As the trial of an elderly priest and three ‘false’ nuns approaches, the nation’s media has revealed ‘new horrors’ on the charge-sheet. One of the most shocking is an incident where a novice running a fever appears to have been ‘served’ with a lunch made up of dog’s excrement.
The extraordinary situation at Santa Luzia convent was initially flagged back in 2015 – but by then the alleged abuse had been ongoing for more than three decades.
This week, the four ‘main players’ have been formally charged with ‘nine crimes of enslavement’.
Say reports, the quartet “always worked in the same way”, targeting young ‘emotionally weak’ women from very simple backgrounds.
At least nine of these women appear to have been lured into a life at the convent in which they were subjected to physical aggressions ‘on a daily basis’ and made to perform ‘heavy tasks’ with ‘little food’, the denial of medical care and medication and ‘restricted liberty’.
“The principal aggressor was Maria Arminda Costa, 69”, writes Observador. “But all the acts were practised with the knowledge and agreement of Maria Isabel Silva, Joaquina Carvalho and the priest” Joaquim Malheiro, now aged 87.
Public prosecutors allege that the younger women were used “as a mere workforce”. Family visits were conditioned, letters ‘read’, all in the interests of keeping the novices in line.
Only Father Malheiro appears to have been a ‘real priest’. The nuns were all ‘bogus’. According to reports it was Father Malheiro who ‘determined the form of punishments’ which involved making novices ‘remain naked in the garden’ for periods of time.
How this trial will play out is unexplained. Clearly the defendants are all approaching the twilight of their lives.
As for the alleged victims, two appear to have managed to escape – hence the start of information that led to the investigation.
Regarding the ‘lunch of dog’s excrement’ this was allegedly served to the women eventually found dead at the bottom of the well.