Image: Paraguay President Fernando Lugo
Jorge Saenz  /  AP
Paraguay's president, Fernando Lugo, was hit with a third paternity claim Wednesday, just a week after the former Catholic bishop acknowledged fathering a second illegitimate child while still subject to his vows of chastity.
updated 4/24/2009 6:58:10 PM ET 2009-04-24T22:58:10

President Fernando Lugo asked for forgiveness Friday for a paternity scandal in which three women claim the former Roman Catholic bishop fathered their children.

Reading to reporters from a written statement, Lugo acknowledged “personal errors” and portrayed himself as a “father who is prepared to share his love and care.”

But Lugo, who has acknowledged fathering a 2-year-old boy born to a former parishioner, did not recognize the two children involved in two other paternity claims.

“I am a human being, and therefore nothing is foreign to me,” Lugo said. “Asking forgiveness for these circumstances, I want to stress that my version will always be the truth.”

A senator from a party currently aligned with Lugo’s urged the president to resign.

“Your past guaranteed a high level of credibility that would straighten out the nation’s path,” Alfredo Jaeggli said in a letter submitted to the presidency and congress. “Your current personal situation has made you lose all credibility.

“I beg you to resign.”

Lugo’s election victory a year ago put an end to more than six decades of one-party rule and promised a break with corruption by political elites. He took over in August with a mandate to help the nation’s poor and indigenous.

On Friday, Lugo vowed not to let the current scandal distract his government from pressing reforms, and said he would step down only when his term ends in 2013.

“I will respond one by one to each case they attribute to me, as testimony to the truth,” he said.

The claims against Lugo less than a year into his presidency have embarrassed the government and put the opposition on the attack. But in Paraguay’s macho culture, political analysts say the paternity claims could help Lugo by lending him an air of virility and strength.

Lugo on Friday declined to answer questions on paternity claims, referring reporters to his lawyer.

“You will see this president as a father who is prepared to share his love and care,” Lugo said.

The 2-year-old boy whom Lugo has acknowledged fathering while he was still subject to his vows of chastity is now adopting the president’s name with a judge’s permission. The mother, 26-year-old Viviana Carrillo, was the first to go public with a paternity claim against Lugo this month.

Another woman, an impoverished 25-year-old soap seller named Benigna Leguizamon, is requesting a DNA test to verify her claim that Lugo fathered her 6-year-old son. A Cabinet minister says Lugo has agreed to submit a DNA test.

The most recent woman to claim a child with Lugo is a 39-year-old divorcee with two adult children who said she met Lugo three years ago, after he gave up his church leadership position. Unlike the others, Damiana Hortensia Moran Amarilla she says has no plans to sue the president.

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 did not 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.

One bishop, Rogelio Livieres, alleges the church was aware of possible abuse of authority by Lugo but let him resign without making the complaints public, thus facilitating his bid for the presidency.

However, the Paraguayan bishops’ conference says it never received “formal written complaints” from women about Lugo.

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