Suspended Pastor Still Fights Allegations
A Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse Sends Letters, Trying to Clear His Name

By Alexandra Alter and Jay Weaver
Miami Herald [Miami FL]
July 17, 2005

When the Rev. Alvaro Guichard became pastor of St. Francis de Sales in 1984, South Beach was one of the poorest areas in Miami Beach. The neighborhood consisted of mostly low-income Hispanic immigrants.

During his nearly 20 years as pastor, Guichard, a former political prisoner in Cuba, opened the church's doors to the poor and welcomed refugees from the Mariel boatlift.

"He was very good with all the people," said Silvia Concha, a parishioner since 1988 and a former parish secretary.

But Guichard -- publicly disgraced by allegations that he sexually abused five boys in the 1970s and early 1980s -- now spends time writing letters of protest to the Miami-Dade state attorney's office, the Archdiocese of Miami and the Vatican that he is innocent.

In May 2002, the archdiocese suspended Guichard as the pastor of St. Francis after charges of sexual abuse emerged.

Guichard was reinstated to St. Francis in August 2003 after the Miami-Dade state attorney's office informed the archdiocese that no criminal charges would be filed against him. He was suspended again several months later when new accusations arose.

Five men have alleged that they were molested as boys by Guichard when he was at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Four of the civil cases were settled by the archdiocese; no criminal charges were filed, as prosecutors concluded that the statute of limitations had expired. The Miami-Dade state attorney's office is investigating the fifth accusation, said Assistant State Attorney David Maer.

Guichard, 65, says he is angry at the archdiocese for removing him without holding a canon tribunal, a closed-door trial that requires the Vatican's approval.

Guichard still receives his salary and is on administrative leave, said Mary Ross Agosta, an archdiocese spokeswoman. No date has been set for the canon tribunal, she said.

And Guichard still has supporters at the parish.

"I don't believe none of what they say about him. I respect him. He's a good guy," said Alberto Galban, 33, who was baptized by Guichard at St. Francis and lives in Lakeland.

Nilda Jimenez, 76, a parishioner for 20 years, said she doesn't believe the accusations.

"I've known him for many years," she said. "He's trying to do good for the world. He's a very sweet person."