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Widow accuses Vatican of betraying ‘victims’ of papal ally Maradiaga

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The powerful Honduran cardinal has a 'dark side' that the Pope is concealing, claims the author of an explosive new book

The Vatican has been accused of actively suppressing information to ensure that a close ally of Pope Francis was not implicated in the cover-up of the sexual and financial misdeeds of his auxiliary bishop.

Martha Alegria Reichmann, whose late husband served as Honduran ambassador to the Holy See for 22 years, claimed the information was suppressed to allow Cardinal Óscar Rodriguez Maradiaga to keep his position on the powerful C9 council of cardinals.

In her new book, Sacred Betrayal, Alegria alleges that Maradiaga persuaded her and her husband to invest a large sum of money in an investment fund managed by a friend of his. The investment led to them losing their life savings.

She also claims that Maradiaga covered up for his auxiliary bishop, Juan José Pineda, who resigned last year following allegations he sexually abused seminarians, had same-sex lovers and engaged in financial misconduct.

In an interview with Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Reporter, Alegria says she discovered a “dark side” to the cardinal. She added that she “could not live in peace and serenity for the rest of my life without having made this public denunciation”.

She said she wrote the book because “the wicked triumph when the righteous are silent; and because God himself is being mocked.”

Alegria added that she had been betrayed by “people who carry a sacred investiture: former Bishop Juan José Pineda, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga and Pope Francis — three people I trusted blindly.

Cardinal Maradiaga remains Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras despite being past the normal retirement age, and is still coordinator of the C9 council of cardinals. Asked why she thought this was the case, Alegria said: “The Vatican maneuvered so that Maradiaga would not be officially implicated as Pineda’s concealer; that way he could be kept in the ‘council of cardinals.’”

She described this as a “grotesque action and a mockery of honesty because they gave him impunity”.

“The Pope has acted against cover-ups on very few occasions,” she added, “only when the external pressure is very strong, as happened in Chile.”

“I am just a widow to whom neither Maradiaga nor Francis have given importance because they do not practice the Gospel as it should be. It seems that the teachings of Christ have gone out of fashion and the devil reigns. The reasons for this terrible situation are revealed in my book, and it’s something frightening.”

Asked why Maradiaga would try so hard to protect Pineda, she said she found it “incomprehensible”. Nor does she understand why the Pope would protect Maradiaga. “Perhaps he needs his bad advice,” she quipped.

“Maradiaga is very powerful because he has the absolute support of someone much more powerful, who is Pope Francis,” Alegria added. “This is the reason why it is very easy for him to manage a dictatorship in the diocese as he pleases; he solves many problems by just saying: ‘These are slanders’ or ‘They are attacking me so as to attack the Pope.’”

“Maradiaga has a dark side that he has been able to hide very well all his life and that he has a double morality that nobody could imagine, except his victims.”

Alegria said that she is not optimistic that Maradiaga will be replaced any time soon, at least not until there is a new Pope or “maybe if Pope Francis put into practice all those beautiful phrases that he knows how to say and that are blown away like clouds that disappear into nothingness.”

When asked whether she had exaggerated some of the details so the book becomes a best-seller, she responded: “Everything that is written is not exaggerated. I just narrated the facts exactly as they are, and those that needed to be proved are proved.”

A leading Vatican commentator told the Catholic Herald: “Cardinal Maradiaga has been credibly accused of quite astonishing misdemeanours yet somehow these allegations have escaped scrutiny in the Western media.

“It may be that the truth will exonerate Maradiaga, but the Vatican seems determined that this very powerful papal adviser should be protected no matter what.”