The pedophilia scandal in the Bolivian Church takes a leap and reaches the office of Pope Francis. The President of Bolivia, Luis Arce, has asked the Pontiff for access to all files, files and information regarding cases of pedophilia committed by Catholic priests and religious in Bolivian territory of which the Church is aware. “These years of impunity cannot be extended indefinitely without the justice establishing the responsibilities and the victims closing an atrocious chapter where the only consolation they will have is the right to the truth, justice and not covering up the events that happened,” he claimed. Arce to Pope Francis in an official letter this Monday. It is the first time that a president has addressed the Pope to directly request the opening of the ecclesiastical archives so that the civil authorities can investigate the sexual abuse of minors and their cover-up.
Arce’s letter comes at a time when the pedophilia scandal, led by press publications, has hit the Bolivian ecclesiastical hierarchy squarely. This is how Arce has transmitted it to him at the beginning of the writing. “I am writing to you, shocked and outraged by the events that have recently been revealed in our Plurinational State of Bolivia, based on the investigation by the newspaper EL PAÍS of Spain, entitled Diary of a Pederast priest.” This report told the story of the secret newspaper where the Spanish Jesuit Alfonso Pedrajas admitted to having abused dozens of children in schools of the order in the South American country and how his superiors covered everything up. “Deplorable and aberrational crimes that were hidden with absolute impunity for years, time that passed in apparent normality due to the complicit silence of the local ecclesial structure, which covered them up with unacceptable indifference and indolence,” Arce maintains in the letter.
The news forced the Company to remove eight former senior officials for cover-up, prompted the Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation and has caused new cases to come to light. “These are not errors or deviations in conduct, they are crimes that harm girls and boys for life, and that also harm the Church, and for that very reason, these pronouncements must be moved to concrete actions, so that there is justice and that these very serious crimes are not committed again, using faith and the Church in search of impunity”, points out the Bolivian president, who feels “outraged”. “As brother Francisco will understand, this situation has caused deep pain, repudiation and frustration in the Bolivian population; sentiment to which I adhere, as the first president of my country”, stressed the president.
Arce has also informed the Pope that his government is working on “mechanisms to strengthen control and review of personal records” for the entry into Bolivia of new foreign Catholic clergy, with the aim of preventing these crimes from occurring. “The Bolivian State reserves the right to admit the entry of new foreign priests and religious into national territory who have this history of sexual abuse against minors,” the letter underlines. The president affirms that he will maintain this future measure until “the current agreements and conventions are reviewed, and the negotiation of the Agreement between the Plurinational State of Bolivia and the Holy See is concluded”, in which, Arce specifies, must include “recautions” that prevent new cases of abuse and its cover-up.
Other public institutions go further. Like the Bolivian Attorney General’s Office, which proposes to “verify the situation and status” of the Jesuits in the country, especially in terms of education, where the Company owns schools and universities throughout the territory. “It cannot be that the schools and institutes that depend on the Church, and specifically on the Society of Jesus, continue as isolated entities under state control. [El control] It must be full and transversal as for any private school, and that those prerogatives and absolute lack of control be left”.
Two days ago it was made public that the Pope had sent to La Paz one of his greatest experts in the fight against abuse, the Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu, known for having participated in numerous missions in Latin America, such as in the cases of pedophilia in the Father Maciel in the Legionaries of Christ or in the abuse scandal in the Chilean Church, which ended with the dismissal of practically the entire ecclesial leadership in that country. Despite the fact that the official idea —explained in a communiqué by the local ecclesial authorities— is that training issues will be addressed and that the visit was scheduled, the seriousness of the situation inevitably invites us to think of a larger work that was not foreseen. before the scandal.