A Polish priest accused of sexually abusing a former altar boy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and turning his parish home into an “erotic dungeon” has surrendered and is now in police custody, the authorities in Rio de Janeiro said Sunday, the NY Times reports.
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.
The police in Rio de Janeiro State said that Father Strachanowski, who was arrested late Friday, was being held at a police station awaiting court proceedings. He is accused of handcuffing the 16-year-old to a bed “to satisfy his sexual whims,” according to state prosecutors.
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. Mr. da Cunha said in a statement that he “expresses its regret over what happened, particularly with the people involved and especially to the possible victims.”
Camila Donato, a spokeswoman for Rio’s civil police, said that complaints about Father Strachanowski first surfaced in 2004. The police began a formal investigation in 2007 based on the accusations of the 16-year-old.
Prosecutors said that Father Strachanowski began sending pornographic material to the boy in e-mail messages in early 2007. About February of that year, Father Strachanowski handcuffed the teenager to a bed in the rectory and forced him to perform sex acts, according to the state prosecutors.
The priest, “using coercion, put money into the pocket of the victim and demanded silence, threatening to tell everyone what had happened,” the public prosecutor said in the criminal complaint.
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.
Sex-abuse scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church have mushroomed around the world recently, and it’s the third case of sexual abuse involving a priest in Brazil, which has the world’s biggest Roman Catholic population, in the last two months.
In April, Msgr. Luiz Marques Barbosa, 83, and two other priests were taken into custody in northeastern Brazil and accused of abuse after a videotape surfaced of Father Barbosa having sex with a former altar boy. Also that month, in Franca, in southeastern Brazil, prosecutors charged the Rev. José Afonso with abusing altar boys ranging from 12 to 16 years old. [via Huffington Post and NY Times]