Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Following our article on a letter from 48 Honduran seminarians to formators complaining of a prevalence of homosexual activity in the country’s major seminary, we are publishing various documents used for the report.
In the May 28 letter, published below in Spanish and English, the seminarians complain of “living and experiencing a time of tension in our house because of gravely immoral situations, above all of an active homosexuality inside the seminary that has been a taboo all this time, and by covering up and penalizing this situation, the problem has grown in strength, turning into, as one priest said not so long ago, an ‘epidemic in the seminary.’”
They add that the “magnitude of the problem grows day by day, like chaff among the wheat,” and speak of being denounced as “fags” by locals. The seminarians also write of their fear of being expelled or dismissed as gossipers by their formators for complaining about homosexuality.
The seminarians also implore their formation fathers not to permit homosexuals into the seminary, to set a good example, and to recognize how “profound and delicate” their mission is in forming future priests. The letter was presented to Honduran bishops in June. Bishop Guy Charbonneau, of Choluteca, Honduras, who was previously rector of the seminary, confirmed to the Register the letter was distributed and being taken seriously.
In response, the Honduran bishops’ conference issued a statement July 29 expressing “regret” that the information was published, and denying the kind of “atmosphere” reported in the Register article which they felt conveyed an institutionalized promotion of practices that are contrary to the morality and norms of the Church.
They did not deny allegations of homosexuality but instead noted “weeds in affective and sexual weakness, which affects us all and can generate attitudes and inappropriate behavior.”
Various actions, however, indicate the existence of problems in the seminary: As well as the bishops admitting in their statement they have enlisted the help of a bishop emeritus to help with priestly formation, sources in Honduras say the major seminary has now had a new rector appointed, as well as a new head of formation and a new bursar. The seminary was also closed for two months.
Here below are:
- Comments to the Register from a seminarian who signed the letter
- A copy of the seminarians’ letter in Spanish with English translation
- A copy of the suicide note from a seminarian in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán who tried but failed to take his own life in April, after he had discovered his male lover in the seminary was in another relationship (plus English translation).
The Register also received graphic and obscene homosexual images exchanged by seminarians on their computers.
Interview with a seminarian in Honduras under condition of total anonymity:
“Homosexuality in the seminary is a problem which has proliferated in the past few years.”
“I think that some men may not be sincere when they do the interview to get into seminary. In time, this situation of immorality begins to flourish with men who have any inclination to homosexuality. It destroys community life and the fundamentals which we are trying to learn in the seminary.”
“This is a reality that is happening and which I have observed.”
“My opinion is that, in the past, the criteria for entering seminary was not very strong.”
“One of the good things about Pope Francis is that he says that these things should not be hidden. The problem of homosexuality in the seminary is out there. It is not easy. A reform of the seminary takes time. The Church must act with mercy and not condemn anyone.”
“I think that if there is any doubt about homosexuality, people should not enter the seminary. Sadly, some enter. Maybe they think it will go away.”
“The bishops have been meeting and speaking about this. When the problem was discovered, people at first said ‘No”, and denied it. The problem is: that this problem (of homosexuality) has appeared and it is denied. The Cardinal, sadly, has denied it. But the problem is here.”
“Heterosexual seminarians are scandalized and really depressed. Many are thinking about leaving the seminary. I fear that many will leave.”
“Another big problem is that when someone speaks differently than what the bishops or Cardinal are saying, they are censured and expelled.”
“If people come and investigate here, they will find worse things than were found in Chile. The problem is that Cardinal Maradiaga is Pope Francis’ right hand. I think he has been lying to the Pope. The bishops here do not have power. They are afraid of the Cardinal, and too timid to make a decision.”
Copy of the letter of the 48 Honduran seminarians
English translation of the letter of 48 Honduran seminarians
“We, moved by the Spirit of the Risen Lord and with the hope and certainty that all our actions will flow from the Lord as from their source and tend towards Him as their end, see ourselves as having an urgent need to address you, Fathers, who have the delicate mission to be formators of Christ’s priests who arrive at this house following the Lord’s call.
We want and implore that everything you read in this letter be received not with the worldly spirit of rationalization and pride that comes from the security of one's own thoughts, but rather with the spirit proper to the disciple, which is humility and docility to the Holy Spirit who spoke through the prophets. How much we wish that the same Holy Spirit would inspire each one of us.
We are conscious that this gesture could be interpreted as an attack on this council of formators, but we would rather like it to be interpreted as coming from the Word of God which invites us not to be afraid to announce the Good News that frees us from the slavery of sin and gives sight to the blind. And so read this letter as a sign that the Lord Himself speaks to you through us because we truly feel from the heart that this letter is a commission from the Lord.
We are living and experiencing a time of tension in our house because of gravely immoral situations, above all of an active homosexuality inside the seminary that has been a taboo all this time. And because of covering up and penalizing this situation, the problem has grown in strength, turning into, as one priest said not so long ago, an “epidemic in the seminary.” Almost all of us know about this situation but it seems to be there are situations that pass by in formation and are left to dissolve over time, and in that way the magnitude of the problem grows day by day, like chaff among the wheat. Pope Francis said in his Lenten message this year: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24:12). We let love in the seminary grow cold because we let evil grow, not due to quarrels or differences between us but because of sin which we’re not aware of. This is a form taken by the false prophets, as the Pope says in the message: “They are like ‘snake charmers’ who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave people and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness!... How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!”
All of us have been carrying many complexes but, because we don’t work on them, we don’t get over them and then they become serious problems of identity for which we are all responsible.
We have observed certain tension in recent days that has destabilized the climate of fraternity, and now everyone is defensive or stressed, preventing a better experience of the sacraments and academic life. As a consequence, we humbly want you, Fathers, to reexamine how you have acted, as the Lord has asked you to do, or as you thought you should have done, acting under your impulses, paternalistic sentimentalism, or a false mercy that Pope Francis has pointed out very harshly.
Please, we can no longer hide any more the magnitude of this problem in the seminary and we need you formators to be aware of it and follow what the Church says (according to canon law and the ratio fundamentalis). We are aware that it is not the fault of the formators but of a formative process that must be rethought from the perspective of the discernment of candidates in each diocese that should be modified and updated according to the changes of the time. Priestly life today is not lived as in the Middle Ages, not even as in the pre-Conciliar period. This seminary is not the same as it was at the beginning, in fact it is not like it was during the time of the formators. Beloved Fathers, this letter should not cause division among you but, like brothers, you need a holistic vision, without pathetic feelings, and make prophetic decisions of deep faith to change and transform the harsh reality the Church is living in our country that not everyone wants to accept.
The main problem we have in the seminary is precisely that of homosexuality and that is why we are referring to this directly. This is not a persecution, or the homophobic whims of certain macho seminarians as you have said many times. Nor is it gossip or lack of manliness. If we do not [say] it in front of you, it is because many times you have expelled seminarians for denouncing this kind of thing, and you cannot deny this because we know such situations very well. This is a concern and a suffering for love of the Church. We do not need to be seen as enemies within the community. This is also our suffering. We don’t feel good being singled out as gossips, an adjective with which you yourselves have sometimes labeled us.
Dear formation fathers, this letter is not the fruit of a whim. We have prayed and invoked divine help on many occasions to decide whether to write this letter to you. We have written it after talking to many faithful in the parishes of the archdiocese and in the suffragan dioceses of the ecclesiastical province, including victims of derogatory comments when we get off buses: the passengers referring to us as coming from the house of “fags” or things like that. God’s people are neither blind nor foolish but have the wisdom and intuition of the Spirit of the Lord and should not be ignored.
Maybe we don’t have the facts that you want, videos, photographs etc., but remember that at other times, the word has had extraordinary strength and was a sign of fidelity, truth and life. If a man gave his word, it demanded respect. Maybe today we are not as those men in the past but there are still loyal people who are faithful to their word. That is also why the Church is still alive: by the proclamation of the truth proclaimed by so many men and women. Here there are many seminarians with impeccable testimonies who live their chastity and struggle every day to live their formative process in accordance with their vocation, conscious also of their wretchedness — seminarians who not only flee an immoral sexual life but flee from alcoholism, not as a sin but because it poses a threat that destroys the future minister, as we see today. We deeply believe the Lord has placed in front of us priests who are morally destroyed because of their formation here in the seminary.
Do not be afraid formation fathers to act according to the processes that the Church proposes, including sending away a seminarian who is very loved and a friend of yours. Always remember that compassion does not mean to cover up for a friend. True affection is shown by making the truth expressed to that person shine forth. Many times with sadness we hear many of you tell seminarians: “Don’t worry about it, I defend you.” We believe our mission is not to be defense attorneys because this house isn’t a court but a holy place, a house whose only master is Christ whom we follow and with whom we must configure ourselves. Your mission consists in showing us an example, as fathers and pastors, of how to be transformed into Christ, as St. John Eudes used to say.
Please be truly custodial fathers of unborn priests in the womb of the Church, on a pilgrimage in this country which is the seminary. Because this house is none other than the mother house of all diocesan priests and this is why most priests feel at home when they come to visit. The seminary needs authentic custodians who fight courageously the poor formation that many of the seminarians suffer from measures proposed by the Church. Because many times, instead of real children in gestation, malignant tumors are being cared for and these tumors cause metastasis in the seminary. That discernment is granted only by the Spirit of the Lord.
We want to tell you with pain and sorrow but with much sincerity that we have lost trust in some of you and what we see is an inconsistency between what you are and what you should be. Formators are not characterized by a doctorate or their “intellectualism” or simply by living at the seminary. What characterizes you is the mission you embraced, maybe without knowing how profound and delicate it is. This mission is much more delicate than being parish priests or seminary teachers.
We ask you not to commit the immaturity of wanting to investigate who wrote this letter or to take this problem personally. No. Take it in the sense of the synodality that the Church invites us to live, that members of the Church freely express with freedom what they need or what they think they need. How much we would like you to have a copy of this letter and reflect on it, claim your mission and take visible, definitive measures. If a seminarian is sexually sick, there is no need for psychological studies to determine he or she is unfit for pastoral ministry, because he will cause pain to the Church sooner or later.
Not everyone who wants to can be a priest! The ministry is a gift that must be lived and welcomed from the conviction of the Gospel and with the zeal of love, and the radical love, that it demands. The ministry doesn’t come from relying on the security of the bishop because many of them are deceived by the folly of people’s behavior.
This letter gathers the sentiments not of one seminarian or of one priest but of a large group of seminarians who live here, as well as of priests and spiritual directors who have recommended that we address you.
We humbly ask your forgiveness if our words have hurt you or made you uncomfortable, but we are convinced that it was necessary to express them with freedom, respect and charity. We express our filial affection and pray for you who are the head of this house and who have a very difficult mission. We entrust you to the hands of Our Lady of Suyapa, Patroness of this seminary and of St. Joseph, patron of all the seminaries of the world and of the universal Church.
Forgive us for not putting our names down, but we don't consider it necessary.”
Copy and translation of suicide note from seminarian
"I am sorry Lord I am sorry. Forgive first of all Samuel who has betrayed me. Forgive the formators who have done so much evil and think that about me. To my family, I will be taken care of them from above. I love them. And also to the ones that were my true friends, thank you. For all the good moments. I am going to the Father’s house. I am nervous but I know that this is the best. My only sin was to desire this. But I will serve you wherever you want me to go. And also I love you too mommy Mary … to my family.
I never believed that my friend, my brother, the one that I trusted everything and which I gave too many things … with my love betrayed me that way. Since I was 7 years old I have been desiring this and you took a dream away from me and also my life. I forgive you but everything is going to be on your conscience."
Editor's Note: Sabrina Ferrisi contributed to the news gathering, interviews and translations for the Register's coverage of Honduras.