- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

ASUNCION, PARAGUAY (AP) - Paraguay’s president was hit with another paternity claim Monday, just a week after the former Roman Catholic bishop acknowledged fathering a different illegitimate child while still subject to his vows of chastity.

Fernando Lugo, 57, did not confirm nor deny fathering the 6-year-old boy, but read a brief statement promising to “act always in line with the truth and subject myself to all the requirements presented by the justice system.”

He also appealed for privacy, referring all questions about paternity claims to his lawyer.

Two of Lugo’s cabinet ministers started judicial proceedings against their boss on the latest woman’s behalf, and vowed to order DNA tests if Lugo doesn’t recognize paternity.

Women’s Minister Glorida Rubin said Lugo later agreed to submit to DNA tests and talk with the woman to try to reach an understanding.

When Lugo admitted last week that he fathered a 2-year-old boy with a different former parishioner, saying he would “assume all responsibilities” for the boy, analysts predicted his forthright response would disarm the potential scandal, despite the feeling of at least one bishop that it was a “slap in the face” of the Catholic Church.

Now another paternity claim is sure to give his opponents more ammunition.

Lugo said attorney Marcos Farina, who represents him in the other paternity case, would handle this claim as well.

Lugo said last week that he was acting with a sense of “absolute honesty and a sense of duty and transparency” to acknowledge his relationship with Viviana Carrillo,” the 2-year-old’s mother.

Benigna Leguizamon, an impoverished soap-seller, said Lugo’s admission inspired her to go public about her 6-year-old.

“I decided to make this claim through the media before going to the courts after seeing that last week Viviana Carrillo got President Lugo to recognize their child,” she said.

Both women said they were just teenagers when they first met Lugo. And Leguizamon said he privately acknowledged fathering her son at the time of his birth.

Carrillo said her 2-year-old is named Guillermo Armindo in honor of Lugo’s grandfather, and Leguizamon said Lugo wanted her to name her boy Fernando Armindo.

“I told him that Armindo, for me, is a very ugly name, so I put Lucas instead” _ Fernando Lucas, she said.

Leguizamon said she arrived in Lugo’s San Pedro diocese in 2000 at age 17 with an infant daughter and worked in the bishopric, where she began a relationship with Lugo. She told her story in interviews Monday with Paraguay’s Ultima Hora newspaper, Channel 4 television network and the Uno and Caritas de Asuncion radio stations.

Her son was born in September 2002, but she said Lugo gave her little money to support him and so she began a relationship with another man and now has four children. That man suffered a stroke and can no longer work, she said, so she supports the family by selling homemade soaps and detergents door-to-door. Lugo’s son, she said, helps her by collecting used bottles to contain the liquid.

The Women’s Ministry and the Childhood and Adolescence Ministry sent officials to interview Leguizamon and begin paternity procedures on Monday in Ciudad del Este, the eastern city where she lives near Paraguay’s border with Brazil and Argentina.

“Lugo is my boss, but we’re acting anyway,” Childhood and Adolescence Minister Liz Torres said. “The child has the right to know who its father is, to bear his last name and receive help from him.”

Many Paraguayans said the paternity scandal has been a black eye for both the government and the Catholic Church, to which 90 percent of Paraguayans say they belong.

Lugo resigned in 2004 as bishop of San Pedro, in the landlocked nation’s poorest province, and in December 2006 announced he was renouncing his bishop status to run for president. Pope Benedict XVI didn’t give him permission to resign, relieving him of his chastity vows, until July 2008, after insisting during Lugo’s campaign that he would always be a bishop under Church law.

Lugo said last week that he would like to return to work for the Roman Catholic Church when his term ends, despite acknowledging that he fathered the first child while still a bishop. “Fortunately, the Catholic Church is very pluralistic and has many places where I will be able to work when I leave the presidency on Aug. 16, 2013,” Lugo said.

After the first paternity claim, Catholic officials in Paraguay asked Church members for forgiveness for the “sins of ministers and faithful.” Some Paraguayans called for Lugo’s excommunication, but the Church said it cannot punish the president because he is now a layman.

The Church statement also urged other priests to keep their vows, and asked all Catholics and people of good faith to pray for them to keep faithful to their priestly mission.

At least one Paraguayan bishop, Ignacio Gogorza, was more blunt.

“Lugo’s conduct, to have maintained a sexual relation with a young woman while he was still a bishop, for the Church is a slap in the face,” Gogorza said. “The risk we see is that somehow this act will diminish the moral authority of the Church.”

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