Priest or Pedophile?
By Holly Whisenhunt
Inside Costa Rica
February 12, 2004
The Catholic Church says he's a renegade priest. The Archdiocese recently warned followers to stay away from Father Alfredo Prado.
He is accused of molesting young boys. Prado now belongs to a violent dooms day cult in Costa Rica.
Trouble Shooter Brian Collister and his photographer risked their lives, traveling to Central America to track down and confront Prado about the allegations.
More than 30 years ago when Ricardo was just 14 he and his family went to St. Timothy's Church on the Westside. He turned to Father Prado after an argument with his father. "When I was growing up, I thought the world of Father Prado." Ricardo recalls.
But Ricardo says instead of helping him, Prado gave him a glass of brandy then seduced and raped him. "He had his hands all over me down the front of my pants, he was unbuttoning my shirt."
Ricardo says he told his parents but they didn't believe him, because priests don't do that. He says after Prado raped him, his life spiraled out of control, including several suicide attempts, and years of therapy. Ricardo says his emotional scars have not heeled, "The extent of the damage this did to me, I still feel to this day".
Ricardo is not alone. Other alleged victims came forward in the early 90's. The oblate order of the Catholic Church sent Prado to a pedophile treatment center and stripped him of his right to preach. Then just last year, faced with retirement, Prado disobeyed the church and fled the country.
He took refuge at this religious sanctuary in Costa Rica. The group is described as a violent cult. It's led by a 24-year old, Juan Pablo Delgado, who claims to see visions of the Virgin Mary. Prado now serves as his spiritual advisor.
Even though he's now hundreds of miles from San Antonio, the controversy continues. Costa Rican reporters found out Prado was staying in the compound along with several young boys.
Reporters quizzed the 73-year old last year when immigration officials hauled him in for questioning about the molestation allegations.
Costa Rican officials let Prado stay. But what exactly goes on inside this mysterious cult compound? Is Prado a priest or a pedophile?
To find out the Trouble Shooters traveled to Costa Rica. Using a hidden camera we went inside the sanctuary where we found several followers, including a teenage boy. It was clear from our reception they didn't want us talking to Father Prado.
"We are not going to speak with anybody from United States or reporters." yelled Prado supporters. The edgy followers tell us they do not have permission from the Virgin Mary to let us speak with Prado. That's when our photographer tries to take his camera out of the truck and is attacked by a woman. We ask if someone else speaks English so we can plead our case to meet with Prado. A few seconds later the woman tries again to wrestle our camera away. Things heat up as more cult members appear, including a man brandishing a hammer.
We figure it's time to leave but they won't let us turn around. So we back out but not before another teenage boy appears trying to block our camera and giving us a sign that he thinks we're crazy.
But the Trouble Shooters haven't traveled this far not to talk to Prado. So we staked out the compound and a few days later, we spot him in a car slipping out of the compound. We caught up with him in a nearby town.
Collister asks: "Father Prado can we ask you a few questions?"
Collister: "Can we please talk to you sir? Are you a child molester?"
Collister: "You're not a child molester?"
Collister: "Why are you here? Why are you here in Costa Rica? What about the charges in Texas?"
Prado: "They're all false, they're nonsense."
Collister: "They're all false and nonsense?"
Collister: "Why are they false and nonsense?"
Prado: "Because they are."
Collister: "Have you ever molested a child?"
Prado: "Never!" Collister: "Never molested a child?!"
Prado: "Never, never!"
Collister: "Why won't you talk to us?"
Prado: "You're the one that's molesting us! "
Collister: "The Catholic Church says you shouldn't be here sir. Will you talk to us?"
Prado's car speeds off as we try to ask more questions. Church Officials here in Costa Rica say they wish Prado would pack his bags and go home. Prado doesn't have the church's permission to act as a priest but that hasn't stopped him from performing religious duties.
Deacon Pat Rogers, archdiocese spokesperson says "He shouldn't be, uh, performing mass. He shouldn't be celebrating mass. He shouldn't be celebrating the sacraments."
But the Trouble Shooters have pictures from inside the cult compound showing Prado preaching sermons, serving sacrament, and even performing weddings. The head of the local archdiocese in Costa Rica says this shouldn't be happening.
"I'm against it, I'm totally against it. Whenever you have someone performing in an irregular fashion disobeying the religious order and his superiors." says Father Barquero.
But the church can do nothing because Prado is on private property and no criminal charges have been filed against him in the United States or in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rican authorities have said there is nothing they can do until basically the abuse happens. What we would prefer to do is to prevent it from happening.
Bruce Harris with the Costa Rican Child Welfare Group "Casa Alianza" is one of Prado's biggest critics. He thinks it's only a matter of time before more victims come forward.
"I would be concerned that under the shadow of these allegations against him, that he be in such closed close contact with young people and children. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but where there is smoke there is fire." says Harris.
Ricardo, one of Prado's victims has not seen Father Prado for more than 35-years. We showed him our video from Costa Rica and asked him what he thought.
Ricardo says "I think he's (Prado) frightened and knows that he's been caught."
Ricardo hopes his coming forward will prevent it from happening to others, and he has this message for these young boys now living with Prado. "Get away from him. He's not who you think."
The Oblate Order of the Catholic Church is in the process of excommunicating Prado and refuses to talk publicly about the molestation allegations.
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