Questions Arise About Vatican Official Mentioned in Archbishop Viganò Report

Italian report about Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra could be seen to provide support for at least one claim made in testimony.

Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra meets with Pope Francis in Vatican City Aug. 17.
Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra meets with Pope Francis in Vatican City Aug. 17. (photo: Vatican Media/National Catholic Register)

VATICAN CITY — An Italian magazine has raised new questions about a Vatican official mentioned in the August “testimony” of Archbishop Carlo Viganò. The report from L’Espresso, an Italian newsweekly, could be seen to provide support for at least one claim made in Archbishop Viganò’s controversial testimony.

L’Espresso reported Oct. 12 that Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, 58, who began serving Oct. 15 as sostituto of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, might have been dismissed from a seminary where he studied because he was thought by seminary administrators to have a homosexual orientation.

As sostituto, the archbishop is tasked with overseeing much of the day-to-day business of the Vatican’s Curial offices.

The magazine published a February 1985 letter from Archbishop Domingo Perez, then archbishop of Maracaibo, the archdiocese in which Father Parra was later ordained. The letter was written to the rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, at which seminarian Parra did the first part of his seminary studies before being dismissed.

In the letter, Archbishop Perez said that he had received negative reports about Parra from St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary and acknowledged that Parra had been dismissed from studies there. Archbishop Perez said that he had subsequently sent the student to another seminary in Caracas and had received positive reports about him there.

However, Archbishop Perez wrote that he had received an anonymous letter alleging that Parra had been expelled from his first seminary because he had a homosexual orientation and was, he wrote, “a sexually sick person.”

Archbishop Perez asked the seminary rector to make inquiries into those allegations. L’Espresso did not report any additional communications between the archbishop and the seminary rector. Parra was ordained six months after Archbishop Perez sent his letter.

Archbishop Parra is among the bishops mentioned in Archbishop Viganò’s Aug. 25 letter regarding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. In that document, Archbishop Viganò claimed that while he oversaw personnel for Vatican diplomatic offices, he had received “worrisome information” about Archbishop Parra, who worked at that time in the Vatican diplomatic corps.

Archbishop Viganò did not specify what “worrisome information” he had received, but the questions raised about Archbishop Parra’s seminary formation seem to fit with the tenor of Archbishop Viganò’s testimony.

Archbishop Viganò’s testimony made claims about the sexuality of other Vatican officials, while arguing that “the virtue of chastity must be recovered in the clergy and in seminaries. Corruption in the misuse of the Church’s resources and of the offerings of the faithful must be fought against. The seriousness of homosexual behavior must be denounced. The homosexual networks present in the Church must be eradicated.”

The credibility of Archbishop Viganò’s claims has come under fire lately, as some Vatican officials have denounced his testimony as an attack on Pope Francis.

Nevertheless, an Oct. 7 letter from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, corroborated Archbishop Viganò’s central claim, that McCarrick had been directed by the Vatican to withdraw from public life because of reports about his alleged sexually abusive behavior toward priests and seminarians.

On the other hand, Cardinal Ouellet’s letter refuted the notion that the measures against McCarrick were formal “canonical sanctions,” a claim initially made by Archbishop Viganò that seems to mostly have been disproven.

A September report from Catholic News Service corroborated Archbishop Viganò’s claim that the Vatican had received at least some reports about McCarrick as early as 2000.

CNA independently confirmed another Archbishop Viganò claim, that McCarrick had been ordered by a Vatican official to move out of the Washington, D.C. seminary where he had been living after his retirement.

On Oct. 18, L’Espresso added to its report, noting that Archbishop Parra had a longtime close relationship with Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, the coordinator of the Pope’s “C9” council of cardinals. Archbishop Viganò had also noted their friendship.

The magazine also claimed that the Venezuelan archbishop had developed a friendship with Bishop Juan Jose Pineda, former auxiliary bishop of Maradiaga’s Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, who in recent months had been accused of sexual misconduct involving seminarians and other adult men.

L’Espresso reported Oct. 18 that the Vatican declined to respond to its questions about Archbishop Parra.