Churchgoers in Guarda are up in arms over the decision to allow a priest convicted of sexually-abusing young boys back into church to play the organ.
Luís Mendes was given a 10-year prison sentence in 2013 after being found guilty of sexually abusing six youngsters between the ages of 11-15, and committing a total of 19 sex crimes against them.
But as he has submitted an appeal, he has not gone to jail and instead has been continuing with his work in the diocese, albeit discreetly.
Last week, for instance, he played the organ at Guarda cathedral.
A spokesman for the diocese is reported to have explained that Mendes is technically a “man free to do what he wants” although he has “received recommendations not to expose himself”.
Playing the organ could be deemed a way of keeping a low profile as organs are habitually “out of sight” of church pews. But the very fact that parishioners learnt that Mendes was still enjoying freedom within the church community inflamed them.
“I really didn’t like seeing him taking such an important role in the Mass,” one told national tabloid Correio da Manhã. “Many people felt extremely uncomfortable.”
Mendes was convicted for child-sex offences which allegedly took place at a seminary in Fundão.
According to back-stories on the case, the former bishop of Guarda told Jornal de Notícias years before Mendes’ case got to Castelo Branco court that he knew the priest “got into bed with children” but that there was no physical contact and the 37-year-old was thus guilty only of “imprudence”.
Mendes spent a number of months under “house-arrest” on an electronic bracelet before he was convicted in December 2013, but these conditions were not reinstated for the purposes of his appeal as he had apparently “exhausted” the maximum time legally allowed for them.