Suit Charges Sex Abuse by Priest
Man Says Cleric Working in Venice Diocese Implied He Would Be Deported

By Todd Ruger
September 23, 2007

Sarasota County — A 42-year-old Cuban man is accusing a priest who worked in the Diocese of Venice of sexually abusing him under threats to have him deported.

The man, identified in court records only by the initials "J.G.," filed a lawsuit saying that Monsignor Priamo Tejeda-Rosario rescued him from religious persecution in Cuba, only to abuse him in the Dominican Republic and in Florida in 2005.

Tejeda left his position as former bishop of Bani in the Dominican Republic and started working in the Venice diocese nine years ago.

J.G. says Tejeda contacted him in Miami in 2005 and offered assistance in getting him a job with the Venice diocese.

But instead of driving him back to Venice, the man says that Tejeda drove him to a Broward County apartment, locked him inside and threatened to call the police if he did not have sex with him, the lawsuit states.

"His fear was that Monsignor Tejeda was going to have him deported if he complained," said Ronald Weil, the Miami-based attorney representing J.G.

Weil also said the man plans to make a report about the incident with the Broward County Sheriff's Office.

Tejeda declined to comment when reached at his Broward County residence.

"I cannot say anything about that," Tejeda said. "Call the diocese, please."

The diocese took action the day after it learned about the accusation via an April letter from Weil asking for compensation, a diocese spokeswoman said.

Per diocese policy, Bishop Frank Dewane withdrew Tejeda's priestly "faculties," or ability to act publicly as a priest, started an investigation and notified the Dominican Republic diocese, the diocese said.

Diocese attorney Fred Higham said the allegation is so new that he has not fully investigated it yet, but he does not think the Venice diocese knew about any past allegations of sexual misconduct against Tejeda.

The diocese is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, with J.G. alleging the diocese has allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to stay here, and conceals their pasts.

Tejeda was not under the authority of the Venice diocese during the stay because he was never incardinated there, Higham said. Therefore, he was still be under the authority of the Dominican Republic diocese while he worked in Venice.

J.G.'s lawsuit also accuses the Venice diocese of being a "dumping ground" for five other Dominican priests who had histories of inappropriate sexual behavior — including one active priest in the diocese.

Higham said that accusation is "blatantly untrue" and "just put in to grab headlines and prejudice the public."

The diocese had never heard of any accusations against those five priests, Higham said.

"The allegations in the complaint are too vague and speculative to act on," Higham said.

Tejeda moved to Sarasota County on a temporary assignment and received faculties for his work in the migrant mission program, Higham said.

Tejeda appeared with former Bishop John Nevins at several public events, including praying with marchers for labor rights in 2000 and celebrating the new building for St. Jude in Sarasota in May 2006.

Like other bishops across the nation, Nevins faced criticism over allowing priests who had past allegations of sexual misconduct to work in the Venice diocese.

In the case of the Rev. Edward McLoughlin, the diocese spent about $50,000 helping the accused child molester begin a new life after he fled the St. Charles Borromeo parish for Ireland.

By 2002, the diocese had spent at least $1.5 million over 18 years cleaning up after priests accused of sexual abuse, according to church figures on payments from a self-insurance fund. The actual figure may be higher.


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