Bishops of Bolivia admit to having caused ‘deep pain’ to victims of sex abuse

Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in La Paz, Bolivia The facade of Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in La Paz, Bolivia. | Credit: Yasemin Olgunoz Berber/Shutterstock

Faced with the scandal over allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated by various priests in Bolivia, the country’s bishops acknowledged having been part of the “deep pain caused to innocent persons” and announced the creation of commissions to investigate the cases.

In a May 24 statement, the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference reported that it had received the visit of Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, an official with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and an expert in the fight against abuse.

As a result of the meeting they had with the Vatican envoy, the prelates issued a statement in which they admitted that they had a part in the deficient handling of multiple cases.

“We are certain that we have been part, directly or indirectly, of deep pain caused to innocent people who have been victims of sexual abuse and the insufficient handling of the situation in the face of a reality that is truly difficult to understand,” they bishops said.

Addressing a few words to the victims and all those affected, the prelates said that “instead of giving them the protection and care they deserved, they met a Church deaf to their sufferings.”

“We know that there is no way to compensate for the harm caused, but we promise to do everything possible to accompany and provide reparation, with the support of professionals who provide assistance and help heal wounds and scars,” they added.

The Bolivian bishops described the progress they have made in recent years in the anti-abuse culture with the establishment of protocols, codes of conduct, and training for pastoral workers to deal with complaints.

However, they recognized that all of this has been insufficient and that “we have not given the response that we owed to our faithful and society in general.”

Consequently, the bishops announced that they will create a National Listening Commission and a National Investigation Commission to determine those responsible and find out what went on. This will go hand in hand with the prevention work that must be followed throughout the Church.

The bishops encouraged all those who have been victims of abuse, or who know of a case, to go to the places where the conference will receive complaints and also to public authorities to report these crimes.

Finally, the bishops reiterated their commitment to be transparent in their communications with the public and to cooperate with the investigations by the justice system in the country. In addition, they announced that they will communicate in a timely manner the progress that is being made, “always with the firm purpose of prioritizing care for the victims.”

An investigation published April 29 by the Spanish newspaper El País titled “Diary of a pedophile priest” revealed that Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas Moreno, who died in 2009, had abused as many as 85 minors based on his own diary discovered by a nephew among his personal belongings.

According to the nephew’s testimony, the diary also reveals a network of cover-ups, since it indicates that at least seven superiors and a dozen clergymen were aware of what was happening.

Subsequently, several other Jesuits, two Carmelites, and a Franciscan have been accused of sexually abusing minors.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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