December 22, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga responded today to accusations of mishandling millions of dollars in funds belonging to a Catholic university and to his archdiocese, which were published yesterday in the Italian newspaper L’Espresso.
Rodriguez Maradiaga implied in an interview with Catholic News Agency that the accusations against him are the product of a disgruntled former university employee who had been fired from his job.
“A little more than one year ago, we had to fire a manager of the university because he was stealing,” the cardinal told CNA, and “shortly after, an anonymous defamatory paper was spread, filled with a series of calumnies of the kind published this week.”
The cardinal appears to be referring to the contents of a report that L’Espresso says was delivered to Pope Francis in May of this year, containing many accusations of financial mismanagement, including personal transfers of $40,000 monthly from the Catholic University of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, and over a million dollars transferred to a shady financial company that quickly folded after losing some of the funds in Germany.
The accusations also include transfers of archdiocesan funds to an intimate male friend of the Auxiliary Bishop of Tegucigalpa, Juan José Pineda, for the purpose of purchasing a car and an apartment in the center of town, as well as other questionable transfers to vague programs under Pineda’s control.
The report made to Francis was the result of an investigation made by the Argentinean bishop Jorge Pedro Casaretto on behalf of the Vatican, according to L’Espresso. However, the newspaper claims that the report is not the anonymous attack to which the cardinal refers, but is the result of interviews with about fifty different people close to the cardinal, including diocesan administrators, clergymen, and even the cardinal’s secretary and chauffeur.
The cardinal admitted to CNA that the monthly payments described in the L’Espresso article did occur, but claimed that they were not sent to him privately, but rather to the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, which owns the university. He told CNA that the funds were transferred to “pay the seminarians’ tuition, to fund the building and renovations of churches and to provide economic assistance to priests in rural parishes or to priests who have no livelihood.”
The cardinal told CNA that his claim that the funds were transferred “in the name of the archdiocese” can be corroborated by priests, and added that “with these funds, we also help a lot of poor people that seek help every day.”
Rodriguez Maradiaga also admitted that Bishop Pineda had come under suspicion for personal misbehavior, and implied that the apostolic visit to his archdiocese by Bishop Casaretto was directed to accusations about Pineda, who he said had requested an apostolic visit to clear his name.
The cardinal implies that the accusations, some of which were already published over a year ago in the Honduran media, have surfaced recently in the Italian media as a ruse to pressure the pope to remove him, given that he will reach the age of 75 in only a few days, and will have to submit his resignation in accordance with canon law, a resignation the pope may accept or decline.
“Why have accusations that were published and dismissed one year ago been published now, only 8 days before I present my resignation to Pope Francis, since I will have reached the age limit of 75?” he asked, adding that he was determined to continue the reform process launched by Pope Francis.
Rodriguez Maradiaga has made name for himself as a defender of Pope Francis’ novelties and reform measures, including Francis’ push to give Holy Communion to divorced and invalidly remarried couples. He is also famous for his scathing personal attacks on the four “Dubia Cardinals” who have asked Pope Francis to clarify his teaching on the topic.
The cardinal is currently the leader of the pope’s “C9” Council of Cardinal Advisers, which are in the process of reforming the Vatican bureaucracy.