Lawsuit Accuses Late Priest
Man Says He Was Abused in High School
By Rafael A. Olmeda
Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale FL]
March 14, 2003
Lawyers for the Archdiocese of Miami, still grappling with a new ruling from a Miami court, learned Thursday of another lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a priest in the 1980s.
On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ronald Friedman ordered Auxiliary Bishop Austin Roman to give sworn statements in civil cases against the Rev. Ricardo Castellanos and the Rev. Alvaro Guichard. Church lawyers are reviewing Friedman's decision, which orders them to develop a plan for combined depositions by next week, said Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.
On Thursday, a Broward County man filed a complaint in Broward Circuit Court, charging that a priest at a private Catholic school got him drunk and performed oral sex on him while the man was a 17-year-old high school junior.
The man, who declined to give his name and is identified in court papers as "John B. Doe," said he repressed his memory of the incident until last year, when allegations of abuse at the Boston Archdiocese spurred an international crisis over how the Catholic Church handles priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors.
"You just want to forget it," said the 38-year-old man, speaking to reporters at the office of his lawyer, Russell Adler.
The man said his parents were going through some difficulties while he was a student at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, and the Rev. L. Yates Harris befriended him after noticing that something was wrong.
Harris, who died in 1996, was a guidance counselor at the school. Adler showed photographs of the boy wearing only shorts, and said the priest took them and wrote flattering words on the back.
The words "look at that chest and the powerful legs" were written on the back of one picture.
The man said Harris got him drunk one day in 1982 and performed oral sex on him. After that, the man said he never told anyone, and that he avoided any contact with Harris.
"Where do you go? Who do you tell?" the man said, adding that the priest was someone he trusted. "You just want to forget it."
And that's what he did, the man said. The memory of the incident was repressed for two decades, he said, until the sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church became a dominant issue in the media last year.
"I finally started getting angry about it," he said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. The man said photographs of himself and other high school students, all boys without shirts, hanging in Harris' office should have been enough to prompt an inquiry in the priest's behavior.
"It's so obvious now," he said.
Adler acknowledged that the allegations will be tough to prove 21 years after the fact without the dead priest being able to defend himself. But most sex-abuse allegations face credibility hurdles, he said, and the lawsuit may prompt other students abused by Harris to step forward, if they exist.
Agosta, the spokeswoman, could only say that the Archdiocese takes the allegations seriously, but that no one was aware of any previous abuse allegations against Harris.
In the Castellanos and Guichard cases, she could not say how long it will be before Roman will answer questions from lawyers for former altar boy Jose Currais, who accused the two men of molesting him in the 1970s.
Both priests deny the accusations.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.