Paraguayan bishop ousted by the pope scru­ti­nized for his spend­ing

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY PETER PRENGAMAN

Chil­dren await­ing surgery and women flee­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence never saw the US$350,000 do­nated for their ben­e­fit. Then, there were the ques­tion­able prop­erty sales and the money for a clean­ing busi­ness par­tially owned by a rel­a­tive.

In the months since Pope Fran­cis ousted the bishop of Paraguay’s sec­ond- largest dio­cese, ques­tions keep sur­fac­ing about the Rev. Ro­ge­lio Livieres Plano’s man­age­ment of church money.

As Paraguayan Catholics pre­pare to welcome Fran­cis dur­ing his South Amer­i­can tour that starts July 5, new lead­ers of the dio­cese in this eastern bor­der city are try­ing to erase the debt left by the con­tro­ver­sial bishop, rais­ing money through raf­fles and bingo games. Many parish­ioners are de­mand­ing an­swers.

“The for­mer bishop ran things like a mafia,” said Car­los Pereira, a hu­man­i­ties pro­fes­sor at the Catholic Univer­sity in Ci­u­dad del Este. “How did we end up in debt? What hap­pened to the dio­cese’s prop­er­ties, to all its as­sets?”

The dio­cese is US$ 800,000 in debt, a con­sid­er­able sum in one of South Amer­ica’s poor­est coun­tries. The ar­rears have come to light since Livieres Plano, a mem­ber of the con­ser­va­tive Opus Dei move­ment, was pushed out in Septem­ber.

The 69-year-old for­mer bishop has de­nied any wrong­do­ing. Mul­ti­ple at­tempts to lo­cate Livieres Plano for com­ment, or find some­one able to speak on his be­half, were not suc­cess­ful. Church of- fi­cials and a spokesman for Opus Dei said he is hos­pi­tal­ized in Ar­gentina with di­a­betes com­pli­ca­tions.

It is not clear what be­came of funds be­long­ing to the dio­cese of nearly 1 mil­lion church mem­bers. Crit­ics claim, but have not proven, the for­mer bishop used church money to en­rich his fam­ily, sup­port a gam­bling habit and live lav­ishly. An As­so­ci­ated Press re­view found that dur­ing his decade as bishop, Livieres Plano did make sev­eral ques­tion­able spend­ing de­ci­sions.

Prop­erty records show that, in 2013, Livieres Plano sold two parcels for US$ 400,000 and US$202,000. He did it with­out the Vat­i­can coun­cil ap­proval re­quired for fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions in Paraguay worth more than US$150,000.

AP

In this May 14 photo, girls wear­ing veils par­tic­i­pate in a con­fir­ma­tion cer­e­mony at the Espir­itu Santo Catholic Church in Ci­u­dad del Este, Paraguay.

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