Leyte’s Diocese of Maasin in Southern Leyte is under fire after ordaining a new Vietnamese priest who allegedly presented a “fake” authorization letter to receive the sacrament.
Former fortune teller, feng shui and spirituality consultant in Nghe An province in Vietnam, Ho Huu Hoa- now known as Father John Baptist Ho Huu Hoa, was found to have been ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons on Sept. 8, 2022, at Visitation Church, Lintaon Peak, Baybay City and subsequently, to the Sacred Order of Priests on Dec. 7, 2022, in the Diocese of Maasin on recommendation of the Diocese of Vinh.
In a now deleted video posted on the Diocese of Maasin page on Facebook, a priest was recorded reading an alleged letter of recommendation signed by Bishop Alphonso Nguyen Huu Long of Vinh Diocese.
But Bishop Long’s denial caused a massive stir after he said he has no connection with Hoa’s ordination in Leyte.
In a document entitled "Declaration of the incident related to Mr. John Baptist Ho Huu Hoa, " the bishop said he did not sign the letter addressed to Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, of Maasin Diocese or any documents related to training and certifying the qualifications for Mr. Hoa to receive the sacred order.
This would indicate that the documents presented which include the necessary "dimissory letter" stamped with the seal of the bishop, signed by Bishop Long and attested by his chancellor, Fr. Gerardo Nguyen Nam Viet, prior to the ceremony is considered fake and Hoa is now being questioned and tasked to present a written certification before he could celebrate the sacraments in his diocese.
A thorough investigation
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Maasin vowed to take "necessary steps" to shed light surrounding Hao’s case in cooperation with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
"The current stir regarding this matter is truly unfortunate and upsetting. We are now taking the necessary steps and procedures which will hopefully aid all concerned to be enlightened, and so issues will be clarified," Cantillas said.
The priest further stated that they have entrusted the situation to the proper authority to decide on the veracity of the documents that were presented to their office.
To make things more complicated, Cantillas said that the ordination was done "in good faith." He also revealed receiving a letter from retired bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop of Ha Tinh and former bishop of Vinh, "which introduced the matter to our office and the reason for the request."
Cantillas added that the Vinh diocese's chancellor, and a Vietnamese deacon acting as translator, sought an audience with them on Hoa's petition for incardination to the Maasin diocese.
Uncovering the past
Besides the suspicious documents, there have been sources who reported that aside from being disowned by bishop Long, Hoa had no records to prove that he event went to a regular seminary formation.
In addition, Hoa was arrested in 2019 for allegedly helping former police intelligence Col. Phan Van Anh Vu to bribe Lieutenant-General Nguyen Duy Linh the amount of five billion Vietnam Dong to intercede on the officer's criminal case where he was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison by the People's Court of Hanoi.
But what surprises most people is that Hoa was immediately ordained as a deacon just over nine months from his release.
“Mr. Ho Huu Hoa worked as a fortune-teller, now it's okay to quit the profession and become a priest. But a person having many connections to the top policies of intelligence agents of the communist regime, a person who was sent to prison early and just over a year was quickly ordained as a priest, this fact is very confusing and suspicious!" Rev Nguyen Van Khai of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (CSsR).
Now, people can only wait for the results of the ongoing investigation of the first church scandal for 2023 involving two countries in Asia.