After A Pornographic Video Went Viral, A Brazilian Bishop Resigned

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Brazilian bishop resigned on Wednesday, less than a week after a video purporting to show him masturbating went viral on social media.

Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva, who led a diocese in Sao Paulo state, Sao Jose do Rio Preto, resigned, and Pope Francis accepted his resignation. Ferreira, who is 60 years old, is 15 years away from the typical retirement age for bishops. He has apparently been under investigation by the Vatican since 2015 for allegedly disregarding complaints of sexual abuse in his diocese.

The resignation was announced by the Vatican, the Brazilian bishops’ conference, and Ferreira’s own diocese, although no reason was given. None of the three responded to emails asking if the bishop was the man in the video or what prompted his resignation. The guy in the video resembled Ferreira, and local newspaper Diario do Regiao stated that Ferreira admitted it was his image in a brief interview, but gave no additional details.

They also declined to comment or provide context on press claims that the bishop had previously been examined by the Vatican.

In 2018, the Sao Jose do Rio Preto diocese was the subject of a Vatican inquiry into whether Ferreira disregarded accusations of abuse and exchanged sexual texts with a teenager, according to local news network Globo. He claimed personal reasons for resigning as regional coordinator of the Ribeirao Preto archdiocese, which includes Sao Jose do Rio Preto and where he remained bishop, at the time.

He was suspected of stealing a substantial sum of money from the church in 2015 and sending it to his driver, with whom he apparently had a sexual relationship, according to reports. At the time, the Vatican reportedly began an inquiry, which he rejected.

Given the previously documented issues, Francis’ quick removal of the bishop when the video appeared implies that it was the final straw. The Vatican can take years to examine and penalize a bishop after a thorough investigation, but in this case, his demise came just days after the video was released.

Ferreira could not be reached for comment right away. The pope chose Archbishop Moacir Silva of Ribeirao Preto as his interim successor on Wednesday.

His demise is the latest in a long line of bishops who have been sanctioned for either ignoring genuine allegations of clergy abuse in their dioceses or for being accused of sexual misconduct themselves.

The fact that Ferreira had previously been probed and remained in his post corresponds to evidence presented by survivors of clerical sexual abuse that the Vatican has for decades neglected to act against bishops suspected of wrongdoing.

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