A Portuguese bishop has condemned the “complete failure” of that country’s judicial system after a convicted criminal murdered and raped a nun.

Driving the news

Sister Maria Antónia Guerra, a 61-year-old nun of the Congregation of the Servants of Mary Ministers of the Sick, was murdered last week in São João da Madeira.

Her assailant was a 44-year-old drug addict with convictions for rape, kidnapping and drug trafficking.

According to Portuguese media reports, the man had been freed from prison just three months before.

In that space of time, he had already committed two attempted rapes.

The big picture

In a message posted on the diocesan website, Bishop of Porto Manuel Linda said that the “barbaric murder” of ‘Sister Tona’ compels Portuguese society to a serious reflection.

“First: although by nature we are all made in the ‘image and likeness of God’, in fact, there are true monsters in behaviour”, Linda affirmed.

“I do not know whether that is by their own fault, that is, whether they act in freedom, or whether they have no moral responsibility, in the case of the most serious pathologies”, the bishop continued.

“In any case, society has an obligation to cure them if possible, or, at the very least, to protect the most vulnerable from their devastating actions.

“In this particular case, I don’t know if this was done. I don’t know if the prisons are recovery centres or ‘refined schools for crime’. I don’t know”, Linda reflected.

Go deeper

In the second place, the bishop denounced that in the case of the “martyrdom” of the religious “the judicial system failed completely”.

“Giving credit to the newspapers” – who thoroughly investigated the facts – “two attempted rapes were necessary, along with a criminal record, to issue an order to capture the criminal”, Linda lamented.

“The execution of the warrant took so long that, for Sister Antonia… it didn’t happen soon enough.

“Someone has to be held responsible for this… at least morally some people should feel guilty for the nun’s murder”, the bishop said.

Why it matters

Thirdly, Linda pointed out that, with the “honourable exception” of the São João da Madeira city council, “no politician, no male or female deputy of these ‘radicals’, no body that claims to defend human rights, no feminist has has come forward to condemn” the crime.

“No man or woman! Why? Perhaps because, for these men and women, lives lose value if they are people who are attached to the Church”, the bishop deplored.

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Nun heroine of the needy strangled then raped in Portugal


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.