Civil authorities are investigating a Brazilian priest for allegedly making homophobic comments during a Mass celebrated shortly after the nation’s Supreme Court criminalized anti-LGBTQ violence and hate speech earlier this year.
Maxwell Anderson of Lucena Vignoli, a prosecutor in Pernambuco, opened an investigation into Fr. Rodrigo Alves de Oliveira Arruda, SCJ, for alleged LGBTQ-negative comments made during a Mass in June. The topic of Arruda’s homily was the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court’s decision that month to criminalize anti-LGBTQ violence and hate speech. Crux reported:
“Before the final blessing, Arruda again talked about the issue, accusing the Supreme Court of ‘judicial activism’ and calling its decision as a kind of censorship.
” ‘This is a gag. You can’t express something of scientific or religious nature that’s opposed to what these people [LGBT and supporters] think,’ Arruda said, according to the story.
“The priest also expressed concerns about the possibility of prison for people who express criticism of the LGBT community.
” ‘It’s already possible to accuse someone of [committing this] crime and the person will be arrested, in the terms of the penal legislation,’ he said.”
Arruda also announced that parishioners could sign a petition at the back of the church in support of legislation to curtail the Court’s ruling, according to GospelMais:
“The public petition Arruda suggested that the faithful attending the Mass should sign said: ‘We, the undersigned and qualified, are against any attempt to criminalize common sense.’ The text asked the senators to approve the draft legislative decree authored by Senator Marcos Rogério (DEM-RO), which would have the practical effect of overlapping the STF’s [Supreme Court’s] decision.
“To the signatories, the ‘recent and absurd unconstitutional decisions of the Federal Supreme Court’ intend to ‘illegitimately impose on the Brazilian population an unjust and undue criminalization, equating to the crime of racism, of the existing social phenomenon badly called “homophobia” ‘.”
The investigation was instigated by the LGBT Northern Lions Movement. The group’s president, Rildo Veras, explained their reasoning:
” ‘The priest’s speech is wrong. He acted with LGBTphobia because he used priesthood to incite violence . . . We represent a complaint because we want to discuss the issue at the hearing. At the very least we expect the priest to make a public retraction on the same pulpit where he committed this violation.’ “
Crux reported that local church leaders have distanced themselves from Arruda’s comments. When asked by Vignoli’s office, the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife,said “the priest’s speech was not homophobic, and it did not want to incite any kind of hatred.” Arruda’s religious community, the Congregation of Priests of the Sacred Heart, has not commented, but at least one conservative Catholic group and one Catholic politician issued statements supporting the priest.
It is significant that church leaders above Arruda want no part of his LGBTQ-negative politicking and pastoral insensitivity. The priest has rightly offended many people. Whether his offense is criminal is another matter. A fitting ecclesial solution to this incident would be for the priest’s religious superiors to sit Arruda down, to rein in these misguided antics of a priest, ordained just a year or two ago, and to encourage the priest to apologize for the harm he has caused.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 31, 2019