LA PAZ – Bolivia’s Jesuits have launched a preliminary investigation of a priest, identified as L.M.R.P., accused of sexually assaulting minors 17 years ago.
The provincial superior of the Society of Jesus, Osvaldo Chirveches, told EFE in an interview that transparency is what matters most, alongside giving the alleged victims the opportunity to tell their stories.
“We feel deeply embarrassed by this, we are ashamed,” he said.
The accusations against L.M.R.P., now 84, are based on a collection of photos dating from 2002 that was discovered a decade ago by a Jesuit who subsequently left the order.
In the images seen by EFE, the priest appears with several indigenous children between the ages of 7 and 12. Some photos show him kissing and groping girls while lifting their skirts.
The informant, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said the events took place in a rural area of eastern Bolivia where L.M.R.P. spent several years.
It is unacceptable that “the incapacity of a few Jesuits calls into question the life, commitment, honesty, clarity, affection and kindness of others,” Chirveches said.
The Bolivian Jesuits are on the verge of hiring a lawyer to lead the investigation. In the meantime, the Rev. Daniel Mercado has been designated as the contact person for people with information about this case or other instances of misconduct.
The images of L.M.R.P. with the children appear to be screen-grabs from video, leading the informant to think that more people were involved in the activity.
“I believe, trust and hope that this issue is clarified as well,” Chirveches said. “The fact that more than one person is implicated is very serious.”
The conclusions of the inquiry must be presented to the Jesuit superior-general in Rome, who will in turn decide whether to bring the case to the attention of the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith.
In statements to EFE, L.M.R.P. denied having any sexual interactions with minors and described what happened as an instance “bad taste,” declining to comment specifically on the images.
The Spanish-born priest, who came to Bolivia several decades ago, currently lives in a Jesuit retirement home.