Vatican sends Bolivia diary of late priest who allegedly abused minors in the Andean nation

Associated Press [New York NY]

June 22, 2023

By Carlos Valdez

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — The Vatican has sent to Bolivia the diary of the late Alfonso Pedrajas, a Jesuit priest who allegedly confessed to abusing dozens of minors in Bolivia dating back to the 1970s, the latest development in a pedophilia scandal that has shaken the Andean country.

In a statement released Thursday, the Society of Jesus of Bolivia said the diary was sent to them by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith — which handles clergy sexual abuse cases — and then turned over to the prosecutor’s office in the city of Cochabamba, where the alleged abuse took place.

The Society of Jesus, as the Jesuits are known, said it will request a copy of the diary written by Pedrajas, who died in 2009, in order to know its full contents, since only a few excerpts were released in April by Spanish newspaper El País, which first reported on it. In the diary, Pedrajas allegedly confesses to having abused 85 minors, mostly in boarding schools in Cochabamba between the 1970s and 1990s.

The diary arrived in Bolivia less than one week after Pope Francis sent a letter to President Luis Arce, expressing concern and saying he was “dismayed” by the allegations of sexual abuse committed by priests and pledging the Church’s cooperation in the investigation carried out by the Bolivian justice system.

A few days after the Pedrajas case came to light light, Francis sent one of his top sex crimes investigators to Bolivia. Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu had previously led the investigations into abuses committed by priests in Chile and Paraguay.

Bertomeu was in Bolivia for two days and did not make statements to the press. The Bolivian Church clarified that the visit was not linked to the pedophilia scandal but had been planned in advance.

New cases of sexual abuse have been uncovered as a result of this probe and one priest was sent to pre-trial detention for three months last month.

So far, there are at least 12 judicial investigations against clergy members in Bolivia, including one which already resulted in a 10-year prison sentence for a priest charged with rape, the Bolivian Episcopal Conference said.

In several of the cases, those who have been accused of abuse have already died.