May 26, 2010
SAO PAULO – A Polish priest accused of sexually abusing a former altar boy in Rio de Janeiro and turning his parish home into an “erotic dungeon” has surrendered and is now in police custody, a public safety official said Saturday.
State prosecutors have accused Marcin Michael Strachanowski 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.
Strachanowski arrived at a police station Friday night, said a spokesman for Rio’s state public security department. He spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with departmental policy. Images published in Brazilian newspapers showed Strachanowski being driven away in a police car.
The 44-year-old priest was suspended from duties after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro learned that a judge had issued an order Thursday for his arrest.
The archdiocese issued a statement Friday announcing the suspension and expressing regret over the alleged abuse.
Judge Alexandre Abrahao Dias said that 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. The phone number for the lawyers went unanswered on Saturday. The judge said that he was ordering the priest detained in part because he feared Strachanowski might try to flee from Brazil.
Church officials said that Strachanowski also faces a canonical legal process by an ecclesiastical tribunal, but they declined to provide additional information about the priest, such as how long he has been in Brazil or his work history with the Church.
The security department spokesman said the priest submitted a document in Polish as evidence that he is a college graduate, which could allow him to be kept in a lockup with better conditions than most Brazilian jails, which are severely overcrowded and dangerous because they are ruled by hardened gang members. The determination will be made by Brazilian education officials in conjunction with authorities.
Strachanowski’s lawyers also have the option of trying to seek his release through the courts next week, the spokesman said.
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 alleged abuse of at least three boys after being caught on videotape having sex with a former altar boy who was an adult when the video was filmed. 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 announced this month that it plans to craft a manual with guidelines to help bishops prevent child-abuse cases.