Former Nuns Accuse Catholic Priest of Rape and Brainwashing

Victim group accuses Catholic Church of delaying investigations

Anna Virginia Balloussier
São Paulo

The first accusations happened in 2006. At that time, they only mentioned "brainwashing" within Arca de Maria (Mary's Ark), a Catholic group in Anapólis, in the state of Goiás.

Later, sexual abuse claims against Jean Rogers Rodrigo de Sousa, 44, also known as Father Rodrigo Maria, came to light. A few nuns that were under his guardianship described sexual advances against their will. Some acts were consummated, others weren't, they say.

At least 11 women denounced to the Catholic Church episodes of abuse in several towns, which motivated internal investigations on the cleric's behavior. But the lack of any outcome 12 years after the first accusation against Arca de Maria reached the Vatican is making the group of women wonder why is it taking so long to punish a priest that, in reality, is still free to abuse other young women.

According to canonical law, the harshest sentence in this kind of situation is the loss of clerical state (when the defendant is no longer clergy) and excommunication.

Padre Rodrigo Maria
Father Rodrigo Maria, 44, suspect of sexually abusing and brainwashing nuns - Reprodução

Father Rodrigo is currently working for the Ciudad del Este diocese, in Paraguay. The diocese will be responsible to proceed with all claims against him.

In February, local monsignor Guillermo Steckling proclaimed that while under investigation, the Brazilian priest couldn’t perform clerical duties or wear his religious habit. But Father Rodrigo, who claims to be innocent, is not following Steckling's orders.

Father Fabio Recalde Barúa, a spokesman for the Paraguayan diocese, confirmed that the priest will be tried for "disobedience" and "several severe infractions of divine and canonical law".

Former nuns heard by Folha say that one of the reasons they didn't resort to the secular Judiciary system is fear of their identities becoming public, because, in many cases, their parents have no idea what happened to them.

The reporter listened to an audio recording from 2015 in which Father Rodrigo is confronted by relatives of a former nun about sexual relations he would have kept with young women under his guardianship and about a "dick pic" sent over Skype. He admits to having done "indecent acts" and online exchanges in which he said "indecent things".

During the conversation, he said that some young girls fall in love with him and blames "the universe's most destructive force, SWF", for faults attributed to him. The acronym means "Scorned Woman's Fury", he later explains in the recording.

Asked for comment, Father Rodrigo says he never had sex, consented or not, with nuns, and that "there is no audio recording of me saying that, that's your interpretation." Audio experts consulted by the reporter say that the voices in the audio recording and in a Youtube video where the priest is heard talking are the same.

Over the phone, Father Rodrigo says he is being subjected to a smear campaign. He says he is facing "opposition inside and outside the Church" for his conservative views.

On his social media channels, he has expressed affinity for presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), asked for "a Hail Mary to rid Brazil of communism" and attacked a feminist artist that undressed in a sanctuary in France ("you either belong to Mary's offspring or you are Satan's spawn.")

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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