EL PAÍS launched an investigation into pedophilia in the Spanish Church in 2018 and has an updated database with all known cases. If you know of a case that has not seen the light of day, you can write to us at: [email protected]. If it is a case in Latin America, the address is: [email protected].
The echo of the abuse scandal that runs through the Jesuit order in Bolivia has reached Rome and the Pope has sent one of his greatest experts on the matter to La Paz. The Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu, who has participated in numerous missions in Latin America (he was also in charge of investigating the abuses of Father Maciel in the Legionaries of Christ and in the Chilean Church, which ended with the dismissal of practically the entire ecclesial leadership of that country) will remain several days in the South American country, just when the number of known cases increases and the political agenda has placed this issue at the center. The local episcopal conference, aware of the seriousness of the situation, requested the presence of one of the Pope’s trusted men on the matter.
The official idea – explained in a statement by the local ecclesial authorities – is that training issues will be addressed and that the visit was scheduled. But the profile of Bertomeu (Tortosa, 1968), officer of the disciplinary section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the seriousness of the situation inevitably invite us to think about a more important job that was not foreseen before the scandal.
Bertomeu was one of those responsible for the investigation in Chile that caused in 2018 the radical change in the approach that the Vatican had maintained on this issue until then. Bertomeu had been in Paraguay the week before, carrying out another investigative mission on abuses at the Catholic University of Paraguay together with the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Cardinal Orani João Tempesta. The mission of the delegates of the Holy See was to collect all the information and submit a report on it.
In less than a month, the publication of the secret diary of the Spanish Jesuit Alfonso Pedrajas, where he admitted that he abused dozens of children in Bolivian schools and that his superiors covered it all up, has shaken the pillars of the entire Bolivian Church. Despite the rapid reaction of the Jesuits – the provincial cautiously removed eight former high-ranking officials at the beginning of May for cover-up – public institutions have also taken a step forward. The Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation into the Pedrajas case and President Luis Arce presented a bill two weeks ago to make the crimes of pedophilia imprescriptible and create a truth commission to investigate these cases and provide compensation to the victims.
A Spanish Jesuit abused dozens of children in Bolivia. Undercover by the Church, he left an unusual testimony written. We reconstruct their history from the hand of victims and relatives
The Government, in addition, advanced this Saturday that it is studying control mechanisms to review the background of clergymen who enter the Latin American country. “Priests cannot come to be spiritual guides for our children, rapists to teach our children what God’s way is while abusing them, that is inconceivable,” the Minister of the Presidency told the media two days ago. On the other hand, the attorney general (fiscal) of Bolivia also proposes to review the “status” of the Jesuits in the country. A hard blow for the Society of Jesus in particular and for the Bolivian Church in general.
And it is that the complaints —both in the courts and in the Company’s offices and in the press— have grown in recent weeks, not only against Pedrajas, but also against other of his fellow Spanish Jesuits. Some, like Francesc Peris, developed their religious career in Spain, but the order transferred them to Latin America amid accusations of pedophilia. Peris went to Bolivia in 1982, there he is accused of abusing several girls between 1983 and 1984 in a school of the order in Cochabamba and returned to Spain a year later. Recently, new victims accuse him of abuse in a center in Barcelona.
The Jesuits have also been forced to acknowledge various complaints that they were aware of a few years ago and that until now they had not made public or communicated to the authorities. The most notorious is the one that points to the Spanish Archbishop Alejandro Mestre, who died in 1988 and was the prelate of La Paz. The order received in 2021 a victim who accuses him of abusing him in 1961, when Mestre was a teacher at the San Calixto de La Paz school. Mestre was also secretary general of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, a highly influential position that he held during the dictatorship of Luis García Meza, which lasted from 1980 to 1981. The Jesuits reported this case to the Bolivian Prosecutor’s Office on May 9 .
The public ministry, in response to these new complaints, formed a commission of prosecutors to investigate all cases and has already ordered several searches of the Company’s properties, including its headquarters in La Paz, to seek information and documentation. of the defendants.
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