ends the interview, which was aired Thursday and posted on SBT’s YouTube page.

Bishop Valerio Breda released a statement saying that in light of the “grave and lamentable facts made public on television,’’ Barbosa and the two other priests had been suspended.

Meanwhile, Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin, declared yesterday that his Catholic colleagues in Ireland must tell “the entire truth’’ about their decades of covering up child abuse in the priesthood — or else the Irish government may have to broaden its own investigations.

Martin, the second-highest-ranking Catholic in Ireland, has demanded greater honesty and openness over the church’s longtime refusal to tell police about pedophile priests being transferred from parish to parish, school to school.

He declined yesterday to call for the resignation of his superior, Cardinal Sean Brady, who acknowledges he never told police about victims’ statements that he collected against notorious pedophile priest Brendan Smyth in 1975.

But Martin said church officials had inflicted untold suffering on scores of Smyth’s victims from 1975 to 1994, when he was finally arrested and convicted on more than 100 counts of molesting and raping boys and girls. Smyth, who abused children in North Dakota and Rhode Island as well as Ireland, died in an Irish military prison in 1997.

“Brendan Smyth should have been stopped from the very first time it was known that he was abusing,’’ Martin said. “How a person would have abused and continued to abuse for so long — 18 years after [Brady’s evidence-gathering] — and God knows how many years before.’’