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Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga

ROME, July 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The Honduran bishops are blaming media coverage for their own mishandling and cover-up of a homosexual crisis in their major seminary in the Tegucigalpa archdiocese.

In a statement issued on Sunday, July 29, the Honduran bishops’ conference said: “We regret that the ‘information’ of Mr. Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register (NCR), owned by the EWTN channel, and that is the source of the news that has appeared in various digital media in the country and abroad, causes pain and scandal in those who supposedly it wants to defend.”

The bishops added: “With all certainty and truth, we affirm that there does not exist, has not existed, nor should exist in the seminary an atmosphere such as the one presented in the news report at NCR [the Register], which gives the impression that institutionally there is the promotion and sustaining of practices opposed to the norms and morals of the Church under the complacent watch of the bishops.”

The statement came in response to a July 25 Register report that 48 seminarians (out of a total enrollment of 180) had written a letter to the bishops protesting a widespread and entrenched pattern of homosexual practice in Tegucigalpa’s major seminary.

The letter was circulated to the county’s bishops in June. It is reported to contain “irrefutable evidence” that a homosexual network pervades the institution and is being protected by its rector.

The seminary crisis is significant as the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa is led by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, an influential confidant of Pope Francis and a member of the C9 Group of cardinals advising Pope Francis on reform of the Church and the Roman Curia.

In the letter, the seminarians stated they could not “hide any more the magnitude of this problem in the seminary.”

“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,” the seminarians wrote. They added that 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 also called on formators to dismiss from the seminary any seminarian who engages in homosexual activity because such a person clearly is “not suitable for pastoral ministry” and will “cause pain to the Church sooner or later.”

“Not everyone who wants to can be a priest!” the letter stated. “The ministry is a gift that should be lived and received from the conviction of the Gospel and radical and jealous love.”

“The seminarians wrote that they were encouraged by their spiritual advisers to write the letter and give it to the bishops as a plea that the homosexual activity among seminarians be stopped and that the bishops adopt stronger admittance practices for choosing seminarians,” Edward Pentin reported.

In a July 30 article on Vatican News Spanish, brazenly headlined “Honduras: The Seminary has an Environment that Continues the Morals and Norms of the Church,” the Vatican tried to further smear media coverage of the story.

The subhead, presented as a quotation, bore no relation to the article below it, but read: “It is evident that there is malice and evil, especially in the preparation of ‘anonymous’ reports; in the airing of these reports, mixing information, suspicions and interpretations; in the ignoring of the follow-up to the challenges.”

In an article on Monday, the Register said it “stands by its reporting,” adding that their article “quoted directly from one of the seminarians who had signed the letter, and referenced both a copy of a suicide note from a seminarian involved in a homosexual relationship with another seminarian, and graphic homosexual texts verified to have been exchanged between seminarians.”

In comments to LifeSiteNews, Pentin said that in the Honduran bishops’ statement they “notably don’t deny any specific allegation contained in the article, much of which was based on documented evidence which we are going to publish.”

“Instead, regrettably, they tried to blame our reporting by suggesting we were the ones creating an ‘impression’ of a homosexual culture in the seminaries when we were simply reporting on allegations based on documented fact and reliable sources,” the respected British journalist said.

Pointing out that the Register gave each bishop a chance to respond but only one of them did so, he said they are “understandably upset about the revelations.” 

The one bishop who did respond to the Register’s enquiries was Bishop Guy Charbonneau of Choluteca, who confirmed on June 29 that the permanent assembly of bishops received the seminarians’ letter, thereby also confirming the letter’s existence. He said the bishops’ conference is investigating the allegations to determine if they are true.

“We are currently in this process,” said Bishop Charbonneau. “Each bishop has to deal with it by interviewing the seminarians from their own diocese.”

“This is a new problem,” he added. “Perhaps it happened in other years, but not like the dimension that is being talked about now.”

In their statement on Sunday, the Honduran bishops also said they are praying that priests increase their “selfless dedication to the service of the Gospel” so that “free, mature and fearless” vocations arise. 

The bishops asked “present and future seminarians” to “grow in confidence, authenticity and transparency with their bishops and formators,” and view “honestly in their communities and parishes the lights and shadows of the seminary.”

They also called on parishioners to “increase their prayers for the major seminary” and to avoid any kind of speculation that “ignores the respect for the dignity of bishops, seminarians, formators and all who seek to carry out God’s plan.”

The statement added that bishops and seminarians are already “engaged in a constructive dialogue,” and have requested the help of a bishop emeritus on the continent “who has experience in the field of priestly formation.” The request, they said, has been accepted.

Public revelations about the homosexual crisis in the major seminary of Tegucigalpa follow the National Catholic Register’s extensive reporting on allegations of sexual abuse and financial misconduct by Honduran Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle of the same archdiocese. Bishop Pineda is a protégé of Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga and has enjoyed the cardinal’s protection.

On July 20, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Pineda, 57, as auxiliary bishop. The Vatican offered no reason for the resignation.