The Ecuadorian bishops’ conference dismissed reports concerning the resignation of the bishop and coadjutor of the Diocese of Riobamba as “falsehoods” and “ideological prejudices.”
The Vatican announced April 28 that Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Julio Parrilla Díaz of Riobamba and his coadjutor, Msgr. Gerardo Miguel Nieves Loja, several months after Julia Serrano, a Spanish lay missionary in the diocese, accused both prelates of financial malfeasance and “moral failings.”
The statement signed by Archbishop Luis Cabrera of Guayaquil, president of the Ecuadorian bishops’ conference, Archbishop Alfredo Espinoza of Quito, vice president, and Quito Auxiliary Bishop David de la Torre, secretary-general, said Parrilla’s resignation was submitted when he turned 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope.
The resignation of Nieves, the bishops added, was “due to personal reasons that no one has the right to question, since it touches upon the most sacred part of the person, which is his freedom and responsibility.”
The resignation of Parrilla in conformity with church law “leaves without foundation the false rumors that seek only to discredit a pastoral action performed with tireless dedication to the poorest through the local and national Caritas offices and with an intelligence that disarms the ideological positions of those who have made themselves into judges of virtue and masters of truth,” the bishops said.
Pope Francis had appointed Nieves to succeed Bishop Parrilla in October. In January, Serrano penned an editorial on the Spanish news website “Religión Digital” accusing the current bishop of leading as “the governor of the diocese, not as a shepherd.”
Serrano claimed that parishes in the diocese would often charge money for Masses or funerals.
“Riobamba has converted into a pagan diocese inundated by blessings and devoted to the purchase and sale of pastoral services,” she wrote. Parrilla “has sold its soul to the proselytism of popular religiosity instead of evangelizing it.”
The Spanish missionary also denounced a homosexual culture among some of the priests of the diocese.
She also claimed that there were a “number of priests in the diocese who have children, some recognized and others not. The church hierarchy has imposed celibacy like many other precepts, but the majority disregards them.”
Serrano accused Nieves, who served as vicar general of the diocese prior to his appointment, as being “an accomplice to all these blunders in our diocese,” but she also said that he had been sent to France for graduate studies to evade prosecution for causing a traffic accident in which “his sister was beheaded” and returned to Ecuador only “once the statute of limitations had expired.”
Dismissing the accusations, the bishops’ conference statement said, “If we are not capable of discerning between objective facts and ideological prejudices, between the truth and personal interpretations, we are very far from the Gospel that should guide us all.”