Monday, April 13, 2009

Fernando Lugo: A Trust Betrayed

"Ante mi pueblo, aquí y ahora, ante mi conciencia y en homenaje a toda la gente que ha depositado su confianza en mi, manifiesto con la más absoluta honestidad, transparencia y el sentido al deber... es cierto que hubo una relación con Viviana Carrilllo, ante ello asumo todas las responsabilidades que pudieran derivar de tal hecho reconociendo la paternidad del niño."

With these words, President Fernando Lugo confirmed the stories that had been circulating in Paraguay following the paternity suit filed by Viviana Carrillo, the young mother of Lugo's son. While it is refreshing to hear Lugo finally tell the truth, it is depressing too. We wanted to believe that Lugo was the "bishop of the poor", the hope for a resurgence of liberation theology and a more promising and corruption-free future for Paraguay's underclass. Viviana's story seriously calls this image into question.

I knew Viviana's story was true when I first read about it because its details rang familiar to someone who has been blogging about celibacy -- or lack thereof -- for several years. In the 8-page document, Viviana says that Lugo "seduced" her when she was a 16 year-old confirmand and then Bishop Lugo was staying at her aunt/godmother's house in Choré, San Pedro, where she was living and working as a maid.

"Todo se inició una vez cuando le llevé las ropas de cama a su habitación, y al preguntarle si necesitaba algo más, él me dijo que sí, que a mí era a quien él necesitaba, siendo a partir de ese momento constante su acoso, hasta que debido a mi corta edad e inexperiencia, fui seducida por su forma de hablar, por sus palabras bonitas, por sus expresiones bellas, y por las promesas que me hizo de renunciar a su cargo por mí, y que pretendía compartir una vida conmigo y que tengamos muchos hijos y formemos un hogar, habiendo sido él mi primer y único hombre." ("Everything started one day when I was bringing the bedclothes to his room, and when I asked him if he needed anything else, he said yes, I was what he needed, and his pursuit was constant from that moment, until because of my youth and inexperience, I was seduced by his way of talking, his lovely words, his beautiful expressions, and the promises he made to leave his position for me, and he said he would share his life with me and we would have a lot of children and form a home, him being my first and only man.")

The relationship between Lugo and Carrillo continued for the next decade. When her relatives became aware of the relationship, Carrillo moved to Hernandarias in Alto Paraná to escape the scandal. She lived there from 2004 to 2005. Lugo, a Divine Word missionary priest, resigned as bishop of San Pedro in 2005. He petitioned the Vatican for reduction to lay status in 2006 but the Vatican did not act on it immediately and encouraged Lugo to give up politics and return to the priesthood. He was only granted a reduction to lay status after he won the Paraguayan presidential election in 2008.

Carillo followed Lugo. "En el año 2006, al tiempo que el demandado se desempeñaba como Director del Colegio del Verbo Divino de Asunción, me mudé a la capital a solicitud del mismo, donde seguimos viéndonos, pero a escondidas porque él era muy conocido y a raíz de que empezó a incursionar en la política..." ("In 2006, when the defendant was working as Diector of the Colegio del Verbo Divino in Asunción, I moved to the capital at his request, where we continued to see each other, but in secret because he was well known and because he had started to get into politics...")

Carrillo says Lugo was jealous and did not want her to work. Instead, he sent monetary support to her via his nephew, Fernando José Lugo. Their relationship grew chilly to the point that Lugo told her that "las relaciones iban a ser distintas, si ella no se embarazaba" ("the relationship would be different unless she got pregnant"). Guillermo Armindo, named by Lugo after his father, was born on May 4, 2007, many months before the Vatican granted Lugo's request for reduction to lay status. However, after the birth of the baby, Lugo's visits became less and less frequent. Viviana was left to raise the child alone.

When Carrillo accused Lugo of not caring about his son, he became physically abusive. "La gota que colmó el vaso, la razón de esta demanda, ha sido que la última vez que nos vimos, estando dentro de un vehículo con el demandado, discutiendo nuevamente por la desatención del mismo para con su hijo, y al señalarle que no podía ser que yo tuviera que mendigarle todos los meses para que su hijo pudiera comer, y que aparentemente él no le quería, me dio un golpe en la cara, señalándome que jamás dijera eso." ("The straw that broke the camel's back, and the reason for this claim, is that the last time we saw each other, in the defendant's car, arguing again about his lack of attention to his son, and when I told him I couldn't come begging to him every month so that his son could eat, and that apparently he didn't love him, he struck me in the face, telling me never to say that.")

Now Lugo has reluctantly confessed. He has sent his lawyers to append the birth certificate of his son with a statement acknowledging his paternity and says he will conform to whatever the law requires of him in terms of child support, and refused to give any other statements at this time, ostensibly to "protect the privacy of the young mother and child".

But where does that leave Viviana? She is still a poor, single mother. All the promises of a lifetime of love, a home and a family were nothing more than words from a man whose political ambitions did not have room for a woman young enough to be his daughter, a reminder of his past indiscretions. Ironically, only hours before his public acknowledgement of his son, Lugo still could not take responsibility for violating his vows and told a Spanish TV station he still believes in celibacy:
- Do you believe in celibacy?

- Yes.

- Have you respected it?

- It's an imperfect matter. In traditional theology, the only thing perfect is God. Everything we humans do is imperfect. The human race is imperfect and thus we might have weaknesses, make mistakes, or leave our convictions aside at any given moment.
Photos: Fernando Lugo and Viviana Carrillo -- 10 years ago and today.


  1. Bettina De MattoschApril 14, 2009 at 2:20 PM

    As a Paraguayan, I agree with your opinion about Viviana: "WHAT ABOUT HER?".
    I am not Catholic and I absolutely reject celibacy. This is the sad consequence.
    Fernando Lugo is said to have OTHER CHILDREN with other women which are not confirmed yet. He is also known to have dated a model in the past few months.

  2. I don't deal in rumors...models, other children, etc...I understand from news accounts that Lugo's lawyer has said that within 30 days he will arrange to have the boy's last name changed to "Lugo Carrillo". Also that he is going to request to start receiving his salary as president of around 15 million guarani per year. Before, he was having the money contributed to a nonprofit association. He would then give 25% of that money for child support -- the minimum amount required under Paraguayan law. And the child would receive a security detail as the son of the president.

    But this is the absolute minimum required for "paternalidad responsable". The boy needs a father who loves him enough to be present and spend time with him, not just a few guaranis tossed at the mother to pay for his expenses. And Viviana needs to be treated as more than just an unfortunate clerical "call girl".

    I wish President Lugo would start thinking like Padre Fernando. What if a teenage boy had come to him when he was director of the Colegio del Verbo Divino and said: "Uh, Father. I'm in trouble. This girl and I had sex and now she's pregnant. What should I do?" Answer that boy's question, Padre Fernando, and you will know what you should do for Viviana and Guillermo.

  3. I feel very sorry for your people. A Catholic country with a Bishop who can't keep his pants up and now President. How on earth can he rule with moral certitude. And to think the Bishops Conference Knew of his scandalous behaviour and covered it up for so long. This would grieve our Lord terribly.
    If Australia isn't careful it will be no better in time to come.
    The Bishops here cover up all that is needed to protect the Church whether it is sex
    abuse or Priests who father children. As with Lugo, the Pope refuses to release the priests when they do want to leave and do the right thing to protect his child and the mother.
    But then, there are those who use women some of them married for years have children and continue to serve as priests
    Thats the power of the Church worldwide, no wonder people laugh at us.
    Sometimes I have to laugh myself,if not I would grieve too much.
    It will be a long lent for many, thank goodness Easter will come soon and there will be a new beginning, especially for Paraguayans I hope for.