Bolivian Roman Catholic Church leaders Wednesday admitted that the Church had been “deaf” to the persistent sexual abuse which has occurred within its schools as outrage over recent reports of child sexual abuse by priests continues to grow.
Monsignor Giovani Arana, secretary general of Bolivia Bishops’ Conference, delivered an address to victims of the abuse and their families, stating that “instead of giving them the protection and care they deserved, we found a Church deaf to their suffering.”
Meanwhile, Bolivian President Luis Arce wrote a letter to Pope Francis requesting access to Church documents pertaining to sexual abuse by priests in Bolivia. In the letter, Arce called on church officials to “move from pronouncements to concrete actions to prevent impunity.”
The current scandal began when the Spanish newspaper El País recovered and publicized the diary of Spanish Jesuit Alfonso Pedrajas, in which he admitted to sexually abusing approximately 85 minors while working at Catholic boarding schools in Bolivia through the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, accusations have been made against a growing number of priests who were alleged to have similarly abused children while working for the Church. In Pedrajas’ story and others’, Church officials were made aware of accusations of sexual abuse by priests against children, but either did nothing or worked to cover up the abuse.
As Bolivian prosecutors continue to seek testimonies from victims, former Jesuit Pedro Lima arrived in the country to offer his own account. Describing himself as “a victim of abuses of power, sexual abuse, and abuse of conscience by the Jesuit Society in Bolivia,” Lima’s testimony to media outlet RFI echoes others’ stories of abuse and obfuscation by Church superiors when faced with accusations against priests. As Lima states, “I was told that dirty rags are washed inside.”