I Was Sexually Abused by Priest, Exile Says
An Archdiocese of Miami Priest Cleared of Two Past Sexual Abuse Complaints Faces a New Claim That He Molested a Boatlift Refugee at a Coral Gables Church
By Jay Weaver firstname.lastname@example.org
Miami Herald [Florida]
November 07, 2003
A Cuban exile on Thursday accused a veteran Catholic priest of sexual abuse 23 years ago at a Coral Gables church where he was living after arriving from Cuba on the Mariel boatlift.
The alleged victim said in a lawsuit the Rev. Alvaro Guichard promised him a car and a job in exchange for sex. At the time Guichard was a priest at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables.
"It is hard for me to talk about this . . . I have lived with this problem for many years without telling my family or anybody," the alleged victim, 39, said Thursday at his attorney's office in Hollywood.
Guichard was reinstated in August as pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Miami Beach after the Archdiocese of Miami cleared him of two earlier sexual abuse complaints. Guichard had been suspended for 15 months.
Guichard, who has served as an archdiocesan priest for 30 years, adamantly denied the allegations in an interview in his parish office. "It's fiction, false and lies," Guichard, 63, said. "The new allegations are as ridiculous as the other ones."
The alleged victim was not identified in the lawsuit. The suit was filed against the Miami archdiocese, claiming it knew of past sexual abuse claims against Guichard and failed to take steps to protect the alleged victim.
"I want him [Guichard] to be removed from the church -- to be removed permanently," the alleged victim said.
He said he never reported the alleged abuse to police or church authorities because he was alone, young and afraid. The recent flurry of sexual abuse complaints against numerous priests convinced him, he said, to come forward.
Guichard's reinstatement followed a lawsuit filed last year against him and the Rev. Ricardo Castellanos by Jose A. Currais Jr., a former Miami altar boy who alleged they sexually abused him when he was between 14 and 16 in the early 1970s. The abuse allegedly occurred at a Miami Catholic high school and two parishes, including the Little Flower.
A suit making similar allegations against the two priests was filed earlier by the parents of a deceased former Little Flower altar boy, Miguel Chinchilla.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, after a preliminary investigation, decided not to file charges against Guichard and Castellanos in both cases because the statute of limitations had expired.
Under Florida law, sexual assault charges involving minors between 12 and 18 must be filed within four years of the alleged crime.
While there are no criminal charges stemming from the alleged abuse involving Currais and Chinchilla, the lawsuits have survived efforts to have them dismissed and are proceeding.
Castellanos remains on administrative leave as pastor of San Isidro Church in Pompano Beach because an archdiocesan investigative committee has not completed its probe.
After Thursday's sexual abuse allegation, the Miami archdiocese said it will follow its policy and notify Miami-Dade prosecutors, offer the alleged victim counseling and conduct an internal investigation.
The date of the alleged abuse of the Mariel boatlift refugee would put it beyond the statute of limitations.
According to archdiocesan policy, a Catholic lay committee consisting of a medical doctor, psychiatrist, civil lawyer, canon lawyer and clergy representative will first determine whether the latest allegation against Guichard is credible.
"If the allegations are deemed credible, the archbishop will place the priest on administrative leave," said archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.
After a more thorough investigation, Archbishop John C. Favalora would make a final determination about whether Guichard could return to parish work or be removed from the ministry.
Jeffrey Herman, attorney for the alleged victim, believes the archdiocese made a mistake in reinstating Guichard. "It seems to me the archdiocese rushed to reinstate Guichard too quickly," he said.
After arriving in South Florida in 1980, the alleged victim was placed in a dormitory for refugee boys at Little Flower, which Guichard had joined in 1973 after fleeing Cuba years earlier.
The alleged victim lived at Little Flower's dorm with about 30 other migrant boys for a little more than a month. The suit claims Guichard used to go from bed to bed tucking in the boys.
"I don't know why he picked me out of the rest," the man said at his attorney's office. "But I think I was his favorite."
UNABLE TO ANSWER
Weeping, he was unable to answer a question about the alleged abuse.
But, according to his suit, Guichard brought the alleged victim to his bedroom in the rectory at the Little Flower. The priest told the 15-year-old to watch TV while he went to the bathroom. Guichard, the suit says, emerged from the bathroom naked.
He told the alleged victim that he "could have a better life and promised to help [him] get a car and job if [he] permitted Guichard to have sex with him."
The suit alleges that Guichard asked the teen to perform oral sex on him and at another time the priest performed oral sex the teen.
The alleged victim said he was later placed with a foster parent. His mother arrived here from Cuba in 1981. He said he has kept the secret from her, too.
"Nobody in my family knows," said the plaintiff, adding that his past has affected his relationship with his wife and two daughters. "I haven't been able to get any therapy because I can't afford it."
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