Suit: Dade Priests Abused Teen in '80s
A Priest at a Hialeah Parish Resigned after a Former Altar Boy Accused Two Priests of Sexual Abuse in the 1980s. the Miami Archdiocese Denied Previously Knowing about the Allegations
By Jay Weaver and Alfonso Chardy
October 18, 2006
A former altar boy who once wanted to become a Roman Catholic priest claims he was sexually abused by two priests in the Archdiocese of Miami in the early 1980s and that church officials covered up the assaults.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the former South Florida resident -- identified only as "John Doe No. 25" because he was a minor at the time -- claims that when he was about 14, the Revs. Gustavo Miyares and Pedro Jove sexually assaulted him at a Palm Beach County seminary, a Miami rectory and a condominium in the Florida Keys.
Miyares, a longtime prominent priest, resigned immediately. Jove, who left the archdiocese two decades ago and formally left the priesthood a dozen years ago, said he had never heard these allegations before.
"These priests took an interest in him and began to groom him," Jeffrey Herman, the accuser's Aventura attorney, said at a news conference on a sidewalk two blocks from Miyares' Hialeah parish.
"Ultimately, they invited him to their rooms. They gave him alcohol. Eventually, that led to sexual abuse starting with fondling, oral sex and, eventually, they sodomized this boy," Herman said.
In a statement written by John Doe and released at the news conference, he stated: "I lived with the pain for 25 years. My life was torn apart emotionally. I was just a kid, self-conscious, insecure, shy and needing direction. I was the perfect vulnerable target."
AGREED TO RESIGN
Miyares, 59, the longtime pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, agreed to resign during a meeting Oct. 6 after top archdiocese officials confronted him about the allegations. He did not return a call for comment.
"During that meeting, it was agreed that Father Miyares would prepare his parish, his family and his staff for his imminent departure and resignation," said archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.
She said it was based on a "mutual decision," noting that the allegations were "credible." But she dismissed accusations in the suit that the archdiocese knew about the allegations years ago or that there were other victims besides John Doe. Church officials learned about John Doe's allegations in a letter received from him on Oct. 4, she said.
Some parishioners and employees quickly came to Miyares' defense.
Parishioner Aracely Díaz said she was suspicious because the allegations were decades-old. "Why would somebody wait 25 years?" Díaz wondered. "I do not believe the allegations."
Miyares is a popular priest among Cuban exiles. In 2000, he organized a prayer vigil for rafter Elián González, urging federal authorities not to return the boy to Cuba. He also gave the benediction at a Hialeah Gardens memorial dedication for exile pilots shot down a decade ago by Fidel Castro's government.
Jove, 59, who now runs Alliance for Aging, a Miami-Dade nonprofit agency for senior citizens, did not want to comment about the allegations until he reviewed the evidence and spoke with a lawyer.
"I need to see where this goes," Jove said.
Agosta said there were no complaints of clergy sexual abuse in the two men's personnel files.
In the aftermath of the 2002 nationwide sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, the Miami Archdiocese purged more than a dozen active priests, asking most of them to retire or to be put on "administrative leave" pending internal investigations.
Miyares was not among them -- nor was he among those investigated by the Miami-Dade state attorney's office.
The alleged victim accuses Miyares and Jove of sexually abusing him and other boys in 1981 and 1982.
"That's where part of me inside would die forever. I spent so much time running away from my past and things that happened to me," John Doe wrote.
"So I'm done running, and I'm taking back control of my life."
Herman said it was likely church authorities knew of the abuse much earlier because the priests were "taking multiple boys out to dinner."
Herman further alleged that the case is linked to that of another priest accused of sexual abuse, Rev. José Nickse of St. Brendan's Church. Nickse died of a heart attack while visiting the Bahamas with another accused priest, Rev. Ricardo Castellanos, at Christmas 2002.
Herman did not allege his client was abused by Nickse, though John Doe was among boys who went out to dinner with Nickse and Miyares.
In the negligence suit, the alleged victim, now 39, claims the archdiocese, Archbishop John Favalora and other church officials "actively took steps to conceal the abuse." Among the alleged offenders: the late Monsignor Gerard LaCerra, who "destroyed incriminating files," the suit says.
Herman, who has filed and settled more than 30 clergy sex-abuse cases involving the Miami Archdiocese, suggested that Catholic Church officials nationwide may have covered up priests' sexual abuse on orders from Rome. He cited a 1962 document by the Vatican that he says "directs the bishops to suppress and conceal allegations of abuse."
According to the suit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, John Doe claims that when he was 14, he was was invited to attend summer camp in 1981 at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.
During the first week there, he met Miyares, known as "Father Gus." The second week, he claims Miyares sexually abused him.
Miyares then introduced the teen to Jove, the suit says. He took him to Jove's room, where Jove allegedly sexually assaulted him.
Both priests also got to know the boy's parents, picking him up at home and taking him out for weekends, the suit said.
Herman said his client is now married and has children, but does not have a job -- though he has been employed before.
Eduardo Piedra, who said he runs the cafeteria in the Hialeah church school, said children love Miyares and that the allegations are being made to exact profit.
"It's just so the lawyers can make money," Piedra said.
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