The Miami Herald
Fri, May. 14, 2004

Fifth person accuses ex-priest of abuse

A former refugee filed suit against the Archdiocese of Miami, alleging that a priest sexually abused him in 1984 after he arrived from Nicaragua and needed help seeking asylum.


A Nicaraguan immigrant on Thursday filed suit against the Archdiocese of Miami, becoming the fifth person to accuse a now-defrocked priest of sexually abusing refugee boys in the 1970s and '80s.

The 33-year-old accuser, identified as John Doe, claimed church leaders knew the Rev. Ernesto Garcia-Rubio had a history of sexual misconduct and should not have hired him.

The Miami-Dade Circuit Court suit included confidential church documents that showed the late Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll had been advised years earlier that Garcia-Rubio had been ''forced to leave Cuba because of serious difficulties of a moral nature (homosexuality).'' However, the 1968 letter from the Vatican's apostolic delegate to the United States did not detail Garcia-Rubio's problems in Cuba or suggest they were related to pedophilia.

The archdiocese did its own background check, found no evidence of wrongdoing and made Garcia-Rubio the spiritual director of Immaculata-LaSalle High School in Coconut Grove in 1970.

Five years later, Garcia-Rubio was assigned to Our Lady of Divine Providence in Sweetwater, where he later became pastor.

In the suit, the plaintiff claimed Garcia-Rubio raped him in 1984, when he was a 13-year-old refugee seeking the priest's help in applying for asylum.

Since the national clergy sex-abuse scandal broke in 2002, Garcia-Rubio, 67, has been implicated in four other negligence suits against the archdiocese. So far, two of the lawsuits have been settled out of court for $75,000 each.

''He has no business being a priest,'' said attorney Jeffrey Herman, who has filed all but one of the cases against the archdiocese involving Garcia-Rubio. ``He belongs in jail.''

In 1988, Garcia-Rubio was removed as pastor amid claims he sexually abused several Latin American refugee boys. In 1994, the Vatican defrocked him.

Garcia-Rubio has been living in Costa Rica since late 2001, according to people familiar with his whereabouts.

In a statement released Thursday, the archdiocese said Garcia-Rubio has not been associated with the local Catholic Church for 15 years and declined to comment on the new suit's allegations.