Saturday, May 22, 2010

Brazil orders Polish priest arrested in abuse case

Last updated May 21, 2010 5:50 p.m. PT

Brazil orders Polish priest arrested in abuse case

SAO PAULO -- A court has ordered the arrest of a Polish priest suspected of sexually abusing a teenager in a Rio de Janeiro suburb and turning his parish home into what the judge described as an "erotic dungeon" for sex with adolescents, authorities said Friday.

State prosecutors have accused Marcin Michael Strachanowski, 44, of handcuffing the 16-year-old former altar boy to a bed three years ago in the parish house where the priest lived and threatening to kill the youth if he spoke of the abuse.

"I already know the flowers I will place on your coffin," Strachanowski warned, according to prosecutors.

The Polish priest was suspended from his duties after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro learned of the order for his arrest, church spokesman Adionel Carlos da Cunha said in a statement issued Friday. The judge issued the order on Thursday.

The archdiocese "expresses its regret over what happened, especially with the people involved and possible victims," he said.

Judge Alexandre Abrahao Dias expressed concern that Strachanowski might try to flee the country.

He said investigators found "erotic material sent to the victim via Internet to seduce him" and that the priest also took other youths to the parish house, "which he converted into a kind of erotic dungeon where he submitted them, often with the use of handcuffs, to orgies."

Lawyers representing the priest did not immediately return a telephone message left Friday afternoon seeking comment.

Church officials declined to provide additional information about Strachanowski, such as how long he has been in Brazil or his work history with the church. Police said Friday they had not located him.

The priest also faces a canonical legal process by an ecclesiastical tribunal, da Cunha said. The tribunal has taken what da Cunha described as "the necessary measures" regarding Strachanowski's case - but the church spokesman did not elaborate.

Sex-abuse scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church have mushroomed around the world recently, and some of the accused priests have surfaced in Brazil, home to more Catholics than any other nation.

Late last month, prosecutors charged the Rev. Jose Afonso with abusing altar boys ranging in age from 12 to 16. Prosecutors said the alleged abuses took place in the city of Franca, in southeastern Sao Paulo state.

Also last month, 83-year-old Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa was detained in northeastern Brazil for allegedly abusing at least three boys after being caught on videotape having sex with a young man, a former altar boy. Barbosa is under house arrest while authorities investigate. Two other priests in the same archdiocese are also accused of abuses.

The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops recently announced it would prepare a manual with guidelines to help bishops prevent child-abuse cases.


Associated Press Writer Alan Clendenning in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

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