– An Italian media outlet has reported allegations of financial mismanagement on the part of Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, although no formal allegations or charges have been raised against the cardinal to date.
The Associated Press on Friday reported that Pope Francis has ordered a probe into the alleged irregularities, saying the Vatican Press Office has confirmed the pope’s decision.
On Thursday, L’Espresso reported that Argentine bishop Jorge Pedro Casaretto – sent by Pope Francis as an apostolic envoy to Honduras last May – returned with a report suggesting that Maradiaga may have been involved in mismanaging Church funds, and may also have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Catholic University of Tegucigalpa.
The article said that Maradiaga is being accused of investing more than $1.2 million in some London financial companies, including Leman Wealth Management. Some of that money has now vanished, it said.
Casaretto’s report was based on accounts from more than 50 witnesses, including diocesan staff members and priests, L’Espresso said.
The article said that Casaretto’s report also included accusations against Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda of Tegucigalpa, alleging that he had “orchestrated reckless financial operations” and channeled Church money to friends, including the purchase of an apartment and car for a man close to Pineda.
Also of concern, L’Espresso said, are large sums of money flowing from the foundation that runs the diocesan newspaper and television entities, as well as government money that was given to the Foundation for Education and Social Communication, both of which are connected to Maradiaga.
Though these allegations represent irregularities, L’Espresso did not note whether specific violations of the Church laws governing financial administration had been documented, or whether the reasons for irregularities have yet been discovered.
L’Espresso also said that Maradiaga received nearly $600,000 from the Catholic University of Tegucigalpa in 2015, and may have received a similar sum annually for the last decade, as compensation for his service as Grand Chancellor of the university.
Canon law does not limit the salary a cardinal may receive, although Francis has spoken out against clerics who focus on money and careerism rather than service to the Church. Generally, the position of a chancellor at a Catholic university is a ceremonial post held by a leading prelate, with little or no financial compensation.
The Italian publication said that Francis received Casaretto’s report six months ago, and is looking into the concerns presented in it, so that he personally can make a final decision in the matter.
A cardinal since 2001, Maradiaga is a well-known Church leader in Latin America and an outspoken voice on poverty.
In 2013, he was appointed to lead the council of cardinals advising Francis on efforts to reform the curia.
On Dec. 29, Maradiaga will turn 75 – the normal retirement age for bishops and cardinals. According to canon law, he must submit his resignation at that time. The pope may then accept the resignation or reject it, in effect leaving the cardinal to continue in his role.