Archdiocese: Sex-Abuse Claim 'Credible'

By Lona O'Connor
Palm Beach Post [Florida]
October 18, 2006

A former altar boy has accused two Miami-area priests of molesting him at a boys' camp at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary near Boynton Beach in the early 1980s. The accusations are part of a lawsuit seeking $25 million from the Archdiocese of Miami, its Archbishop John Favalora and the Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul.

One of the two accused priests, Gustavo Miyares, was the long-standing pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Hialeah. He resigned Oct. 6, the same day archdiocesan officials confronted him with the allegations, said archdiocesan spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.

She called the allegations against the 59-year-old Miyares "credible."

Archdiocesan officials received a letter outlining the allegations Oct. 4 and phoned the alleged victim within an hour, Agosta said. An archdiocesan official flew to his hometown to meet him and his wife and to offer psychological and spiritual counseling. In his letter and in the face-to-face meeting, the man made no demands and did not mention any plans to sue the archdiocese. Agosta said there was no warning of the lawsuit before she heard about it Tuesday.

During a news conference Tuesday at Immaculate Conception, attorney Jeff Herman read a statement from the alleged victim, who described himself as an altar boy at two parishes. He had hoped to become a priest.

After what he alleges Miyares and a second priest, Pedro Jove, did to him, "part of me inside would die forever," he said.

"I am done running and I am taking back control of my life. I lived with the pain for 25 years. My life was torn apart emotionally," he wrote in his statement. "I used to pray every night that I wouldn't wake up. The only thing that I have left is the truth. I hope the truth will set me free."

The alleged victim, now 39, said he was 14 to 15 years old when first invited to attend summer camp at the seminary, which then was in a wooded area off Military Trail. He met Miyares, "Father Gus," the first week there and said Miyares took an immediate interest in him.

By the second week, Miyares had begun sexually abusing him at the camp, including mutual fondling, oral sex and ultimately sodomy, the lawsuit claims. Miyares and Jove, who was at the seminary from August 1985 to August 1986, plied the teen, identified only as "John Doe 25," with alcohol, the lawsuit says.

After that first summer, Miyares and Jove made friends with the victim's family and took him on weekend trips, which pleased the boy's family, the suit says. On the trips, the boy stayed at church rectories, including St. Timothy in Miami, and a condominium in the Florida Keys. Other boys were invited on the trips, the suit says.

The suit claims that the archdiocese and the seminary knew about Miyares' and Jove's sexual proclivities from the 1980s and continued to let the priests have access to boys. The archdiocese told Miyares to conceal his sexual abuses, the suit claims.

The suit also claims that the archdiocese followed a pattern of covering up allegations of sexual abuse, based on a 1962 Vatican order to all bishops that allegations were to be kept in the "strictest" secrecy and threatening violators of the policy with excommunication.

The archdiocese, which governed the area before five-county Palm Beach Diocese was formed in 1984, has followed rules for allegations of sexual abuse that U.S. Catholic bishops set down in 2002, Agosta said. The archdiocese has complied with those rules, or exceeded them, during its last three audits by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, she said.

The archdiocese relieved Miyares of his priestly faculties. He is effectively barred from practicing in any other Catholic diocese because he can do so only if he provides a letter that he is a priest in good standing. Jove has not had priestly faculties for about 20 years, Agosta said. She said there had not been any previous allegations against Jove or Miyares.

The summer camp, which began in 1979 at the seminary, was described as a "unique camp experience," a six-week session for boys 11 to 17, including physical and spiritual enrichment, according to a 1985 Miami Herald article. The boys played sports, swam and bowled, among other activities. The camp boasted a 60 percent return rate.

"It's a wonderfully strange experience," said the Rev. Pablo Navarro, who ran the camp in 1985. "When Saturday morning comes and it's time for them to leave, I have to gently start kicking them out."

Miyares was ordained in 1973 in Miami. He was associate pastor at St. John Bosco parish in Miami between 1975 and 1979. In 1983, Miyares, was appointed administrator of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Miami Beach. He was 36, younger than most to hold such a position, but his friend, Bishop Agustin Roman, told The Miami Herald the archdiocese's choice was a good one.

Miyares, who had two aunts who were nuns in Puerto Rico, also was vocations director for the archdiocese and chaplain of the Miami Serra Club, a men's organization promoting vocations to the priesthood.

In 2002, Miyares was part of a group who supported his seminary classmate, Jose Nickse, who was accused of molesting another former altar boy. Nickse is now dead.

Herman, John Doe's attorney, has represented about 30 victims of sexual abuse by priests, including Nickse's alleged victims.

Staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.


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