Late Jesuit’s diary reveals trail of abuse; former Jesuit provincials suspended as Bolivia launches investigation
May 09, 2023
The nephew of a deceased gay Jesuit priest turned over his uncle’s diary to a leading Spanish newspaper, which in turn published “Diary of a Pedophile Priest“—an article that has swiftly led to a national investigation in Bolivia and sanctions against eight Jesuits.
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El País reported that Father Alfonso Pedrajas, SJ (1943-2009), asked his boyfriend—described in the article as his “partner for the last four years of his life”—to obtain his computer when he died. Father Pedrajas’s boyfriend sent a DVD of computer files to the late missionary priest’s brother, who printed out the files and put them in a box. In December 2021, the late priest’s nephew found the printed diary in an attic.
Born in Spain, Father Pedrajas, also known as Padre Pica, spent most of religious life in Bolivia, where he worked at a secondary school for students from poor families. He wrote in his diary that “my biggest personal failure [was] without a doubt the pederasty,” that he first sexually abused a minor in 1964, and that “I hurt so many people (85?). Too many.”
During 2022, the priest’s nephew reported the abuse to the current director of the priest’s former school in Bolivia, to Spanish prosecutors (who declined to investigate because of the statute of limitations), and to Father Osvaldo Chirveches, SJ, the Bolivian Jesuit official responsible for addressing abuse. Father Chirveches, according to the report, repeatedly asked for the diary, but the nephew turned over the diary to the newspaper.
In addition to discussing his sexual abuse, Father Pedrajas’s diary “recounts how the Jesuit order, including at least seven provincial superiors and a dozen Bolivian and Spanish clergymen, covered up his crimes, along with the complaints of several victims,” according to the report.
Wilfredo Chávez, the Attorney General of Bolivia, tweeted that “this horror would have been covered up by the leadership of the Catholic Church at the time.”
“We condemn these actions, we feel solidarity with the victims who have suffered acts of sexual abuse, we ask for their forgiveness, and we want to tell them that we share their suffering and disappointment for these serious events that have marked their lives and have been a cause of deep pain,” the Bolivian Episcopal Conference said in a statement.
The Bolivian Jesuits, under the leadership of Father Bernardo Mercado, SJ (photograph), the current provincial, condemned the acts of sexual abuse and announced the suspension of former Jesuit provincials in Bolivia as the investigation proceeds. Father Mercado suspended his predecessors who served as provincial during Father Pedrajas’s years of ministry, as well as those who served after his death.
El País also reported that the late Father José Arroyo, SJ, downplayed Pedrajas’s sins and crimes when he served as instructor during Pedrajas’s tertianship in 1978. Father Arroyo was particularly influential in forming young Jesuits: he served as instructor during the future Pope Francis’s tertianship in 1970-71.
The newspaper reported:
Padre Pica traveled to Spain in 1978 for his third profession of vows—the final stage in a Jesuit’s religious formation. There, at a Jesuit center in Alcalá de Henares, a city northeast of Madrid, Pedrajas confessed his sexual abuses to the late priest José Arroyo, his instructor and the man who a few years earlier had prepared Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, for the same exam.
There is no record in Pica’s diary of the conversations he had with Father Arroyo, but Pica does write about his instructor’s opinions and recommendations on the matter, and in his account, strips the assaults of their moral dimension. In Pica’s telling, Arroyo advises him not to mention the abuses in his confessions, and not to consider giving up teaching. At no point does he advise Pedrajas to stop abusing minors. Some of Pica’s notes on his conversations with his superior: “I shouldn’t feel like a repentant sinner,” “nothing is going to happen to me,” “[these are] isolated cases.”
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