A Catholic bishop was caught masturbating on a Zoom call. So what? In every barrel, there are bound to be some bad apples.
But look at the ‘apples’ above and around now-disgraced Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva of Brazil.
(Though he resigned, he still retains his title. That’s why we continue to call him ‘bishop’ here.)
Almost every awful aspect of the clerical abuse and cover up crisis is on display in this one seemingly isolated scandal.
First, let’s look at the bishop’s Vatican supervisors.
At nearly every turn, they repeatedly try to reassure us that now they take sexual misdeeds seriously. In recent years, they’ve ‘learned’ and ‘reformed,’ they insist.
So why let this Brazilian bishop resign? Why not fire him? Why not strip him of his title and privileges?
That kind of discipline would be far more powerful in convincing parishioners and the public that there’s no place in the church for sexual wrongdoing.
Second, the Associated Press reports that “Since 2015, Bishop Ferreira da Silva had reportedly been investigated by the Vatican for other accusations, including allegedly ignoring reports of sexual abuse in his diocese.”
Six years he’s been under investigation? How does that square with church hierarchy’s pledge to take sexual misconduct “seriously”?
And why does the AP say “reportedly?” That can only be because the so-called ‘investigation’ must have been secret. Had it been publicly announced, the AP would have indicated that.
So why do Vatican bureaucrats once again launch a secret internal probe and spend six years on it without apparently making any kind of decision or levying any kind of discipline?
Now, let’s look at the Brazilian bishop’s peers.
“The Vatican, the Brazilian bishops conference and Ferreira’s home diocese all announced the resignation but provided no details on the cause,” according to the AP. Good!
But “None of the three responded to emailed questions about whether the bishop was the man in the video or what was behind his departure.”
Well, local media reported that the bishop admitted that WAS him in the video. And a Catholic source wrote “Bishop Ferreira da Silva reportedly told the Brazilian network Globo that he is the person in the video.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/248724/brazilian-bishop-resigns-after-leak-of-explicit-video
(Indeed, a Brazilian newspaper quoted the prelate as saying he’s planning to ask for police help in figuring out who ‘leaked’ the incriminating video.)
Again, the AP writing about the same Brazilian church colleagues: “They also didn’t respond to requests for comment or background on news reports the bishop had been previously investigated by the Vatican.”
So even after a brother bishop publicly admits humiliating and inappropriate sexual behavior, his colleagues refuse to comment and won’t even confirm that he was under investigation?
An official Catholic institution, the Catholic News Agency, tells us that the Brazilian bishop “has been investigated multiple times by the Vatican for alleged sexual misconduct or for covering up sexual misconduct.”
The CNA also adds some interesting detail: In 2015, he was accused of having a romantic relationship with his driver. Three years later, the diocese was investigated amid reports that the bishop had failed to investigate reports of abuse. He further was accused of sending sexually explicit messages to an adolescent.
As is the case with so many sexually troubled clerics, there are also allegations of financial misdeeds. Six years ago, Bishop Ferreira da Silva. One news source reports that he “was reportedly accused of taking a large amount of money from the church and giving it to his driver, with whom he allegedly had a romantic relationship.”
To the casual reader, this story could seem to be just about another bad bishop. But to us at Horowitz Law, it’s also about continuing self-serving secrecy within the ranks of bishops as a whole And, of course, it’s about continuing inaction by Pope Francis and his staff, all of whom ‘talk tough’ about cracking down on abuse, misconduct, and cover ups, but seem to only follow up on their promises when offenders make front page news.