Suit Claims Two Priests Sexually Abused Teen

By Jay Weaver and Alfonso Chardy
Miami Herald
October 17, 2006

A former altar boy who once thought of becoming a Roman Catholic priest claims he was sexually abused by two priests in the Archdiocese of Miami in the early 1980s and that church officials covered up the assaults -- even after the clergy sex-abuse scandal erupted four years ago.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the former Miami-Dade resident claims that when he was a teen, the Revs. Gustavo Miyares and Pedro Jove sexually assaulted him at a Palm Beach County seminary, a Miami rectory and a condominium in the Keys.

The accuser's lawyer scheduled a news conference for this afternoon in front of Miyares' parish.

Miyares, 59, the longtime pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Hialeah, did not return a call for comment and his office referred questions to the Miami archdiocese. A parish receptionist told The Miami Herald that the archdiocese "has taken him out and he has resigned."

In 2000, Miyares, a popular priest in the Cuban exile community, organized a prayer vigil for rafter Elián González, urging federal authorities not to return him to Cuba. He also gave the benediction at a Hialeah Gardens memorial dedication for exile pilots shot down a decade ago by Fidel Castro's government.

Jove, 59, a former priest who runs a nonprofit Miami-Dade agency for senior citizens, told The Herald he did not want to comment about the allegations until he reviewed the evidence and spoke with a lawyer.

"I had not heard of these allegations before," said Jove, who retired from the Miami archdiocese in 1986 and formally left the priesthood a dozen years ago. "I need to see where this goes."

The Archdiocese of Miami did not immediately respond to a request for comment because spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta was unavailable.

In the aftermath of the 2002 nationwide sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, the Miami archdiocese "purged" more than a dozen active priests, asking most of them to retire for "health reasons" or to be put on "administrative leave" pending internal investigations. Miyares was not among the priests affected by those purges, nor was he among those investigated by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.

The alleged victim, identified as "John Doe No. 25" in the suit because he was a minor, accuses Miyares and Jove of sexually abusing him and other boys in 1981 and 1982 and says 'the archdiocese and the seminary had knowledge of Miyares' and Jove's history of sexual perversity and inappropriate contact with children."

In the negligence suit, the alleged victim, now 39, claims the archdiocese, Archbishop John Favalora and other church officials "actively took steps to conceal the abuse." Among the alleged offenders: the late Monsignor Gerard LaCerra, who "destroyed incriminating files," the suit says.

"The allegations that these two priests preyed on this young boy at the seminary camp and other locations are despicable," said John Doe's Aventura lawyer, Jeffrey Herman, who has sued and settled upward of 40 clergy sex-abuse cases involving the Miami archdiocese.

"But even worse, the Archdiocese of Miami has known about the allegations and taken no action," he said.

Asked how archdiocese officials knew about the alleged sexual abuse by Miyares and Jove, the attorney declined to comment.

Herman said, however, that his client brought the allegations to the attention of Miami archdiocese officials in recent weeks.

According to the suit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, John Doe claims that when he was 14 years old, he was was invited to attend summer camp in 1981 at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach.

During the first week there, he met Miyares, know as "Father Gus." The second week, he claims Miyares sexually abused him, including mutual fondling, oral sex and eventually sodomy, according to the suit.

Miyares then introduced the teen to Jove, the suit says. He took him to Jove's room, where Jove allegedly sexually assaulted him.

"Miyares and Jove groomed [the teen] by giving him special attention and alcohol," the suit says, adding that both priests continued the alleged sexual abuse in other locations.

Both priests also got to know the boy's parents, picking him up at their home and taking him out for weekends.

"[His] family was pleased that they were taking an interest in John [Doe], and believed that such mentoring by clergy would have a positive effect on him morally, spiritually and psychologically," the suit says.

In the suit, the boy said he stayed in Miami church rectories, claiming he was sexually abused by Miyares or Jove. He also said he was sexually abused by Miyares or Jove in a condo on trips to the Keys.

On another occasion, Jove allegedly took the teen with him on a trip to Boston, where the suit says the priest "gave him alcohol and marijuana and sexually abused him."

The suit also alleges that both priests "sexually abused other boys before and during the time they abused [John Doe]."


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