20 February 2024, The Tablet

Brazilian priest charged with support for coup attempt

Fr José Eduardo de Oliveira e Silva has denied the charges: “To breach the established order would be fundamentally contrary to my principles.”

Brazilian priest charged with support for coup attempt

Police leave the headquarters of Brazil’s Liberal Party on 8 February during investigations into an attempted coup by supporters of Jair Bolsonaro.
Associated Press / Alamy

A priest charged with supporting an attempted coup in Brazil last January is a specialist in bioethics who has represented the country’s bishops in legal debates.

Fr José Eduardo de Oliveira e Silva, from Osasco in greater São Paulo, faces investigation for his alleged role in attempts to undermine the results of the 2022 presidential election which saw Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva defeat the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

A disinformation campaign during the election process later extended to a mob attack on the government building housing the presidential palace, the Congress and the Supreme Court on 8 January 2023, shortly after Lula took office.

Details subsequently emerged about the planning of the attack, leading to accusations that Fr Oliveira e Silva advised its organisers and drafted documents for them. After a warrant was issued by the Federal Supreme Court, police entered his home on 8 February and seized documents and computers.

Fr Oliveira e Silva gained a master’s and a doctorate in moral theology from the Holy Cross University in Rome, run by Opus Dei, and is regarded in Brazil as an expert on bioethics.

He argued on behalf of the bishops’ conference in the Supreme Court during its deliberations on liberalising Brazil’s abortion laws. Under existing legislation, abortion is legal after rape, where the mother’s life is in danger or where the foetus is considered unlikely to survive.

The priest is active on social media, where he has criticised “gender ideology” in terms similar to Bolsonaro. After the first round of the presidential elections in October 2022, which gave Lula a significant lead, Fr Oliveira e Silva posted a photo of the Brazilian flag with a statue of Our Lady and words adapted from the psalms: “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the Lord and so we shall resist.”

Fr Oliveira e Silva has denied the charges against him. “To breach the established order would be fundamentally contrary to my principles,” he said. “In our country the Federal Constitution is second only to God.”

Also charged on the same count are Bolsonaro’s minister of justice, Anderson Torres, Colonel Mauro César Cid, described in the media as the former president’s “right hand man”, and Filipe Martins, special adviser to Bolsonaro, whom Fr Oliveira e Silva has described as “a great friend”.

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