Honduran bishops deny 'culture of homosexuality' at national seminary

Pope Francis meets with the Honduran bishops' conference at the Vatican, Sept. 4, 2017. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.
Pope Francis meets with the Honduran bishops' conference at the Vatican, Sept. 4, 2017. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.

.- The Honduran bishops' conference on Monday denied there exists a homosexual culture at the national seminary, in response to a recent report from the National Catholic Register about Honduran seminarians lamenting that culture.

In a statement released July 30, the Honduran bishops lamented that “the 'information' from Mr. Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register, a media outlet belonging to the EWTN network, and which is the origin of the information that appears in various digital media of the country and/or abroad, causes pain and scandal in those it supposedly wants to defend.”

“With complete certainty and truth, we affirm there does not exist, nor has there existed, nor ought there exist in the seminary an atmosphere as presented by the aforementioned National Catholic Register report, in which the impression is given that [the seminary] institutionally promotes and sustains practices contrary to morality and the norms of the Church, viewed with complacency by the bishops,” the bishops' conference stated.

In “Honduran Seminarians Allege Widespread Homosexual Misconduct”, published July 25 in the National Catholic Register, Edward Pentin reported on an anonymous letter written by 48 of the 180 students at the Our Lady of Suyapa Major Seminary.

In the letter, the seminarians say that “we are living and going through a time of tension in our house, due to gravely immoral situations, especially an active homosexuality within the seminary which has been a taboo during all this time.”

They also stated that by “covering it up,” the problem has gained strength, becoming, as a priest said not long ago, an “epidemic in the seminary.”

The seminarians' letter was supposedly submitted to scrutiny at the plenary assembly of the Honduran bishops' conference in June this year.

According to Pentin's sources, when the document was read before the bishops, Cardinal Óscar Andres Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa (who coordinates the group of cardinals assisting Pope Francis in his reform of the Roman Curia), along with Bishop Angel Garachana Perez of San Pedro Sula, president of the bishops' conference, criticized the authors of the letter.

The existence of the letter was confirmed to the National Catholic Register by Bishop Guy Charbonneau of Choluteca, who said the bishops' conference is conducting an investigation to determine if the accusations are true.

“We are currently in this process,” the prelate said. “Each bishop has to deal with this, interviewing the seminarians of his own diocese.”

The National Catholic Register article came out a few days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the Auxiliary Bishop of Tegucigalpa, Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, who at 57 was 18 years away from the obligatory age for a prelate to present his resignation.

Bishop Pineda has also been immersed in accusations of serious sexual misconduct and financial mismanagement.

In their July 30 statement, the Honduran bishops lamented that these news reports may have “disturbed” the People of God.

The bishops’ conference explained that Our Lady of Suyapa Major Seminary is “an inter-diocesan institution which, although it is located in in the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, is at the service of the formation of candidates to the priesthood from all the dioceses of Honduras, with the exception of the Diocese of Comayagua.”

“The bishops, who are ultimately responsible for the formation of our seminarians, entrusted in 1997 the immediate task (of their formation) to the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (the Eudists) of the Colombian Province, and in recent years they have been joined by Honduran diocesan priests.”

“In the academic formation of the seminarians,” they said, “a significant number of professors including the cardinal (Rodríguez Maradiaga), priests, nuns and lay people are involved. And, ultimately, each one of the bishops of the Honduran Bishops' Conference is responsible for the formation, financial support and monitoring the human, spiritual and pastoral growth of the seminarians of our own dioceses.”

The bishops thanked God because “the enthusiasm, commitment, and dedication of so many people at the major seminary, in each one of the dioceses and parishes are bearing abundant fruit.”

However, they noted that it does not surprise them that “in the midst of that fruit weeds would appear.”

For the Honduran bishops “it is evident that there are weeds and evil, especially, in making 'anonymous' reports;' in airing them, mixing in facts, suspicions and interpretations; while ignoring the monitoring given to the challenges that arise.”

“There are weeds in sexual and affective weakness, which affects all of us and can creates inappropriate attitudes and behaviors. There are weeds in sterile pessimism, in spiritual worldliness, in the search of forms of power, human glories or financial well being,” they added.

The bishops acknowledged “that these temptations affect us and that we fall into them. But we equally recognize that the power of God is manifested in our weakness.”

The bishops' conference said that the bishops, formators, and seminarians are “engaged in a constructive and demanding dialogue to discern how to face the challenges that are posed to us by reality.”

“At this time, to support that commitment, we have requested the collaboration of a bishop emeritus of our continent, with experience in the field of priestly formation and who has also accepted our request.”

The Honduran bishops asked priests to “increase your commitment, and generous dedication to the service of the Gospel such that, following your example, free and mature vocations may come forth, unafraid to serve.”

“We ask current and future seminarians to engage enthusiastically in your discernment process, grow in confidence, authenticity and transparency with your bishops and formators, and let your communities and parishes honestly see the strengths and weaknesses of the seminary.”

Finally, they said, “we ask everyone to increase your prayers for our Major Seminary and avoid any kind of speculation which fails to respect the dignity of bishops, seminarians, the formators, and that of all of us who with limitations and failings seek to carry out the Lord's work.”

Both Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register are part of EWTN News, Inc.

This article was originally published by our Spanish language sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Tags: Honduras