“Angel by day, devil by night”… Bolivian priests have sexually abused over 100

Protesters protest in front of the San Francisco Cathedral in La Paz, Bolivia. /reuters news1

In Bolivia, where around 80% of the population is Catholic, priests have claimed to have sexually abused more than 100 people, including children.

According to foreign media such as AFP on the 8th (local time), Pedro Lima (54), who was sexually assaulted while training as a priest in the past, said, “The children lived in hell. Angels were priests by day and demons by night.”

He also said, “I walked the young victims for ‘complaining’ and then expelled them.” “The priests made the victims think I was a bad and useless person.” The local media reported that at least 170 people admitted “that I am also a victim” across the country.

Lima claimed he was expelled from the religious world after reporting the persecution, and said, “After that, an investigation was conducted to draw up a list of suspected criminals.” “It is not an act of deviance by one priest. There was a structure that turned a blind eye to each other so that (abuse) could continue to happen,” he added.

Petro Lima, who claims he was expelled after reporting sexual harassment while training as a priest. /AFP Yonhap News

Controversy arose when the diary in the form of a “confession” left by Alfonso Pedrajas, a Spanish priest who died in 2009, was belatedly released. It included an admission that Pedrajas had sexually abused at least 85 people while in Bolivia since 1971. It also included the content that the senior clergy knew about his crime and covered it up.

Currently, Catholics in Bolivia have acknowledged the allegations, saying, “We have been deaf to the suffering of the victims.” Local prosecutors have launched an investigation into allegations of abuse by priests, including Pedrahas. President Luis Arce has requested information from Pope Francis on sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy in South American countries.

Earlier, a court in Bolivia sentenced the priest Juan Rocca Fernandez to 10 years in prison for sexual harassment the day before. Fernandez was accused in December 2021 of inappropriate physical contact with a young woman he knew in his parish.


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