Brazil: Church to prepare anti-abuse guidelines

By Stan Lehman
Associated Press Writer / May 11, 2010

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SAO PAULO—The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops said Tuesday it will prepare a manual with guidelines to help bishops combat cases of child abuse committed by clergymen in the world's largest Roman Catholic country.

The manual will be prepared by a special commission comprising bishops, priests and psychologists, and church officials will begin distributing it within a few months, a conference spokesman, the Rev. Geraldo Martins, told The Associated Press.

Martins would not comment on the likely contents of the manual, one of several ideas to emerge at the bishops' annual meeting in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia.

Bishop Sinesio Bohn of the southern city of Santa Cruz do Sul was quoted by the newspaper Estado de S. Paulo on Tuesday as saying the church must study ways to avoid ordaining pedophiles.

"We must adopt scientific methods, with the help of psychologists," Bohn said.

Bishop Pedro Luiz Stringhini, from the city of Franca in Sao Paulo state, told the newspaper that child abuse committed by clergymen must receive a three-pronged treatment: "forgiveness for the sin, punishment for the crime and treatment for the pathology."

Several cases of priests allegedly abusing children have surfaced in Brazil in recent months.

Late last month, prosecutors charged a Roman Catholic priest, Father Jose Afonso, with abusing altar boys ranging from ages 12 to 16. Prosecutors said the alleged abuses occurred this year, in 2009 and in 2001 in Franca.

Also last month, 83-year-old Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa was detained in northeastern Brazil for allegedly abusing at least three boys after being caught on videotape having sex with a young man, a former altar boy. Barbosa is under house arrest while authorities investigate. Two other priests in the same archdiocese are also accused of abuses.

Last week, a Brazilian archbishop said adolescents are "spontaneously homosexual" and in need of guidance.

The newspaper O Globo quoted Archbishop Dadeus Grings of Porto Alegre as saying: "Society today is pedophile. That is the problem. So, people easily fall into it. And the fact it is denounced is a good sign."