Ousted bishop in spotlight over finances

Questions are being raised about the spending decisions of a controversial Paraguayan bishop whom Pope Francis forced to resign.

Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano was told to step down last year as head of the diocese of Ciudad del Este.

At the time, the Vatican cited unspecified “serious pastoral reasons”.

The dismissal came after Francis sent Cardinal Santos Abril, a financial expert, to Paraguay to investigate.

There had been accusations reported in media of alleged sexual abuse of seminarians by a vicar-general before he came to the diocese.

But the Vatican denied the dismissal was because of mishandling of abuse allegations.

Now, an Associated Press investigation shows that Ciudad del Este diocese is $US800,000 in debt.

Critics claim, but have not proved, the former bishop used Church money to enrich his family, support a gambling habit and live lavishly.

Documents reviewed by the Associated Press also recorded at least US$40,000 in payments made to the bishop’s brother, Benjamin Livieres, for unspecified services.

The former bishop, who is a member of Opus Dei, has denied any wrongdoing.

Currently, he is hospitalised in Argentina with diabetes complications.

Lay Catholics have hired a lawyer to audit the diocese’s finances.

They are also seeking information about 18 vehicles bought by the diocese that cannot be found.

Questions have also been raised as to the sale of two diocesan properties in 2013 for US$400,000 and US$202,000.

Bishop Livieres Plano went ahead with the sales without the Vatican’s approval that was required for financial decisions in Paraguay worth more than US$150,000.

The bishop said the funds from the sales were used for work on seminary buildings.

There have also been allegations that donated funds were not used for their intended purpose.

Bishop Guillermo Steckling, who took over the diocese five months ago, acknowledged he had discovered several accounting irregularities from his predecessor.

However, he ruled out pushing for criminal charges, arguing the diocese needed healing after years of divisions.

Pope Francis is to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay from July 5-12, with reconciliation and renewal the main themes of the visit.


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