You can judge a man, they say, by the company he keeps. And who could be more compromising to the Holy Father than Óscar Andrés Rodríguez, Cardinal Maradiaga, the chief of staff of Francis’s handpicked Council of Cardinals?
Accused of a cover-up of his friend and auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda (accused by seminarians of sexual molestation), Maradiaga has himself been accused of embezzlement and of dubious financial dealings, including an alleged $600,000 missing from the Catholic University of Tegucigalpa. The Cardinal is also said to have invested over $1.2 million in financial companies overseas.
Now an angry crowd has attempted to drag him off an aeroplane in Honduras, bound for Panama. Reports say they were bent on lynching him.
Despite all this, Bergoglio is unconcerned. The accusations, he claims, are mere calumnies – Maradiaga has his complete confidence. “No one has been able to prove anything [about Maradiaga] to me. Maybe he made some mistakes, he’s done some things wrong, but not at the level that they want to accuse him of. That’s important, so I defend him in that.”
As the so-called C9 dwindles in number, and Francis’s position becomes increasingly embattled, these credible accusations require an answer. Nothing less than an independent enquiry will suffice.