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
“It’s confirmation of all the filth,” a Honduran source told the Register last week.
He was referring to a Nov. 8 article on ConfidencialHN.com, a trusted Honduran news site, which, by drawing on the account of a key witness and other documentation, not only corroborates many of the allegations against disgraced auxiliary bishop of Tegucigalpa, Juan Jose Pineda Fasquelle, but also gives more details on the case.
In July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Pineda, who had been accused of sexually abusing seminarians, two testimonies of which were obtained by the Register earlier this year. He was also accused of having a string of homosexual lovers, and financial misconduct in the archdiocese.
Bishop Pineda, 57, has been close to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa who is also the coordinator of the C9 Group of Cardinals charged with Church and curial reform. In the spring, the bishop was placed in charge of the archdiocese while the cardinal was on medical leave.
Prior to Bishop Pineda’s resignation, the allegations of moral and financial corruption had led to an apostolic visit in May 2017 at the Pope’s request, but the findings have never been made public, nor has any sanction against the bishop been publicized, or word of any act of reparation by the bishop.
The financial misconduct allegations center around the alleged embezzlement of $1.3 million from the Honduran government earmarked for charitable projects but which “completely disappeared,” according to sources.
Drawing on a key testimony that formed part of the Vatican inquiry, the Spanish-language ConfidencialHN reports new information, including how, in order to secure the government grant, Bishop Pineda visited various parishes, asking priests to give him details of purported projects the funds could supposedly go to. Some priests complied, others did not. None of the projects were executed. The article also alleges that a mediating body, alleged to launder government money, was also used for the purpose of acquiring the funds.
The article’s author, David Ellner Romero, explains how one of Bishop Pineda’s alleged lovers, Erick Cravioto Fajardo, a Mexican layman whom the auxiliary bishop dressed up as a priest to secure a tax exemption on a Toyota Yaris car he bought for him, drew up a “well written” document to secure the grant.
It was “so well written,” Ellner says, that Cardinal Maradiaga signed off on it, “ignoring the true purpose of his assistant” and of the “criminal organization created to loot these state funds.”
Cardinal Was ‘Cheated’
Ellner also reports how the Church never properly audited the funds, but instead they were “handled personally by Bishop Pineda.” The cardinal “had nothing to do but to sign the document,” Ellner reports, adding that the witness said: “He [the cardinal] was played, cheated and he signed.”
The ConfidencialHN article corroborates other allegations: that Bishop Pineda used the money “to pay for sexual favors, maintain a network of lovers, for whom he bought several real estate properties, cars, motorcycles, trips abroad with a paid lover, among others.” These are then listed in some detail, as are the alleged homosexual practices.
Noting the vast disparity between the auxiliary bishop’s actions and his homilies, Ellner says the “protected witness” testified to homosexual relationships between Bishop Pineda, Cravioto and others. These sexual acts were practiced in a “covert manner,” but always with windows left “open to curiosity and suspicion,” and allegedly they often took place in Villa Iris, the cardinal’s residence.
The Register reported in March that, for years, Cravioto lived in a spacious room adjacent to the cardinal’s quarters at the residence. Bishop Pineda also lived at the property.
The article recounts how Bishop Pineda “used to tour through different municipalities” of the archdiocese, always requesting “two rooms” although the party comprised three people. “He always stayed in a single room with his assistant, Oscarito,” the witness said.
But more serious was the witness’ allegation that Bishop Pineda used to bring altar boys, who were also seminarians at the time, to help him celebrate Mass at a place called Valle de Angeles.
“In the house there was only a room with a bed and a sofa, and he [Bishop Pineda] was left with two kids,” the witness alleged in the testimony he provided to the Vatican inquiry. “And the strange thing was that the next day we were going to have breakfast and the sofa was fixed [unused]. This means that he had slept with the two of them in bed.”
Ellner then returns to Cravioto and explains how after they split up, they allegedly took up with other lovers — Bishop Pineda with Oscarito, and Cravioto with someone called Denis who was awarded a full-time scholarship at the Catholic University of Honduras.
Cravioto and Denis reportedly then broke up after a fight, which Bishop Pineda had to intervene to stop, and Cravioto then met another lover called Darwin who also reportedly has a full-time scholarship at the university.
Ellner, who contends that it was the $1.3-million grant that was the catalyst for bringing to light all the alleged misconduct, reports that threats followed when Bishop Pineda became overwhelmed by complaints, especially from seminarians at Our Lady of Suyapa seminary.
He reports that Bishop Pineda allegedly scrawled the names, in red on a mirror in the “large halls of Villa Iris,” of half a dozen priests and laymen who he believed had betrayed him, an action which the witness said denoted “his state of madness.”
In a Nov. 16 editorial, ConfidencialHN highlights other alleged abuse cases in Honduras. It singles out that of Father German Flores, accused of raping several young girls, but also says “there are other names” which, for the sake of “professionalism,” they choose not to mention. None of these cases, it says, “has been referred to the civil and judicial authorities.”
The editorial alleges that Bishop Pineda moved Father Flores to another parish, then tried to silence the situation, but issued no “precautionary or penitential measures against the offender or any action that reflected reparation and healing of the victims.”
“The recidivism of the abuser was remedied with transfers,” the editorial states. “There was never a gesture of action that spoke of empathy or Christian sympathy with the victims.”
It goes on to say that the “last straw” was when the sister of Maryorie Almendares, one of Father Flores’ alleged victims, went to the Church authorities to file a complaint. Their bishop, Bishop José Canales Motino of the Diocese of Danli, then allegedly “obstructed the canonical process” and kept Father Flores hidden in a Tegucigalpa parish. To this day, according to the editorial, only Bishop Canales knows Father Flores’ current whereabouts, and continues to provide for him.
ConfidencialHN says the case shows “erroneous and deficient handling” by Bishop Canales, and the editorial quotes Pope Francis’ words on clerical sex abuse in Philadelphia in 2015: “I promise that those responsible will be held to account.”
“The children of Honduras are worth as much as those of Chile, Pennsylvania or Ireland,” the editorial continues, referring to recent cases of clerical sex abuse there, adding that such crimes are offenses “mixed with contempt for the poor.”
“The fact is that the cases of Honduras are not known in the Vatican and nobody speaks of repairing the damage, of comforting the victims, or of penalizing or canonically sanctioning the evildoers or their accessories, the bishops.
“A thorough investigation would soon give a clue about such crimes in the Church of Honduras,” the editorial concludes.
Translations of the ConfidencialHN articles from the Spanish by Sabrina Ferrisi.