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Brazilian archbishop who resigned criticized aspects of 2014 Synod; prosecutor alleges abuse cover-up

July 07, 2016

The Brazilian archbishop who resigned following an allegation of a relationship with an 18-year-old male was the coauthor of a book criticizing aspects of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which took place in 2014.

On July 6, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto, 66, from the governance of the Archdiocese of Paraíba, Brazil. The prelate had denied the allegation and filed a defamation suit against the accuser.

Archbishop Pagotto was also under investigation by a local prosecutor for alleged “connivance” in the sexual exploitation of minors after he accepted seminarians and priests from other dioceses who were accused of sexual abuse. In 2015, following an apostolic visitation, he was forbidden to ordain new priests and deacons and accept seminarians and priests from other dioceses, according to media reports.

In his resignation letter, the prelate said that his “merciful ingenuousness” led him to make mistakes, the Associated Press reported. He added that he was the victim of an anonymous campaign of slander by priests who were displeased by his governance of the archdiocese. A retired bishop, Bishop Genival Saraiva de França, will govern the archdiocese as apostolic administrator until a new archbishop is named.

In 2015, between the two synods on the family, Archbishop Pagotto joined Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, California, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan in writing Preferential Option for the Family: One Hundred Questions and Answers Relating to the Synod.

In the book, the three coauthors sought to defend Catholic teaching on marriage, family life, sexuality, and the non-reception of Holy Communion by those who have remarried outside the Church.

The prelates wrote that questionnaire that help set the 2014 synod’s agenda “excluded many realities and problems, even important ones, while presenting a partial or exaggerated version of others,” and that the synod’s final report (the Relatio Synodi) evinced a “bias” toward the situation of those who have remarried, to the exclusion of many other challenges affecting family life.

“Talismanic words” (“hurt persons,” “mercy,” “welcome,” “tenderness,” “deepening”), they added, surrounded the synod and are “susceptible to being used for propaganda purposes and abused for ideological ends.”

“One should prevent certain forces to venture into making proposals that contradict [doctrine] or endorse a slippery and ambiguous language that hides the real problems and upright solutions,” the coauthors wrote.

Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, wrote the book’s preface. One of the four bishops who offered an endorsement for the book—Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agaña, Guam—was subsequently accused of sexual abuse but remains in office while an official of the Roman Curia temporarily governs the archdiocese as apostolic administrator.

From 1998 until his 2004 appointment to Paraíba, Archbishop Pagotto was bishop of Sobral. On July 6, following Archbishop Pagotto’s resignation, the Sobral chief prosecutor told the Brazilian newspaper O Povo that in 2002, the bishop visited the homes of teenagers who had accused a priest of sexual abuse in an attempt to convince them to change their testimony.


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  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Jul. 07, 2016 11:32 AM ET USA

    I have done some research on this matter and came to no conclusion. The bishop's doctrinal positions are strange - he co-signed the book with Abp. Schneider, and at the same time, cultivated ties with Spiritualists (it seems that he prefaced a Spiritualist book, a while ago, claiming that reencarnation is in the Bible). At the same time he was very much opposed to the Liberation Theology. So, Orthodox, pero no mucho. As for the sex abuse, can't say.