What is Behind the Suicide Cases of Brazilian Priests?

Faced with the high number of cases of suicide among Catholic priests in Brazil (there were nine in the year 2021), specialists point out recurrent motivations behind the phenomenon.

Newsroom (11/02/2022 4:40 PM, Gaudium Press) On the night of February 1, Father Geraldo de Oliveira, 77, was found dead inside the Church of São Sebastião, in Caruaru (SE). Next to his body were found a jar, possibly containing poison and a letter in which the priest claimed to be despised in his community. Many believe this was the motivation behind the suicide.

An unusual number of suicide cases amidst Catholic priests in Brazil

Commenting on the tragic episode, Most Rev. Milton Kenan Jr., Bishop of Barretos (SP), wrote a message addressed to priests. The prelate underscores how clergy members are masters in “labeling, despising, ignoring, boycotting” those who do not “think like me, because the other dares to be different.”

Without justifying the tragic facts, the Bishop assured that many commit suicide “because they have not found someone to sit with them, to listen to them; because they have not found someone to look at them without judging them.” He urged to break this pattern before cases like Father Geraldo’s multiply, avoiding similar situations when those “who after 50 years of priesthood sought dignity by death on his own.”

Faced with the high number of cases of suicide among Catholic priests in Brazil (there were nine in the year 2021), specialists point out recurrent motivations behind the phenomenon: excessive pressure for priests to be good administrators, little attention from their Bishops and the (mostly false) moral accusations made against members of the clergy.

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Loss of the beauty of ministry

Father José Rafael Solano Durán, PhD in Moral Theology, from the Archdiocese of Londrina (PR), emphasizes that many priests have lost their charm and joy, overshadowing the beauty of the ministry. “Disenchanted priests, deacons and bishops. Men who are no longer attracted to Christ.”

He also points out that “for many, being part of the clergy is much more than a problem; it is a dilemma. Men capable of thinking and reflecting, are often incapable of making decisions.” Therein lies a fundamental problem, for “those who do not know how to decide, lose sight of the fundamentals and reach a point where unforeseen situations absorb them, becoming just someone who lives according to the decisions of others.

“Reflecting on this, we must ask ourselves: how can we recover that first love, that enthusiasm for the liturgy, that joy in serving? We will certainly find them in the sacraments, in Eucharistic devotion and in invoking the Mother of God who never left helpless those who had recourse to her maternal protection,” he concluded. (EPC)

Compiled by Gustavo Kralj

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