SAO PAULO, (ChurchMilitant.com) - Brazil's top cardinal, who is currently visiting Pope Francis, is covering for a sodomite priest who coerced a 17-year-old boy into sexual slavery, Church Militant has learned.
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, archbishop of São Paulo, is refusing to comply with a court order that compels him to disclose documents of the archdiocese's canonical proceedings against homopredator priest Fr. Bartolomeu da Silva Paz.
Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff reported the sodomite rape and sexual enslavement of Elissandro Dias Nazaré de Siqueira (aka "Eli") to Pope Francis, a source close to the victim said. The crimes were perpetrated by Fr. Bartolomeu from 2014 to 2017.
Eli's lawyers, Guilherme Dudus, a graduate of the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, and Dr. Maristela Basso, professor of international law at the University of São Paulo, are appealing to Pope Francis to grant justice to Eli during Scherer's ad limina visit to Rome.
"This ad limina visit is very curious and really puts Pope Francis to shame," Dudus told Church Militant. "We request the Holy Father to open an inquiry into the conduct of Cdl. Scherer, the apostolic nunciature in Brazil and the bishops involved in covering up the abuse."
"Even though the ad limina visit itself is not because of the Eli affair ... it certainly reveals the Church's indifference to the case, as the cardinal maneuvers daily to protect Fr. Bartolomeu," the lawyer added.
Dudus, a faithful Catholic and cofounder of the Scars of Faith project for victims of predator priests, said he could not comment further due to procedural restraints, but he would "trust in God to grant justice to the victims."
In 2014, Bartolomeu offered to help Eli, who worked at a diner, after the boy revealed he was living with a father who was an alcoholic and drug addict. The priest said he would pay to rent a small room for Eli in exchange for small services in the parish.
Meanwhile, Eli began training to be a lifeguard at the swimming pool next to the parish of Our Lady of Monte Serrat. Under the pretext of Eli teaching him how to swim, the priest took him to a farm owned by the Cultural and Beneficent Association for the Welfare of the Elderly, which Bartolomeu presided over.
When they got in the pool, the priest groped his chest and tried to touch his genitals. Eli resisted but was plied with alcohol later that night and blacked out. The next morning, he woke up with severe pain in his anus and his underwear stained with blood.
When he tried to escape the abuse, Bartolomeu threatened him with a .38 revolver. Secret audio recordings reveal how the priest would order the boy to massage his legs, manicure his feet and perform oral sex on him in the parish rooms on Monday and Friday mornings.
Eli's mother, Elizete, protested outside the Sé Cathedral in São Paulo in 2019 with a banner reading, "I put on the altar the pain of being the mother of a child raped by a priest from the Monte Serrat church." She was removed by diocesan security personnel. Cardinal Scherer was presiding at the Mass.
Local media reported that Fr. Bartolomeu was holding alcohol and drug-fueled gay orgies involving minors on parish property used for the welfare of the elderly.
A second victim came forward after the media reported on Eli's abuse. Sales promoter Wellington Carvalho Ribeiro de Jesus says that Bartolomeu raped him at a Christmas party in 2004 — he was 17.
Wellington says he felt sick after drinking a few glasses of beer, and Bartolomeu suggested that he go and rest in a room. The boy passed out and woke up with the priest kneeling over and kissing him.
"He was naked, masturbating, with his penis close to my face. He tried to penetrate me, but he ended up ejaculating on top of me," the victim recalls.
Eli's case took on historical legal significance when, for the first time in Brazil, a labor action was filed based on the sexual slavery that Eli was subjected to. The appeal filed by Dudus states that the victim was obliged to sexually serve Bartolomeu daily until the end of 2017.
The only compensation Eli received for submitting to Bartolomeu's "domination" was food and clothes from the parish bazaar, and shelter in a boarding house managed by the parish sacristan, Dudus noted in his appeal.
Bartolomeu forced his victim "to perform acts of degrading sexual savagery, like performing oral sex on the priest 'cross-dressed' in liturgical clothes," the legal brief stated. "Eli acted as a slave, always following orders from Fr. Bartolomeu, also cleaning pigeon-infested towers and selling religious articles."
The canonical process instituted by the São Paulo archdiocese and overseen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded that the relationship between Fr. Bartolomeu and Eli was "consensual."
After Eli testified to his abuse in March 2018 before a commission of preliminary investigation comprised of two bishops, Scherer transferred Fr. Bartolomeu to the parish of St. Cecilia in the center of São Paulo — an act seen by local media as a promotion.
The threats against Eli intensified after his testimony, forcing him to take refuge in a house provided by a former seminarian, Alessandro Salles, in a gated community in Cotia, São Paulo. Salles, a wedding decorator, mysteriously began losing business contracts soon thereafter, a source said.
In 2018, Scherer visited the Vatican to defend the priest and claimed that Eli was his "lover." He also portrayed Eli as a "vulnerable adult" rather than a minor, even though Bartolomeu began grooming his victim in July 2014 when the boy was 17 years old, a source said.
The CDF did not go through with the case, even though all documentation was sent to them, because the cardinal presented the case as a homosexual liaison rather than rape and abuse, the source added.
In April 2021, Eli filed a lawsuit seeking access to the canonical procedure established after his complaint to Scherer. The archdiocese of São Paulo contested the case, claiming that the state was interfering in religious matters and that Eli was Fr. Bartolomeu's "boyfriend."
Scherer hired a prestigious law firm to file an embargos de declaração (declaration embargoes) appeal claiming that the canonical procedure involving Fr. Bartolomeu and Eli was requested by the Holy See in 2020 and, hence, could not be submitted to the victim.
Eli's lawyers cited Pope Francis' 2019 rescriptum that states that the pontifical secret does not apply to offenses referred to in Article 1 of the motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi, which includes "sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person."
The Court of Justice of São Paulo dismissed the archdiocese's appeal, insisting that the Church had an obligation to provide the victim with the canonical procedure.
Following a public outcry, in March 2020, the priest was finally suspended for three years. The document signed by Scherer states that "no crimes of sexual abuse against a minor, nor a crime perpetrated with threats or violence" committed by the priest have been proven.
"Behavior and acts of a homosexual nature and of infidelity to the promise of celibacy have been proven with scandal and not consistent with the dignity of the priesthood," the decree of suspension adds, permitting Bartolomeu to return to full ministry in March 2023.
A doctoral dissertation on clerical sex abuse by Brazilian sociologist Regina Soares Jurkewicz, submitted to the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, observes that a key strategy in protecting predator priests is to adopt a canonical procedure against them.
The hierarchy employs this strategy, especially when a civil or criminal judicial process has been initiated, writes Jurkewicz. "In general, the canonical procedure remains paralyzed indefinitely" and the priest is quietly transferred to another parish, diocese or country.
"I completely deny the accusation of omission, either on the part of the archdiocese of São Paulo or on the part of any of its representatives," Cdl. Scherer, a member of Pope Francis' Council for the Economy, told local media.
The ad limina visit of the Brazilian bishops to the Vatican begins Monday and lasts until Oct. 1.