Letter Details Complaints about Priest

By Jay Weaver
Miami Herald
July 3, 2002

Two men are accusing suspended St. Brendan Church pastor Jose Nickse of molesting them in the 1980s when one was an altar boy and the other a young parishioner, according to a complaint letter sent to the Archdiocese of Miami.

The two accusers claim the prominent priest fondled them at restaurants, in a racquet club Jacuzzi and in the rectory when they attended the Southwest Miami-Dade church, the letter says.

The unidentified men, now 35 and 31, allege Nickse "fondled" their genitals between 1982 and 1985, according to the letter. One youth was between 16 and 18, and the younger boy was between 12 and 14, at the time of the alleged abuse.

"Both are permanently scarred from the abuse and feel compelled to come forward now to stand up for themselves," attorney Jeffrey Herman wrote the archdiocese in a June 21 letter, a precursor to a lawsuit unless both parties can settle.

Herman said he is going public now because church leaders did not respond by his Friday deadline. He said he plans to sue Nickse and the archdiocese. Nickse was unavailable for comment. So was his lawyer, Douglas McIntosh, who was on vacation. In the past, McIntosh predicted the legal action against his client would not stand up in court because the statute of limitations expired.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said the church will vigorously investigate any claim.

"Any time any allegation is brought to our attention is a sad time for the church," she said. "However, we take every allegation seriously."

The new allegations closely follow a lawsuit filed Friday by another former St. Brendan's altar boy against the 55-year-old priest. That accuser, who is 35 and living outside South Florida, accused Nickse of molesting him in several of the same locations in the early 1980s.

The archdiocese placed Nickse on administrative leave June 4 after church officials had received a complaint from the ex-altar boy who sued on Friday.

Under church policy, a four-member lay committee appointed by Archbishop John C. Favalora is investigating recent child sex-abuse complaints against Nickse and other priests. Since 1998, the archdiocese says, at least 12 priests have retired or been placed on administrative leave because of molestation complaints. Prosecutors in Miami-Dade and Broward County are reviewing those and other complaints turned over by the archdiocese.

Nickse is one of the most high-profile priests to be suspended in South Florida since the clergy sex-abuse scandal erupted. Pastor of St. Brendan since 1982, Nickse helped build one of the area's largest parishes; its congregation numbers 4,500. After his suspension, Nickse wrote parishioners a June 5 letter about the first ex-altar boy's complaint.

"This is the most difficult message I have had to share with you in the past 21 years," the pastor wrote in English and Spanish. "I have been accused of sexual misconduct. . . . It will be painful to be away from you. I want to assure you that my conscience is clear. This allegation is totally unfounded."

Parishioners and altar servers have placed a bilingual white-and-red banner across the front of the church: "We support Father Nickse, community of St. Brendan."

"There are hundreds and hundreds of kids around him all the time," said Mari Faraldo, mother of two altar servers at St. Brendan. "I know for a fact that all these kids around him have never suffered anything."


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