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  Accused of Abuse, Priest Retires
A Well-Known South Florida Priest Retired after a Mariel Refugee Accused Him and Other Priests of Abusing Him in the Early 1980s

By Jay Weaver
Miami Herald [Miami FL]
February 16, 2005

A Catholic priest who attracted thousands of worshipers to his Pompano Beach church and his cable TV show retired abruptly after a former Mariel boatlift refugee accused him of sexual abuse in the early 1980s -- allegations corroborated by a fellow priest.

The Rev. Ricardo Castellanos, a 35-year priest who had been on administrative leave as pastor of San Isidro Church since spring 2002, submitted his retirement letter to the Archdiocese of Miami last week, and it was accepted immediately, church spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said Tuesday.

She added the archdiocese is investigating the allegations, has reported them to the Miami-Dade state attorney's office and offered psychological counseling to the accuser.

CAN'T CELEBRATE MASS

Castellanos, who was fighting five other abuse allegations by former altar boys and youths, can no longer celebrate Mass, administer any sacraments or wear his cleric collar, Agosta said.

However, he will receive the same retirement benefits as other priests.

But the 59-year-old priest -- who had been pastor at San Isidro since 1982 and host of the Trinity Broadcasting Network show In the Word With Father Ricardo -- won't have to face a canon tribunal, a Catholic court-like body that hears complaints and renders judgments.

"As a retired priest and retired from active ministry, the canonical process would not be necessary," Agosta said.

Archbishop John Favalora announced Castellanos' retirement at Mass Saturday and named the Rev. Roberto Garza as pastor of San Isidro.

Castellanos' attorney, James Nosich, said Tuesday his client strongly denies ever abusing any youth as a priest.

"He believes he's innocent -- 100 percent," Nosich said.

He said Castellanos' decision was based on his fear of being defrocked by the Vatican if found guilty by the tribunal.

"It's a no-win situation for him," Nosich said. "The stigma of being defrocked is more important to him than monetary benefits he might be receiving from the archdiocese."

ANOTHER PRIEST

According to other sources familiar with Castellanos' decision, the priest decided to retire because a colleague, the Rev. Hector Gonzalez-Abreu, betrayed him by helping the former Mariel refugee with his negligence case against the archdiocese.

On Tuesday, attorney Jeffery Herman filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court claiming that Castellanos, the Rev. Alvaro Guichard and five other priests sexually abused his client between 1980 and 1983.

The victim, identified only as "John Doe," said he was between the ages of 16 and 19 at the time and living in refugee dormitories, church rectories and foster homes.

Agosta, the archdiocese's spokeswoman, declined to comment Tuesday about the latest allegations.

She added that the archdiocese "apologizes" to any alleged victims.

Guichard, who has been accused of abuse in four other suits and is on administrative leave, denied the allegations in an interview Tuesday.

"He's a great friend, and I don't want to hurt him," said Guichard, adding that he baptized two of his accuser's children.

"But what he's saying about me is absolutely false."

A CONTRADICTION

Guichard's attorney, Manuel Garcia-Linares, said he took the sworn statement of Doe, now 40, last April in an unrelated sex-abuse complaint.

Doe was asked: "Have you ever been sexually abused?" and he answered "no," according to a court transcript.

Gonzalez-Abreu, who was once accused of molesting a youth and later cleared by the archdiocese, confirmed the allegations against Castellanos and others -- except Guichard -- in an interview last week.

Gonzalez-Abreu, who is also on administrative leave and lives with Guichard, asserted that not only did the alleged victim confide the abuse to him but that some priests told him they molested the teen.

'They spoke in some terms that something `kinky' -- not proper -- happened," Gonzalez-Abreu said.

 
 

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