Lawyer: Church Knew of Danger
An Attorney for a Fort Lauderdale Man, Who Claims He Was Sexually Molested by a Catholic Priest in 1984, Says He Has New Evidence Proving the Archdiocese Knew of the Priest's Problems
By Elinor J. Brecher
Miami Herald [Miami FL]
August 13, 2005
A 38-year-old Broward County man, who says a Catholic priest raped him when he was a young illegal immigrant, has obtained church records that he claims will bolster his bid for punitive damages against the priest and the Archdiocese of Miami.
"Juan Doe" sued the Archdiocese and the Rev. Ernesto Garcia-Rubio in 2002, claiming the one-time pastor of Our Lady of Divine Providence in Sweetwater raped him once in 1984.
Garcia-Rubio was defrocked in the late 1990s after allegations that he had raped a young parishioner and sexually abused four Central American refugees.
Last year, the Archdiocese agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle almost two dozen lawsuits against various priests, including Garcia-Rubio. But the Juan Doe case is still being fought in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
In court papers filed Friday, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Russell Adler claims that he has obtained documents that now prove the Archdiocese knew Garcia-Rubio was a danger to young boys many years earlier and did nothing to stop it.
He argued that the evidence, including a letter written 36 years ago, enables his client to seek punitive damages.
The confidential, Sept. 3, 1968 letter -- from Washington-based Apostolic Delegate Luigi Raimondi to then-Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll -- said the Vatican knew Garcia-Rubio "was forced to leave Cuba because of serious difficulties of a moral nature (homosexuality)."
The letter noted that Garcia-Rubio had left the Diocese of Cienfuegos for Miami, where he had been assigned a parish.
"Your Excellency will wish to have this information . . . to protect this priest with your accustomed paternal charity," Raimondi wrote.
Three days later, Carroll replied that the information was "a surprise indeed to me. I had made what I thought were sufficient inquiries regarding his reason for having left Cuba.
"At no time did anyone indicate that the problem was of such a nature as that described in your letter."
Carroll concluded: "I assure you that I will do what I can in every way to protect him and also to do so with charity in my heart."
The Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, an expert witness hired by Adler, reviewed the letters. In a sworn statement, he said, for ecclesiastical leaders of that era, ' `moral problems' generally referred to sexual issues. 'Homosexuality' most often referred to same-sex issues between clerics and young adolescent males."
Doyle, a Maryland Canon Lawyer and Dominican priest, said that Carroll's receipt of the letter from Washington "is confirmed by the citation to the No. 2534/68, which is the number of the correspondence from the Apostolic Delegate."
Adler called attention to his court filing on Friday afternoon by distributing copies of the letters and other documents related to the case outside the gates of the Miami archdiocese, at 9401 Biscayne Blvd.
He was joined by local and national representatives of SNAP: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
SNAP's executive director, David Clohessy, tried to deliver a letter to Archbishop John Favalora, urging him to "reach out to other victims," visit every parish where proven or "credibly accused clerics worked," and post the names of local pedophile priests on the archdiocese website.
A uniformed security guard refused to allow him into the building. A man in street clothes who wouldn't give his name took the letter, then ordered the delegation out of the parking lot.
Teresa Martinez, media coordinator for the archdiocese, said Favalora wasn't in the office Friday.
She released a statement that, she said, would be the archdiocese's only response to both the court filing and the SNAP letter.
It says the Archdiocese has had a policy against sexual abuse of minors dating to 1984 -- since updated -- that required "reporting allegations and determining the credibility of such allegations and dealing with the accused."
Allegations "are reported immediately to the State Attorney's office and the accused is placed on administrative leave if credibility is determined. The Archdiocese of Miami has provided counseling for alleged victims and seeks to provide pastoral healing."
The victim in this case said he's still not healed.
"They abused my faith," said the man, a Fort Lauderdale hair stylist who doesn't want to be identified. "I've had a lot of anger and have been very depressed [with] nightmares all the time."
In a telephone interview from his lawyer's office, he said he's now a legal U.S. resident who arrived in Louisiana from Mexico as a teen after his father was killed in political violence. He then lived on the streets near downtown Miami.
A "Good Samaritan" brought him to Garcia-Rubio for help, but instead, the priest molested him.
When he reported the incident to the archdiocese, he said he was told: "`We cannot believe you were molested. You are under age and have to go back to your country . . . You can be deported.'
"Being very naive, it was terrifying being in this country without papers. I was under threat all this time . . . The church didn't do anything and they knew he was doing all these things to all these little boys."
He said the Good Samaritan complained to then-Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy, who told him he'd "take care of it."
The man said he spent two years at Boystown, then got a room with his brother, who had come to South Florida. He remembers that Garcia-Rubio visited Boystown a couple of times.
"I never talked to him, never said a word to him . . . I met two other guys who I'm sure he molested," he said.
When he saw the letters, the man said he thought: "My God, they knew all this time. And I just imagined the rest of the boys who had been hurt. It was really painful."
CHARGES OF COVERUP
SNAP's Clohessy charges that the letters make it clear that the church had engaged in a coverup and was only concerned for the priest, not for the boys he victimized.
"Our message to victims is: If you've been hurt, please come forward, get help, go directly to police, prosecutors, an attorney, a self-help group.
"Have the courage to break the silence."