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  4th Ex-Altar Boy Accuses Priest
Margate Pastor Also Put on Leave

By Amy Driscoll, Lisa Arthur and Jay Weaver
Miami Herald
June 7, 2002

A fourth former altar boy accused suspended priest Ricardo Castellanos of sexual abuse Thursday, charging in a lawsuit that Castellanos and another priest molested him at San Isidro church in Pompano Beach in the late '80s.

The Archdiocese of Miami also confirmed Thursday that another Broward priest, the Rev. Neil Doherty, has been placed on administrative leave from his Margate church after a review turned up a more than 20-year-old accusation against him. But a church spokesman would not say whether the allegation was related to sexual abuse.

In the accusation against Castellanos, Kenneth Matias, a 28-year-old Broward County man, said in the suit that he was abused by the two priests when he was 15 -- from 1988 to 1989 -- after family problems sent him to the Catholic church for guidance.

Instead of help, according to the suit, Matias found only violation of his trust, leaving him with emotional scars that later led him into drug abuse. He was molested by Castellanos "numerous times" during overnight stays at the priest's home, the suit said. It also detailed an episode of alleged abuse by another priest at the church whom he knew only as "Father Arnulfo."

The ex-altar boy's lawyer said late Thursday that his client, who has been arrested 11 times on mostly drug charges, has identified the other priest as Arnulfo Arandia.

The lawyer said he plans to amend the lawsuit today.

Church records show Arandia at San Isidro in 1988-89, and in 1991 at St. Rita's church in Palm Beach County.

The suit charges that the Archdiocese of Miami, which covers Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, knew of prior abuse allegations against Castellanos but did not remove him. Instead, church officials "continued to hold Castellanos out as a Catholic priest who could be trusted with minor parishioners," the suit said.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said the church would not respond because officials had not yet seen the suit.

Castellanos' lawyer, Coral Gables attorney Gonzalo Dorta, said he could not comment about the suit because he had not seen it. In general, he said, his client "remains steadfast that those allegations are false and unfounded."

Castellanos is known as the charismatic host of TV's In the Word With Father Ricardo on WHFT-45 in Miami. He's been pastor at San Isidro for 20 years.

Castellanos, 56, is being sued in two other sex-abuse cases and has been named in a complaint letter to the archdiocese as an alleged abuser in a third case. The 56-year-old priest was suspended by the archdiocese last month, after two other former altar boys accused him of sexually abusing them in the 1970s.

"For years, the archdiocese knew of allegations of abuse made against this priest and didn't do anything other than launch their own internal investigation that cleared him," said attorney Joel Magolnick, who is representing Matias along with attorney Jane Moscowitz.

According to the suit, Matias became an altar boy at San Isidro in 1988, after his family moved to Florida from New York.

The alleged abuse by Castellanos, the suit said, began with the priest requesting back rubs and progressed to overnight stays during which the boy would wake up to find the priest masturbating and fondling him.

The abuse occurred as often as three times a week for up to seven weeks, Matias' lawyer said Thursday. Matias said in the suit that he never reported the allegations against Castellanos to anyone.

The suit also detailed one episode of alleged abuse in December 1988 by the man Matias knew as Father Arnulfo. They were in a car alone after an archdiocese-sponsored Christmas event in Miami.

At a stoplight, Arnulfo reached over, unzipped Matias' pants and began to fondle him, the suit said. Matias was "in shock and unsure what to do," but the priest, seeing the boy's reaction, stopped fondling him, the suit said.

The following morning, the priest allegedly gave Matias $300 to buy gifts for his relatives, telling him to remain silent because what happened was "normal amongst Latin men," according to the suit.

The ex-altar boy said in the suit that he reported the incident to a church official named "Deacon Bernard," who assured Matias that "the matter would be taken care of."

The next day, Arnulfo was transferred out of the parish, the suit said.

Matias' attorney said he has not yet been able to obtain the full name of the deacon.

Also Thursday, the archdiocese said that Father Doherty has been placed on administrative leave from his Margate church, St. Vincent.

The archdiocese issued a statement: "While conducting a review of our files, an accusation of an incident in excess of 20 years ago came to our attention. In accordance with our policy, Father Doherty was placed on administrative leave pending investigation."

Doherty's attorney, Kristin A. West, said his absence was "not related to pedophilia."

 
 

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