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Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga attends a conference at the Vatican on April 15, 2016. Franco Origlia / Getty Images
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Corruption of Pope Francis’ reform chief portrayed in groundbreaking new book

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Follow Matthew

April 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – According to the widow of a former ambassador to the Vatican for Honduras, Pope Francis’ reform chief Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga has maintained an abusive and mafia-like regime in Honduras for decades, promoting false investment schemes, diverting money from the local university and from the government to shadowy and immoral purposes, and ruthlessly protecting his corrupt auxiliary bishop, who was forced to resign in 2018 following accusations of sexual abuse of seminarians.

Moreover, the conduct of the cardinal is well-known to senior members of the Vatican curia and even to Pope Francis himself, who appears to be beholden to Rodríguez Maradiaga and is unable – or unwilling – to correct the wayward prelate.

Martha Alegría Reichmann, the widow of former Vatican ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza, gives readers a detailed portrayal of the dark world of Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga in a new book recently published in Honduras, “Sacred Betrayals” (“Traiciones Sagradas”), in which she offers a personal, insider’s view of the alleged misbehavior and abuses of the coordinator of Pope Francis’ “C9” Council of Cardinal Advisors, charged with reforming the Church’s governance.

Alegría’s groundbreaking book contains numerous revelations and descriptions that illustrate the depth of corruption of the man Pope Francis has chosen as the public face of his reform project, and who mysteriously continues to occupy his position despite the massive scandals that have engulfed him since 2017.

“Sacred Betrayals” claims that Rodríguez Maradiaga regarded Pope Francis as indebted to him for his election and for convincing him to accept the papacy, and indicates that even Francis cannot control the cardinal, who seems exempt from accountability for his personal misbehavior and abuse of power.

The book also sheds light on what Alegría calls the “excessive” and “unhealthy” relationship between the Cardinal and his close friend and later Auxiliary Bishop, José Juan Pineda Fasquelle, who was housed with Rodríguez Maradiaga for years in the archbishop’s residence of Villa Iris – along with his homosexual boyfriend, Erick Cravioto Fajardo, a layman who dressed as a priest. According to Alegría, Rodríguez Maradiaga ruthlessly destroyed the careers of at least six priests for raising objections to Pineda’s scandalous behavior, behavior reportedly including sexual predation of seminarians, and eventually led to his forced resignation in 2018.

“Sacred Betrayals” gives the perspective of one of Rodríguez Maradiaga’s closest friends, who became a victim of his deceptions and abuse of power, losing most of her family’s savings in a fraudulent investment scheme pushed on her and her husband by the cardinal. Alegría says that the cardinal attempted to silence her and even to induce her to lie to protect him, leading her to a rude awakening regarding his true character.

Alegría and husband close personal friends of Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga for decades

Alegría reveals that she and her husband were close personal friends of Rodriguez Maradiaga and his close friend, Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, for more than two decades, and that he Rodríguez Maradiaga stayed at their home in Rome so frequently that they thought of him as a family member who even spoke of coming to live with them after he retired. However, a series of betrayals by Rodríguez Maradiaga and Pineda would destroy their relationship and bring Alegría to a painful awareness of the crisis of corruption currently roiling the Catholic Church.

According to Alegría, Rodriguez Maradiaga used his personal influence as Archbishop of Tegucigalpa to ensure that her husband was reappointed to the ambassadorship year after year, while Valladares Lanza worked to convince high members of the Vatican curia to support making Rodríguez Maradiaga into a cardinal, a project that was ultimately successful, making him the first Honduran to be given such an honor.

Alegría also states that her husband helped Fr. Pineda to receive his appointment as Rodríguez Maradiaga´s auxiliary bishop. Pineda even went on a trip with the couple to Russia, paid for by the couple, and Alegría lent him several rare books as well as historical manuscripts of great value inherited by her husband, which had belonged to Marco Aurelio Soto, a president of Honduras during the 19th century.

Bishop Pineda destroys relationship to defend homosexual friend

However, the relationship began to fall apart after Pineda, now an auxiliary bishop, sent a friend to visit the couple in Rome, a man who was already known to them from Pineda himself to be a practicing homosexual who had been kicked out of a school for personal misbehavior. Despite receiving the man politely and inviting him to dinner, he began to speak badly of them to others, writes Alegría. When Alegría complained to Pineda about his friend’s behavior, she realized that the bishop had a deep personal loyalty to the man, and that she and her husband had, almost overnight, become Pineda’s enemy.

Pineda “couldn’t hide his displeasure at what I was telling him,” writes Alegría. “I only told him what had happened and it seemed like I was offending him and insulting his mother. . . .  What’s more, he told me that I was offending him.” Alegría got up and left. Later, one of Rodríguez Maradiaga’s sisters, who was a close friend of the family as well, told the couple that Pineda had told her that he would “put his hands into a fire for that friend, but not for Martha [Alegría].”

From that point on Pineda would not speak to the couple, and the two decided to ask him to return the books and the historic documents that they had lent him a couple of years earlier, but to no avail – Pineda has never returned them, even after Alegría filed a canonical suit against him in the Holy See for the crime of theft. Soon, the couple would also learn that Pineda and his homosexual friend were maneuvering to bring about Valladares Lanza’s removal from the ambassadorship, Alegría writes.

According to Alegría, the couple’s falling out with Pineda would lead also to their falling out with Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, who would prove himself to be an unconditional defender of Pineda in the face of any and every accusation, no matter how well founded. Despite all that her husband had done for the cardinal and despite their decades of close friendship, Rodríguez Maradiaga would turn on them completely, after inducing them to turn over their savings to a bogus investment firm which would soon disappear, taking the bulk of their family’s savings with it.

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga seeks to silence couple about stolen documents

After numerous attempts to communicate with Pineda to obtain the documents that she had lent to him, Alegría says she sent an email to Pineda giving him 15 days to return them or she would initiate a canonical suit against him for theft. Alegría says that Pineda forwarded the email to Rodríguez Maradiaga, who then began to intervene in favor of his protégé.

While at a Honduran hospital with her dying husband following the end of his ambassadorship, Alegría was approached by one of the cardinal’s clergy, Fr. Carlo Magno Núñez, who told her that Rodríguez Maradiaga wanted her to “forget about the issue of the documents,” according to Alegría, and that “he didn’t like people to fight, that I knew about the appreciation the cardinal has for his auxiliary [bishop], and he gave me to understand that he would not permit people to bother him.” He would later accuse Alegría of having “hatred in her heart” and would tell her that she had to accept Pineda as he was.

Later, after Alegría had submitted a canonical suit to Cardinal Marc Ouellet against Pineda for theft and had spoken to Ouellet about it, the cardinal began to stonewall her and apparently shelved the case.  Alegría says she has never received a verdict in the matter, and believes it is because Rodríguez Maradiaga used his powerful position as coordinator of the Council of Cardinal Advisors to cow Ouellet and shut down her suit.

“I now understand how things work, your Eminence,” wrote Alegría to Ouellet.  “Cardinal Rodríguez favors his auxiliary because he’s his good friend and you favor Rodríguez because he’s a friend of the pope, and so nothing is resolved, there is no justice. Is this the Holy Mother Church that our Lord Jesus Christ wants?” She says she never received a response.

Family lost life savings to bogus investment scheme pushed by Rodríguez Maradiaga

Alegría relates in the book that Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga induced her husband to turn over the family’s savings to a bogus investment firm that ultimately disappeared with Alegría’s inheritance following her husband’s death.  She claims that she informed Pope Francis himself about this deed during a personal audience, but that Francis refuses to act against the cardinal because of his debt to him for his election to the papacy and even his acceptance of his election.

The investment firm, called “Leman Wealth Management,” was run by a British Muslim named Youssry Henien. Alegría says that Rodríguez Maradiaga visited the couple in Rome a year before their return to Honduras, and encouraged them to place their savings in “Leman,” claiming it promised a 7% rate of return, and that he had invested all of the money of the archdiocese in the venture.

The couple was hesitant to place all of their savings in one investment, particularly one that guaranteed such a high rate of return, but the cardinal insisted that it was safe. “'But this is safe, that’s why I invested all of the money of the diocese, I HAVE ALREADY INVESTIGATED IT,' he emphasized with great certitude,” writes Alegría. Despite their misgivings, the couple decided to trust the cardinal. Alegría reports that the cardinal induced others to make investments in the venture as well. All lost their money in the fraudulent scheme.

“Leman Wealth Management” suddenly disappeared in 2012 with the widowed Alegría’s savings as well as that of others who had followed Rodríguez Maradiaga’s advice. Alegría writes that the cardinal and other archdiocesan personnel claimed to her that the archdiocese also had been deceived and had lost money to the scheme, and that they were working to receive the lost funds.

Alegría reports that although the cardinal gave her some money to help her, he was evasive about efforts to recover the money, and gave her what she regarded as a fanciful story about intrigue involving the CIA and “Leman.” She claims that the cardinal even told her to lie about his promotion of the scam, and to tell her attorneys that it was someone else who had led her to it.

Increasingly, the cardinal avoided and stonewalled Alegría, refusing to answer her inquiries, and told his clergy not to discuss the matter with her. Her lost investment was never returned.

Later, Rodríguez Maradiaga would tell the media that he didn’t know anything about “Leman Wealth Management,” and that the archdiocese had never approved any investments with the firm. His claim appears to contradict not only Alegría’s account, but also an investigative report commissioned by Pope Francis on the scandal and widely reported in the major media, which indicate that the cardinal invested the equivalent of millions of dollars in Leman.

Eventually, Alegría decided to go to the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, who was a friend of her late husband and had even celebrated a special requiem mass at the Vatican for him following his death. After Alegría informed Parolin of Rodríguez Maradiaga’s misconduct, the cardinal broke his silence and sent her a message through a subordinate, telling her “not to go around speaking badly of him,” in Alegría’s words. She responded by rebuking him for his misbehavior and copied Parolin. Their relationship was definitively broken.

Clergy complain to nuncio of Pineda’s misconduct, and cardinal strikes back

Meanwhile, numerous complaints by laymen, priests, religious, and seminarians against the cardinal and Bishop Pineda had reached the Vatican through the apostolic nuncio, who proved himself to be open and objective in listening to those who spoke against the regime of Rodríguez Maradiaga. As a result, says Alegría, both the cardinal and Pineda boycotted a traditional breakfast held by the nuncio for the members of the episcopal conference during one of its meetings.

In response to the complaints, the Holy See launched an investigation of Pineda, and the cardinal began to double down in the defense of his auxiliary, who he claimed was the victim of “envy” on the part of others. According to Alegría, Rodriguez Maradiaga withheld an annual Christmas bonus from his archdiocesan clergy in December of 2015, expressly stating in a private meeting with them in January that this was a punishment for having spoken badly about Pineda to the papal nuncio. He even made a racist remark about the nuncio, Alegría alleges. She adds that the cardinal went so far as to order his clergy, seminarians, and personnel at the University of Tegucigalpa to write letters to the Vatican supportive of Pineda.

Pope Francis promises action in matter, then stonewalls Alegría as well

In 2017, the Vatican began a formal investigation of accusations against Bishop Pineda, and Alegría was called to testify regarding his purported theft of her husband’s historical manuscripts. In November of that year, Alegría was granted an audience with Pope Francis himself, to offer her complaint to him in person regarding Rodríguez Maradiaga’s involvement in her financial victimization.

“I told [Pope Francis] that I had come from Honduras especially to speak with him,” writes Alegría. “He immediately told me that he had read my letters and was aware of everything, adding that he had already given instructions to the Secretary of State [Cardinal Pietro Parolin] to resolve my problem and that I could count on all of his goodwill.” 

Alegría then sent a transcript of the Pope’s comments to Parolin, who didn’t respond to her for three months. When a mutual friend went to Parolin to ask him what was happening with the case, Parolin told him that the matter was in the Pope’s hands and he could do nothing. It was now Francis himself who was stonewalling Alegría.

Ultimately, Alegría decided in early 2018 to give an interview revealing the whole affair to the Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi. Alegría writes that when Cardinal Parolin learned of the impending interview, he sent her a message stating that the Pope wanted her to hold off until she had met with Rodriguez Maradiaga to discuss the matter during his visit to Rome. She was informed that the cardinal had accepted the pope’s proposal for a discussion and was happy to meet with her, apparently ending his years of silence on the matter. However, to her amazement, he again stonewalled her attempts to arrange the meeting, and left Rome for Honduras, claiming he would meet with her there at some time in the future. She refused, regarding it as yet another ruse of the cardinal and did the interview with Fittipaldi, breaking the story to the international media. The Vatican gave no response to the story.

Full scandal breaks in international media, but Rodriguez Maradiaga remains unpunished

In December of 2017 some of the results of the report sent to Pope Francis by investigators were leaked to the media, which reported that Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga was accused of taking over 40,000 USD per month from the University of Tegucigalpa, of which he was chancellor, for many years, and of diverting millions of dollars in archdiocesan funds to “Leman Wealth Management,” where at least some of it had disappeared in German banks, along with the company itself. Maradiaga responded by asserting that the archdiocese never approved any investments in the company, but did not unequivocally deny that he had personally done so.

Moreover, L’Espresso’s Emiliano Fittipaldi reported that Auxiliary Bishop Pineda was accused of diverting large sums of archdiocesan and government grant money to support friends who were suspected of being his homosexual paramours, one of whom was a layman named “Erick,” who dressed as a priest and lived at the same residence with Pineda and Rodríguez Maradiaga himself, Villa Iris. Sources told Fittipaldi that the Vatican had been informed and “the Pope knows everything.”

Then, in March of 2018, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register reported that Bishop Pineda had been accused of homosexual predation against seminarians in statements submitted to the Vatican investigator. Pentin also confirmed the earlier L’Espresso article regarding Pineda’s use of money to support homosexual partners. Soon after, Pope Francis accepted Pineda’s resignation of his office, but no canonical sanctions are known to have been imposed on him.

In July, Pentin revealed the existence of a letter from dozens of seminarians of the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa complaining of a “homosexual network” in the seminary protected by the seminary rector. Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga reportedly denounced the letter as “gossip.” In August, Pentin reported that Rodríguez Maradiaga was protecting a large cadre of homosexual seminarians, having sent them out of the seminary on temporary assignments to conceal them while they were under potential scrutiny.

Since then, Rodríguez Maradiaga’s scandalous conduct and associations have been covered only in a limited way in the international media, as well as in Honduras itself, where the country’s major media, controlled by its tight-knit ruling class, has largely ignored the scandals, and even Alegría’s tell-all book. Despite it all, the cardinal remains the Coordinator of the pope’s Council of Cardinal Advisors, which has just worked out a major reform of the curia that would place the integrity of doctrine below “evangelization” in order of priority. The cardinal’s ongoing impunity in the Vatican provides striking evidence of the corruption reigning in the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy under the regime of Pope Francis.

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