A letter signed by 48 Honduran seminarians complaining of widespread homosexual activity in the country’s major seminary is putting pressure on Pope Francis to open a formal investigation, especially in the light of recent gay scandals in Chile and the United States.
The seminarians’ letter was dated May 28 of this year and has slowly made its way into the public domain, after first having been circulated to the nation’s bishops in June. On Wednesday, the U.S.-based National Catholic Register published the original Spanish text of the letter as well as an English translation.
In the text, which is addressed to seminary formation personnel, the seminarians complain of “a time of tension in our house because of gravely immoral situations, above all of an active homosexuality inside the seminary,” which being covered up has grown to the point of becoming an “epidemic in the seminary.”
“The reality of this problem in the seminary can no longer be concealed and we need you formators to become aware and apply the solution that the Church proposes in these cases,” the students wrote, which would include a renewal of “the processes of discernment of candidates in each diocese.”
The Honduran bishops’ conference responded with a July 29 statement in which the bishops express “regret” that the information was published, while denying the kind of “atmosphere” reported in a Register article from several days earlier.
“In all certainty and truth, we affirm that an environment like the one presented by the article in the National Catholic Register does not exist, has not existed, and ought not exist in the seminary,” the bishops state in their communiqué. The article, they said, gave “the impression that practices contrary to the morals and rules of the Church are promoted and supported institutionally, under the complacent gaze of the bishops.”
The bishops further appeal to the Honduran faithful to “avoid every sort of speculation that fails to respect the dignity of bishops, seminarians, priests, formators, and all those who seek to carry out God’s plan.”
Curiously, the bishops do not address the seminarians’ letter or its accusations, but rather the article that brought them into the public eye.
One of the seminarians who signed the letter spoke with the Register under the condition of anonymity, asserting that homosexuality in the seminary is a problem that “has proliferated in the past few years” and blaming an ongoing cover-up on Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, the Bishop of Tegucigalpa and an advisor to Pope Francis.
A situation of immorality “begins to flourish with men who have any inclination to homosexuality,” the seminarian said. “It destroys community life and the fundamentals which we are trying to learn in the seminary.”
“This is a reality that is happening and which I have observed,” he said.
“When the problem was discovered, people at first said ‘No,’ and denied it,” he said. “The Cardinal, sadly, has denied it. But the problem is here.”
“If people come and investigate here, they will find worse things than were found in Chile,” he warned. “The problem is that Cardinal Maradiaga is Pope Francis’ right hand. I think he has been lying to the Pope. The bishops here do not have power. They are afraid of the Cardinal, and too timid to make a decision.”
After initial hesitation, last April Pope Francis initiated a full-scale investigation into problems of sexual harassment, abuse, and widespread homosexual practice among the clergy of Chile. The investigation resulted in the unprecedented collective act on the part of the bishops of submitting their resignations en masse to the pope.
Francis later accepted the resignations of five of the bishops, while leaving the others in their posts.
Pressure is now mounting on the pontiff to embark on a similar course for the Honduran seminary and the diocese of Tegucigalpa, but as yet he has given no indication of whether he plans to launch an inquiry.
Adding to the pressure were recent revelations of serial abuse, harassment, and homosexual behavior from a leading U.S. Cardinal, Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, DC.
Late last month Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the college of cardinals after a series of public accusations of sexual impropriety and abuse spanning decades.
“Yesterday evening the Holy Father received the letter in which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington (U.S.A.), presented his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals,” a statement posted on the Vatican website read.
After the news of accusations became public on June 20, a series of other alleged victims have come forward accusing the cardinal of homosexual abuse.
A number of the alleged victims have claimed that McCarrick would invite groups of seminarians and young priests to “weekend getaways” at his beach house, where he would reportedly “sexually harass and assault seminarians and young priests.”
According to one investigative journalist, “there is a lot more on this story yet to come out — that is, if reporters and editors are interested in making sure Cardinal McCarrick has his #MeToo moment” (emphasis in original).
Meanwhile, the bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, has called for further investigation and decisive action in the McCarrick case, insisting that enablers of the allegedly predatory prelate be held accountable as well.
In a public letter in late July, Bishop Michael F. Olson said that Church leaders who knew of the former cardinal’s “alleged crimes and sexual misconduct and did nothing” must be held “accountable for their refusal to act thereby enabling others to be hurt.”
“As each day passes, we learn that the former Cardinal not only perpetrated abuse against minors but also against subordinates including priests, seminarians, and members of the laity,” the letter states.
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