Bolivian bishop on clerical sex abuse: We know asking forgiveness is not enough

Bishop Giovani Arana Bishop Giovani Arana of El Alto, Bolivia. | Credit: CEB

Bishop Giovani Arana of El Alto, secretary general of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, pointed out in his homily for Pentecost Sunday on May 28 that although the Church in the country has asked forgiveness of the victims and relatives of clerical sex abuse, he said, “we know that it’s not enough.”

“These weeks we have witnessed that abuse of minors has been committed within the Church. We have asked for forgiveness; we know that it’s not enough, which is why we must all commit ourselves to do everything in our power to prevent such terrible acts from being repeated or from remaining unpunished,” Arana said.

According to the prelate, the bishops “must work together based on what we have to do, to create healthy and safe environments for children, adolescents, young people, and all vulnerable people.”

“And I say ‘work together’ because the fight against sexual abuse entails a profound change in each one of us to always be aware of any danger that children, young people, or vulnerable people may run,” he noted.

At the end of April, an unprecedented sexual abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church in Bolivia following a report in the Spanish newspaper El País that accused Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas Moreno, who died in 2009, of having sexually abused as many as 85 minors during his ministry, according his own diary, and that Jesuits covered it up.

As a result of the investigation, numerous cases of abuse by members of the Society of Jesus and other congregations have come to light. The state attorney general informed the country that as of May 18, there were some 23 priests implicated in cases of abuse in the country.

In his Pentecost homily, Arana said that the bishops have committed themselves to taking “actions to support the victims, listening to them and accompanying them, trying to help them rebuild their lives, knowing that abuse causes very deep wounds.”

“Furthermore, we commit ourselves to report and investigate the incidents and seek that justice is done both within the Church and in civil society with a determined commitment to work for the prevention and protection of minors,” he said.

The prelate explained that the serious crime of sexual abuse is a threat that “we must all face, because also, and we say it with regret, this scourge not only occurs within the Church but also in different areas of our society.”

“These actions are far from the proceeding of the Holy Spirit, who seeks the good of all, the common good, which is why it is also necessary to ask today for that presence in our lives of the Holy Spirit,” the bishop said.

Arana invited the faithful to ask God “that the coming of the Holy Spirit would mean for all of us as Bolivians to have the courage to defend and accompany the victims of all forms of violence, especially sexual, and to seek justice.”

“The presence of the Holy Spirit allows us to come out of our selfishness and personal interests to think of others, to work for the good of others and not for our own benefit,” he noted.

“It is necessary to pray today for that presence in our lives of the Holy Spirit, which, as we have heard [in the Sequence for Pentecost], we ask: ‘Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray,’” he concluded.

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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