The personal diary of the Jesuit priest Alfonso “Pica” Pedrajas, who died in 2009, has been at the center of a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Society of Jesus in Bolivia in recent months. 

The document, which refers to at least 85 incidents of sexual abuse of minors and involves other priests and superiors, is already in the hands of the Bolivian authorities, but the route the diary has taken in the investigations leaves unanswered questions.

The scandal broke out when the Spanish newspaper El País published an investigation revealing that after Pedrajas’ death in 2009, his nephew found a 383-page file on the priest’s computer where he confessed to his crimes.

Having this evidence, the nephew first went to the prosecutor’s office in Spain, but it did not accept the case because the statute of limitations had run out.

Next, according to El País, the nephew approached the Society of Jesus in Bolivia, but he broke off communication with the Jesuits because they did not inspire confidence in him.

He also approached Luis Carrasco, director of the John XXIII School in Cochabamba, where Pedrajas served as rector for years.

“He told me that he didn’t know anything about this story and that, therefore, he was not in a position to help,” the nephew told the Spanish newspaper.

Finally, and in the absence of a response, the priest’s nephew took the evidence to El País, which published a report on April 29.

Immediately, the Society of Jesus in Bolivia opened an investigation.

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To ensure transparency, the Jesuits in Bolivia removed eight priests from their positions who served as superiors at the time when “Father Pica” committed the abuse in case these superiors were involved in a cover-up.

The transfer of the diary to the Bolivian prosecutor’s office

On the afternoon of June 20, the Jesuits in Bolivia handed over Pedrajas’ diary to the country’s attorney general’s office as “another example of transparency and their clear will to cooperate with the justice system.”

Also on June 20, the Jesuits in Bolivia said in a statement that the material had been received a few days prior by their provincial in an envelope that arrived 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.

According to the religious order, the envelope was delivered to the prosecutor’s office “unopened, as it was received and with authorization for the public prosecutor’s office to open it.”

In addition, the Jesuits requested a copy of the document in its entirety from the prosecutor’s office since “only some excerpts were made public” in the El País newspaper.

However, the director of the prosecutor’s office specializing in crimes on account of gender and youth, Daniela Cáceres, said that “during the opening of the sealed envelope, it was verified through the proceedings that the diary is not complete; it has breaks in the sequence of pages and crossed out and deleted sections,” the news media outlet Opinion reported.

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While not explicitly stated, this implies the copy of the diary was sent in printed form.

How did the diary get to Rome?

The Society of Jesus in Bolivia stated that it “does not know how the document got to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith or if it was delivered complete and legible, as addressed by the prosecutor’s office,” the news media outlet Los Tiempos reported.

For the Bolivian portal La Razón, “the question arises as to how the Vatican had a copy of the diary, since in his interview with El País, Fernando [Pedrajas’ nephew] makes no mention of turning over a copy of the document.” 

The National Association of Alumni of the John XXIII School also made a statement on the matter.

“If the pedophile’s diary arrived from Rome, via courier, sent by the general curia of the Society of Jesus, which in turn received it from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, then the delivery is irrefutable proof that the Jesuits knew about it beforehand.”

The alumni association therefore deduced that “there was a cover-up of the criminal acts of the pedophile.”

The association pointed out in a statement that the diary “doesn’t come from Spain, it doesn’t come due to international cooperation between prosecutors in Spain and Bolivia; it doesn’t come sent by the pedophile’s homosexual partner; it doesn’t come via [Pedrajas’] nephew; it doesn’t come through the Spanish newspaper El País. It comes from Rome.”

On July 5 ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, consulted the head of the Communications Commission of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, Andrés Eichmann, who confirmed that the Jesuits in Bolivia have no knowledge of how Pedrajas’ diary got to Rome.

The same query was sent by ACI Prensa on July 5 to the Holy See Press Office, but no response has been received to date.

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