Miami Priest Accused of Abuse Facing Allegations of Cover up
By Sharon Lawson
October 19, 2012
A Miami Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse is facing new allegations he tried to cover up the abuse of a boy by another priest, the alleged victim and his attorney said.
The alleged victim, who wants to remain anonymous, says Father Rolando Garcia of St. Agatha Catholic Church knew that a fellow priest, identified as Father Cristobal De Jesus Puertas, was abusing him as a child and he did nothing to stop it.
"He was paying me to keep it quiet when Father Puertas was raping me," the man said Thursday. "I'm furious...I don't know how they allow it, I don't understand."
Lawsuit Filed Against Archdiocese of Miami
The man reached out to attorney Jeff Herman after learning that one of Herman's clients, who was reportedly abused by Garcia about 30 years ago, filed suit against the Archdiocese of Miami. Garcia, who remains at St. Agatha, has adamantly denied the abuse charges.
According to the Archdiocese, a different attorney filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Father Puertas over the alleged abuse, but the victim, during the investigation, stated he never reported the abuse to anyone.
Herman said the lawsuit claims the allegations were covered up by Garcia.
"That fact, in and of itself, in my opinion makes Father Garcia unsafe to be around children," Herman said.
The allegations that the abuse was covered up by Garcia "were found to be inaccurate," the Archdiocese said in a statement. "There was a settlement involving Fr. Puertas who is no longer a priest in the Archdiocese of Miami but no settlement involving Fr. Garcia."
The Archdiocese also said Herman brought a lawsuit against the Archdiocese in 2004 that named Garcia and other priests, but when the lawsuit was settled the allegations against Garcia were deemed not credible.
Parents at St. Agatha had little to say Thursday. Last month, some parents started an online petition to have him removed from the church.
The latest alleged victim said he's not seeking money, he just wants to protect the children.
"I'm upset this man is preaching to hundreds of people over there and he's wearing a mask," the man said. "This man needs to be removed."