A GROWING sex abuse scandal is rocking the world's largestnational Catholic congregation.
A Brazilian priest has been given a long jail sentence after acourt heard extracts from a diary that read like a pedophilepriest's how-to manual. A magazine earlier published evidence that,according to estimates by Vatican investigators, one in 10 ofBrazil's priests was involved in some form of sexualmisdemeanour.
The signs of abuse in a country that is home to about 125million Catholics will be of particular concern to the churchhierarchy. Until now Catholic leaders comforted themselves with thebelief that, no matter how battered its reputation in rich nationssuch as the US, the church continued to be held in high esteem inthe developing world.
Regina Soares Jurkwicz, author of Unveiling the Politics ofSilence: Sexual Abuse of Women by Priests in Brazil, said thenation could now be facing a problem of even greater dimensionsthan that uncovered in the US in 2002.
"The Catholic Church doesn't know what to do," she said. "InBrazil the [typical] reaction of the Catholic hierarchy is first totry to cover up the problem or discredit the witness. Then, it isto transfer the priest to another community, which is not told whyhe was transferred there."
A Vatican commission visited Brazil in September to investigatereports of a 70 per cent leap in the number of priests involved incases of sexual misbehaviour. According to its report, 10 per centof Brazil's priests - some 1700 clerics - were involved in cases ofsexual misconduct, including the physical abuse of children andwomen.
Father Tarcisio Tadeu Spricigo, 48, was jailed last week for 15years for sexually abusing two boys, one of them a five-year-old.In his diary the priest stressed the need "to have boys who cankeep a secret and without sexual scruples".