Church in Bolivia criticizes excesses of raids on Jesuits in sexual abuse cases


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ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 30, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

The Bolivian Bishops’ Conference criticized the “excesses” that were committed during the successive raids carried out Aug. 28 at the offices of the provincial curia of the Society of Jesus in the city of La Paz.

In a statement issued Aug. 29 titled “For a justice system that respects the rights of all,” the Bolivian bishops questioned the excessiveness of the procedures carried out by the public prosecutor’s office “under the rationale that they sought to collect evidence” in the cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors that occurred in past decades.

In this context, the bishops noted that the legislation in force in Bolivia recognizes rights such as due process, the presumption of innocence, and that any actions taken must be legal.

The prelates therefore deplored the violation of these rights while demanding that any actions taken be “transparent and within the framework of due process” and “not exceed their powers” or violate the safety and rights of people.

“As a Church present in Bolivia, we deplore the fact that this type of excess is committed under an apparent effort to investigate,” they stressed.

The Society of Jesus in Bolivia in turn expressed its “concern and surprise” at the four raids carried out in an untimely manner at its offices.

The proceedings were carried out by commissions of prosecutors from the cities of La Paz, Sucre, El Alto, and Santa Cruz, who searched through the offices looking for documentation.

Given this “action without precedent or any reason,” the religious order issued a statement Aug. 28 explaining that the curia’s file was placed under seal on May 17 by the La Paz prosecutor’s office.

“It was a matter of documentation that had been fully available to the authorities for more than three months, no untimely operation being necessary for its review,” the statement explained.

On Monday, the file was opened by the Sucre prosecutors’ commission accompanied by representatives of the public prosecutor’s office of La Paz.

This procedure was then followed by the raids, with the Jesuits cooperating “without any obstacles,” the statement said.

In fact, the commissions were able to take “all the documentation they deemed appropriate,” even in the case of the Santa Cruz public prosecutor’s office despite the fact that “it didn’t have the search warrant processed in court.”

The Society of Jesus then reiterated “its policy of transparency and cooperation” while asking that the actions be based on the search for justice for the victims and respect for human rights and the nation’s laws.

However, the Jesuits considered the display of authority witnessed on Monday “clearly unnecessary” and hoped that “other serious cases that are in the public arena” deserve the same attention.

The bishops also noted the cooperative attitude of the Society of Jesus by providing the required information.

At the same time, they maintained their own commitment to the search for the truth and for the protection and care of the most vulnerable.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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