Fri, May 26, 2023 4:59 PM
By PAOLA FLORES, Associated Press
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A Spanish Jesuit priest who died in 2012 has been accused of sexually abusing a minor in Bolivia three decades ago, the latest in a string of pedophilia cases that have shaken the Catholic Church in this Andean country.
Jorge Vila Despujol, who died in Barcelona in 2012, was formally accused before prosecutors Thursday by a person who alleges they were indecently touched when they were 13, the Jesuit Society in Bolivia said in a statement. The name of the alleged victim is being kept confidential.
The abuse allegedly occurred when the victim was at an educational institution in the central region of Cochabamba, although no further details were given.
Vila Despujol founded the organization Defense of Children International in Bolivia, which promotes the rights of minors. The organization is still active, and it condemned all forms of abuse in a statement in which it also urged other victims file reports with the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The Jesuits in Bolivia have been in the spotlight since the Spanish newspaper El País published excerpts from the diary of late priest Alfonso Pedrajas a few weeks ago, in which he admitted to sexually abusing dozens of minors in Catholic boarding schools in the 1970s and 1980s.
An alleged victim of Pedrajas formally filed an accusation against the deceased priest on May 19, the Jesuit order said.
The revelations about Pedrajas, a Spanish Jesuit who died in 2009, has helped uncover other cases of abuse by Church authorities, including from other orders, amid a broad inquiry by prosecutors.
One Carmelite parish priest, Milton Murillo, was sent to pre-trial detention for three months earlier this month. The Public Prosecutor’s Office said this week it had formally charged another priest, Garvin Grech, with covering up Murillo’s alleged crimes. Grech has fled to neighboring Argentina, according to police.
Attorney General Wilfredo Chávez said earlier this week that around 23 priests have been implicated in alleged pedophilia cases.
The Jesuit Society in Bolivia previously apologized to victims and pledged to support the investigation while denouncing Pedrajas’ superiors for an alleged cover-up. Many of the people singled out are no longer in office or have died.
Earlier this week, Jordi Bertemeu, one of the Vatican’s top sex crimes investigators, arrived in Bolivia amid the growing scandal.
The Bolivian Catholic Church acknowledged on Wednesday that it had been “ deaf to the sufferings ” of the victims of sexual abuse committed by priests and pledged to “seek reparation for the victims.”