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CARACAS, Venezuela (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Venezuelan hierarchy is circling the wagons around the country's highest-ranking prelate, Abp. Edgar Peña Parra, who was accused last month of sexually abusing seminarians.
In a June 10 interview with The Washington Post, Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò revealed that decades ago, Peña Parra had been accused of sexual deviancy and abuse. The allegations, he noted, had not been properly investigated by Church authorities — including Pope Francis. These revelations went unpublished by the Post but were picked up in July by LifeSiteNews.
In an Aug. 20 statement, the bishops of Venezuela denounced Viganò's accusations as "slanderous."
They praised Peña Parra, describing him as a revered figure in Venezuela, beloved for "the important ecclesial and humanitarian work" he has carried out as part of the Vatican diplomatic corps.
According to the bishops, those who have circulated accusations against Peña Parra "under the appearance of serving the truth, conceal other motives."
They went on to assert the allegations were designed to deliberately attack Pope Francis.
"Not only do they attack a person, they also intend to denigrate the institution and undermine the credibility of Pope Francis, creating doubts by showing that his teaching and actions are marked by poorly choosing his coworkers," they said.
"Those who act this way, from prolonged positions of well-being and privilege, seek to disqualify the one who has clearly pointed out that the impoverishment of the masses and the destruction of our common home sink their roots into an unbridled economy lacking all humanity," the bishops added.
Viganò told The Washington Post that in 2018, Francis appointed Peña Parra as his new substitute at the Secretariat of State — the third most powerful member of the Curia — despite knowing the Venezuelan prelate had been accused of sexually abusing minors.
Viganò described a "terrifying dossier" sent to Francis "by a group of faithful from Maracaibo," Peña Parra's former diocese, where he was ordained a priest in 1985.
Reportedly containing names and dates of alleged wrongdoing, the dossier — titled "Who Really is Msgr. Edgar Robinson Peña Parra, the New Substitute of the Secretariat of State of the Vatican?" — raised serious questions about the archbishop's suitability for his new Vatican role.
According to Viganò, the Vatican has known since 2002 that Peña Parra is an alleged homosexual predator.
The archbishop said that evidence of Peña Parra's homosexual activity goes back to 1985, when Maracaibo Abp. Domingo Roa Pérez launched an investigation into an anonymous report that Peña Parra — then a seminarian — was a "sexually sick person." The outcome of the investigation remains unknown.
Viganò recalled that in 2000, Maracaibo journalist Gastón Guisandes López went public with accusations that Peña Parra was guilty of sexually abusing underage seminarians. The following year, Guisandes López twice requested to meet with Abp. André Dupuy, papal nuncio to Venezuela, to discuss the allegations against Peña Parra. Dupuy refused both requests, but he did report the allegations against Peña Parra to the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Archbishop Viganò also recounted the dossier contained another troubling allegation:
Edgar Peña Parra was allegedly involved … in the death of two people … which took place in August 1992, on the island of San Carlos in Lake Maracaibo. They were killed by an electric discharge, and it is not clear whether or not the deaths were accidental … the two corpses were found naked, with evidence of macabre homosexual lewd encounters.
Viganò claimed that these accusations were "known by the Secretariat of State in the Vatican since 2002, which I learned when I served as the Delegate for Pontifical Representations."
The allegations cast another pall on Pope Francis and his approach to the clerical sex abuse crisis.