Priest Abused Me 20 Years Ago, Man Says
Archdiocese of Miami Accused of Concealing Information
By Madeline Baró Diaz
November 29, 2006
A Sunrise man filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Archdiocese of Miami, saying a priest abused him more than 20 years ago when he was an altar boy at a south Miami-Dade County church.
John Kleer, 35, said he came forward after another man sued the archdiocese in October, accusing the same priest, the Rev. Gustavo Miyares, of abusing him after they met at a Catholic summer camp in Boynton Beach. Miyares, longtime pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hialeah, resigned after the allegations came to light and can no longer serve as a priest.
"It literally jolted me," Kleer said. "I felt I could come forward and it wasn't just me against a priest."
The suit filed in Miami-Dade court accuses the archdiocese of concealing information about Miyares' abuse of children and seeks more than $10 million in damages.
The archdiocese released a statement saying that before the summer camp accusations, "there were no prior allegations or information to indicate Miyares did or would engage in any type of inappropriate or abusive behavior."
Unlike many plaintiffs in clergy abuse cases, Kleer did not file his suit anonymously.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kleer and his attorney, Jeffrey Herman, held a news conference at St. Timothy Catholic Church, where Kleer said the abuse took place. Kleer said he hoped that by going public, he would encourage others to do the same.
Speaking softly, Kleer approached a bank of television microphones and offered a few brief comments before he was overcome with emotion and stepped away.
Later, in response to reporters' questions, he said he told a friend about the abuse when they were children, confided in his wife a few years ago and told his mother about the abuse a month ago.
Kleer said the abuse began when he was 12 years old and lasted until he was about 15. At the time, he was an altar boy under Miyares' supervision at St. Timothy's and hoped to become a priest. According to the suit, Miyares, 59, groomed Kleer by giving him special treatment, even offering him wine that was to be used for Mass.
When Kleer questioned the sexual touching, Miyares told the boy that it was the kind of thing he would have to do to become a priest and he would go to hell if he told anyone about it, the suit said. Kleer began hiding to avoid church services on Sunday and stopped going to church after his confirmation, he said.
"It's destroyed me," Kleer said. "It destroyed my family."
In October, a 39-year-old man also filed suit against the archdiocese, accusing Miyares and another priest of forcing him into sex acts after he met the priests at a summer camp at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach when he was 14.
An archdiocese spokesperson said a list of the churches where Miyares served was not immediately available.
The archdiocese encouraged those who have been sexually abused by priests to call its Victims Assistance Coordinator at 866-802-2873 as well as law enforcement authorities.
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