Hondurans ask ‘who will rid us of these Catholic scoundrels?’
The priests pictured above are Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, left, and Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga – and right now people in Honduras are asking why no action is being taken against them following an investigation that revealed that the bishop had sexually abused seminarians and nicked almost a million pounds given to the church by the government.
The National Catholic Register reports that even though the papal investigation last year contained accounts of sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by the bishop against priests and seminarians, as well as allegations of extensive financial misconduct and corruption, he remains in position in the Tegucigalpa diocese enjoying the protection of Maradiaga – and a very cushy lifestyle.
The head of the investigation, retired Argentine Bishop Alcides Jorge Pedro Casaretto, was reportedly shocked by the testimonies, taken from more than 50 witnesses, including diocesan staff members and priests. The Register obtained affidavits from two of the seminarians who accused the bishop of sexual abuse, and published them last month.
An informed Honduran source told the Register:
Everything is kept silent and so everything continues as it always has. Unfortunately, nothing has changed, only threats have been made against those who have revealed themselves.”
Investigations carried out by the Register last month, and more recently, show the bishop, who lives in a country where 63 percent of the population live below the poverty line, enjoys a lavish lifestyle which includes ownership of several expensive cars and frequent air travel.
He flew first class on at least two occasions to Madrid last November, including one trip – a week-long Jesuit-run retreat in Spain – that was meant as a sanction following allegations made to the papal investigation.
More significant is the whereabouts of $1.3 million (£940,000) which Bishop Pineda allegedly convinced the Honduran government, at that time led by President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, to donate towards Church-run charitable projects, specifically a “Foundation for Education and Social Communication” and to the “Suyapa Foundation” that funds Church media.
The funds never passed through the ordinary accounting of the diocese, the Register has learned, leading to the new government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez to deny giving a second tranche of £940,000 that Bishop Pineda had requested.
The first installment was deposited with a trust in the BAC Bank in Honduras but the money “completely disappeared” from the account, a source with knowledge of the matter said.
The Bishop tried to account for the money by issuing a report, but the source said the document:
Lacks any formality, accounting support, control procedure, contracts, bids, invoices, payment vouchers, receipts and documentary evidence that sustain and prove that said money has not disappeared by magic.
He said the bishop:
Received a visible amount of money to assemble non-existent, invisible projects … a serious audit would suffice and confirm that the money received from the government was not used for the requested purposes.
In addition to these allegations, questions also continue to be asked of Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, not only over why he continues to allow Bishop Pineda to remain as a bishop of the archdiocese and has sometimes left him in charge, but also over his own handling of archdiocesan finances.
The cardinal, who is coordinator of the C9 Council of Cardinals advising the Pope on Church reform, including finances, denied having received $600,000 (£435,000) from the University of Tegucigalpa in 2015, as a sort of “salary” for being the chancellor of the University.
Last year there were violent clashes at the university when students protested against budget cuts.
The cardinal said the allegations were “old news” and maintained the money from the university was not given to him personally but was transferred in the name of the archdiocese and went to pay for seminarians’ tuition, property maintenance, and rural or poor priests.
But the Register’s own investigations, later confirmed in a later February 5 article in L’Espresso, uncovered documentation revealing that the £435,000 the cardinal received from the university, and other income from the institution, do not appear on any of the accounting that the archdiocese presented to the Pope during the Honduran bishops’ ad limina last September.
The cardinal is also accused of losing nearly £1–million given to him in good faith by friends to be placed in a foundation for the archdiocese, set up and run by an investor called Youssry Henien. The cardinal also lost some of his own money in the investment.
Asked one of the Register’s sources in Honduras:
Is it possible that, after all, justice cannot be done?
He wondered why the Pope “continues to ignore us” and to let them be led in such a way.
Please help us to raise our voice.
The Register contacted both Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to find out if any action had been, or would be, taken, but neither responded to its inquiries.
All the above allegations were put to both the Bishop and the Cardinal last month but they also chose not to respond.