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
Despite serious allegations involving abuse of seminarians and financial misconduct leveled against him, Honduran Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle of Tegucigalpa remains in position, and put in charge of the archdiocese during the frequent times Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga is away.
Sources in the Honduran capital have told the Register that no action has been taken against Bishop Pineda, even though a papal investigation last year contained accounts of sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by Bishop Pineda against priests and seminarians, as well as allegations of extensive financial misconduct and corruption.
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 Bishop Pineda of sexual abuse, and published them last month.
“Everything is kept silent and so everything continues as it always has,” an informed Honduran source told the Register. “Unfortunately, nothing has changed, only threats have been made against those who have revealed themselves.”
Another source, working for the Church there, also told the Register April 26 that “everything is the same” and that “Pineda remains in his position with the protection of Maradiaga.”
Investigations carried out by the Register last month, and more recently, show the bishop, who lives in a country where 63% 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 L30 million ($1.3 million) 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 L30 million that Bishop Pineda had requested.
The first instalment 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.
Bishop Pineda 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” and added that 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 from the University of Tegucigalpa in 2015, as a sort of “salary” for being the chancellor of the University. He 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 Feb. 5 article in L’Espresso, uncovered documentation revealing that the $600,000 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 $1.2 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.
“Is it possible that, after all, justice cannot be done?” asked one of the Register’s sources in Honduras, adding that the “committee that was sent to Chile to investigate abuse claims there has already been here, but nothing has happened.”
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,” he added.
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 our inquiries.
All the above allegations were put to both Bishop Pineda and Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga last month but they also chose not to respond.