Dorothy Stang

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Sister Dorothy Mae Stang, S.N.D.
Dorothy Stang.jpg
Born Dorothy Mae Stang
(1931-07-07)7 July 1931
Dayton, Ohio, United States
Died 12 February 2005(2005-02-12) (aged 73)
Anapu, Pará, Brazil
Cause of death Murder
Nationality Naturalized Brazilian
Known for Amazonian activism
Venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as a Martyr of Faith and Charity

Sister Dorothy Mae Stang, S.N.D., (7 July 1931 – 12 February 2005) was an American-born, Brazilian member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur community in 1948 and professed final vows in 1956. From 1951 to 1966 she taught elementary classes at St. Victor School in Calumet City, IL, St. Alexander School in Villa Park, IL and Most Holy Trinity School in Phoenix, Az. She began her ministry in Brazil in 1966, in Coroata in the state of Maranhao. She was murdered in Anapu, a city in the state of Pará, in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. Stang had been outspoken in her efforts on behalf of the poor and the environment, and had previously received death threats from loggers and land owners. Her cause for canonization as a martyr and model of sanctity is underway within the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Life work[edit]

Stang, born in Dayton, Ohio, US, but a naturalized Brazilian citizen, worked as an advocate for the rural poor beginning in the early 1970s, helping peasants make a living by farming small plots and extracting forest products without deforestation. She also sought to protect peasants from criminal gangs working on behalf of ranchers who were after their plots. Dot, as she was called by her family, friends and most locals in Brazil, is often pictured wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, "A Morte da floresta é o fim da nossa vida" which is Portuguese for "The Death of the Forest is the End of Our Lives".


On the morning of 12 February 2005, Stang woke up early to walk to a community meeting to speak about the rights for the Amazon. Ciero, a farmer Stang invited to the meeting, was going to be late. Ciero was a couple of minutes behind Stang, but he was able to see her and hid from the two armed men who followed her. She progressed on and was blocked by the two men, Clodoaldo Carlos Batista and Raifran das Neves Sales, who worked in a livestock compagnie. They asked if she had any weapons, and she claimed that the only weapon would be her Bible. She then read a passage from the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." She continued a couple of steps but was suddenly stopped when Ciero called her, "Sister," as she was held at gun point by Raifran. When Clodoaldo approved of discharging at Stang, Raifran fired a round at Stang's abdomen. She fell face down on the ground. Raifran fired another round into Stang's back, then fired all four remaining rounds into her head.[1]

Investigation and trials[edit]

The US Attorney's Office, Transnational Crime Unit, in Washington, DC, pursued an indictment of the four people (three in custody, one at large) under Title 18, USC 2332, a statute on international homicide. The key elements of this statute require 1) the victim be a US citizen, 2) that the murder take place outside the US, and 3) that the murder was carried out to influence, pressure, or coerce a government or civilian group. Stang's murder met all the key elements. In June 2005, two men were charged with conspiracy to murder an American outside the United States in connection with her death. These men, Rayfran das Neves Sales and Clodoaldo Carlos Batista, were convicted on 10 December 2005.[2]

On 15 May 2007, a court in the city of Belém sentenced Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, aged 36, to the maximum term of 30 years in prison for paying gunmen to shoot Sister Dorothy. Stang's brother David, who was at the trial, said "justice was done." In a second trial, Moura was acquitted of all charges, because the gunman, Rayfran das Neves Sales, declared in court to have killed Dorothy Stang for personal motivation. The prosecution appealed, however, and Moura was found guilty, and re-sentenced to 30 years in prison, on 12 April 2010.

Rayfran das Neves Sales was retried on 22 October 2007. He was again found guilty, and a judge in Belém sentenced him to 27 years in prison–the same punishment as in the first trial in 2005. Prosecutors said Moura had ordered Stang's death because she had sent letters to the local authorities accusing Moura of setting illegal fires to clear land, which led to his receiving a substantial fine. At a third trial, on 6 May 2008, Rayfran das Neves Sales was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Regivaldo Pereira Galvão, a rancher suspected of ordering the killing, was arrested in December 2008 and was to be charged with the murder. He had been arrested previously for the murder but released.[3]

On 7 April 2009, the Court of Justice, in Pará, decided to void the third trial. The same court decided to put Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura back in jail but Moura's lawyer appealed that decision. A new trial was to be scheduled.[4][5] On 22 April 2009, Superior Court of Justice of Brazil set Vitalmiro Moura free until a final decision about his request of Habeas corpus.[6]

Roniery Lopes, a witness in the trial of Regivaldo Galvão for fraud, was shot in November 2009, just before he was to testify.[7]

On 4 February 2010, Superior Court of Justice revoked Vitalmiro Moura's habeas corpus. Moura was arrested on 7 February, after surrendering voluntarily to police.[8] On 12 April 2010, he was convicted again by a jury and sentenced to 30 years in prison.[9][10][11]

On 1 May 2010, Regivaldo Galvão was also convicted of having ordered the murder. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.[12]

On 21 August 2012, the Brazilian Supreme Court conceded an habeas Corpus to Regivaldo Galvão. The defense attorney claims that jury decided to condemn Reginaldo before all the legal recourses available to the defendant were exhausted. Regivaldo Galvão was freed the following day.[13]

On 15 May 2013, Brazil’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Vitalmiro Moura.[14] On 19 September 2013, Moura was convicted of the murder for a fourth time and sentenced to 30 years in prison by a court in Pará State.[15]

In July 2013, das Neves Sales gained early release from prison.[16] On September 20, 2014, Neves Sales was arrested again facing accusations of having killed a young man and woman with whom he had a drug deal. They supplied 50 kilograms of cocaine from Bolivia, but instead of paying them for the consignment, Sales fatally shot them.[17]


Ambassador John Danilovich met with David Stang (brother of murdered Sister), Daniel Junge (traveling with Stang to film a documentary), and Sister Mary Ellis McCabe (a member of Sister Dorothy's religious congregation, stationed in Ceará, Brazil) for dinner at the Ambassador's residence on 2 March. Stang and Junge were in Brasília to meet with Minister of Justice Marcio Thomaz Bastos after visiting the site of Stang's sister's murder in Para state. Stang thanked the Ambassador for the Embassy's support and said that he was pleased with the Brazilian federal government's reaction. He was very critical, however, of Para state authorities for failing to protect his sister and for failing to offer their condolences during his visit.

In 2008, the American filmmaker Daniel Junge released a documentary titled They Killed Sister Dorothy. The film is narrated by Martin Sheen in the version in English and by Wagner Moura in the version in Portuguese. The film received the Audience Award and the Competition Award at the 2008 South by Southwest Festival, where it had its worldwide première. [18]


In 2009, Evan Mack composed an opera based on the life of Sr. Dorothy Stang. Angel of the Amazon[19] depicts her life’s work, her devotion to her mission with Brazilian peasant farmers, and the events that sent her on a path of martyrdom. Encompass New Opera Theatre developed the opera in 2010.

Other notable mentions[edit]

A brief overview of the circumstances and murder of Sister Dorothy Stang is discussed in the movie Cowspiracy (2014).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murphy, Roseanne S.N.D. de N. Martyr of the Amazon: The Life of Sister Dorothy Stang. Maryknoll, New York 10545: Orbis Books, 2007.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Domit, Myrna (2008-12-29). "Rancher to Be Charged in 2005 Killing of Nun in Amazon". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  4. ^ "The cancellation of third trial" (in Portuguese). O Globo (Brazil). 2009-04-07. 
  5. ^ "The prison of Vitalmiro Moura after the cancellation of third trial" (in Portuguese). O Globo (Brazil). 2009-04-09. 
  6. ^ "The release of Vitalmiro Moura until a decision about Habeas corpus" (in Portuguese). O Globo (Brazil). 2009-04-22. 
  7. ^ "Brazil nun case witness is shot and wounded". BBC News. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  8. ^ "The prison of Vitalmiro Moura after the revoking of his Habeas Corpus" (in Portuguese). Folha do Progresso (Brazil). 8 February 2010. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "Brazil man jailed for murdering Sister Dorothy Stang". BBC News. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  10. ^ "Brazilian Rancher Guilty in US Nun's Murder". Associated Press. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-13. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Brazil man jailed for murdering Sister Dorothy Stang". UK Wired News. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-13. [permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "The conviction of Regivaldo Galvão" (in Portuguese). O Globo (Brazil). 2010-05-01. 
  13. ^ "Condemned Defendant for the Death of Dorothy Stang has been freed." (in Portuguese). O Globo (Brazil). 2012-08-22. 
  14. ^ "Brazil: Supreme Court overturns the conviction of landowner Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura jailed for ordering the 2005 murder of Sr. Dorothy Stang | Front Line". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-19. 
  15. ^ Reuters. (2013, September 21). "Brazil: Rancher Convicted Again in Nun's Death," The New York Times, p.A6.
  16. ^ "Brazilian killer of American-born nun gains early release from prison : News Headlines". Catholic Culture. 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-09-19. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Documentary about Dorothy Stang case" (in Portuguese). O Dia (Brazil). 30 September 2008. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. 
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-09-19. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Le Breton, Binka. The Greatest Gift: The Courageous Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang.. New York: Doubleday. 2008
  • Le Breton, Binka. A Maior Dádiva: A Vida e Morte Corajosas da Irmã Dorothy Stang.. São Paulo: Editora Globo. 2008
  • Le Breton, Binka. Audiobook. The Greatest Gift: The Courageous Life and Martydom of Sister Dorothy Stang.. read by Binka Le Breton. Cincinnati: St Anthony's Messenger Press. 2008
  • Murphy, Roseanne. Martyr of the Amazon: The Life of Sister Dorothy Stang.. New York: Orbis Books. 2007
  • Murdock,Michele. "A Journey of Courage:The Amazing Story of Sister Dorothy Stang." Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Cincinnati Ohio,2010.

External links[edit]