Bolivia Prosecutor Asks for Church’s Cooperation in Clerical Sexual Abuse Cases

In the ongoing investigation in Bolivia into sexual abuse allegedly committed by priests and male religious, mostly Jesuits, the local prosecutor’s office has requested the Church’s cooperation in identifying the Jesuit provincials who were in charge when the incidents reportedly occurred.

Newsdesk (01/08/2023 18:07Gaudium Press) The prosecutor for the Department (administrative district) of Chuquisaca, Mauricio Nava, asked the Archdiocese of Cochabamba for the names of the provincials of the Society of Jesus during the years 1999, 2000, and 2001 when, according to the complaints, the sexual abuse occurred.

The Bolivian media La Razón said that Nava explained that the request stems from two statements taken in the city of Cochabamba, in particular the testimony of one of the complainants, former Jesuit Pedro Lima, who stated that other members of the Society of Jesus were aware of the abuse.

Psychological studies and a medical evaluation considered essential for the investigation will be carried out on those involved in the case.

A report published in April by the Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the scandal, revealing that the Spanish Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas Moreno, who died in 2009, sexually abused as many as 85 boys and adolescents in the 1970s and 1980s and that the Jesuits allegedly covered it up.

Pedrajas’ nephew discovered the diary in a file on the deceased priest’s laptop. He first approached the Spanish public prosecutor’s office with the information but was told it could not pursue the case as the incidents took place beyond the statute of limitations.

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The nephew next contacted the Society of Jesus in Bolivia without results. He also approached Luis Carrasco, principal of the John XXIII School in Cochabamba, where Pedrajas served as rector for years, who told him he didn’t know anything about the situation and was not in a position to help.

Finally, the nephew went to El País, which published an investigative report.

A copy of the diary was received by Father Bernardo Mercado, the Jesuit provincial in Bolivia, arriving in a sealed envelope that came from Rome via courier, sent by the general curia of the Society of Jesus, which in turn had received it from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF).

The Jesuits turned over the envelope “unopened, just as it was received” to the Bolivian attorney general’s office on June 20 but denied knowing how the DDF had gotten a copy.

Upon examining the copy it had received, the director of the prosecutor’s office, Daniela Cáceres, stated that it had “gaps in the sequence of pages and sections crossed out and deleted.”

The Bolivian attorney general, Juan Lanchipa, said that the blotted-out material had to do with “names, dates, and places.”

On July 11, the Bolivian prosecutor’s office obtained another copy of the diary through the Spanish public prosecutor’s office.

On July 17, the lawyer for the Society of Jesus, Audalia Zurita, confirmed that the Jesuits received a summons to be present at a “comparison and verification of the content” of both copies of the diary, La Razón reported.

Mercado, the Jesuit provincial, attended this examination but the Jesuits in Bolivia later clarified in a July 17 statement that “this comparison was not made and will take place in the laboratory.”

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“Only the content of the envelope which arrived from Spain was verified” and the envelope “was already open,” the Jesuits explained in a statement.

They also reiterated their willingness to cooperate with the justice system and their commitment to the victims of abuse.

  • Raju Hasmukh with files from CNA

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