Jaime Lara kept his scandalous past hidden for 25 years. During that time, he became a renowned medievalist specializing in the intersection of the arts and religion. He published numerous books and won numerous awards. He taught at Yale Divinity School for years and, more recently, at Arizona State University in Tempe.
But last week, he abruptly resigned at the university’s request. His past life and the secret he had kept about it for all of those years suddenly caught up with him.
What happened was this: The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, under pressure from victims, posted on its website the names of eight priests who had been laicized — “dispensed from the clerical state” by the Vatican — for sexually abusing children. Among the names on the list was the Rev. James Lara, also known as Jaime Lara, who served in active ministry for 19 years, from 1973 to 1992.
Lara was able to keep his past hidden for so long because the diocese refused to tell the public which priests were removed from ministry because of “credible” allegations of molesting children.
“There is no excuse for a supposedly moral institution to wait 25 years to release a pedophile priest’s name,” Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for three of the people who say they were victims of Lara during his years as a priest, told the New York Times. At least five people who reported abuse by the priest have asked for compensation, the Times reported.
Ricardo Gonzalez said the priest began sexually abusing him when he was about 11 years old. “He wanted me to kiss him, he would get on top of me, he would say you can do better than that,” Gonzelez, 48, told the Times. “He would make me touch him in his private parts.”
To date, the Diocese of Brooklyn, like many across the country, has not given a full public accounting of its predatory clergy. Instead, the names trickle out, often as a condition of legal settlements with victims.
Soon after the diocese posted its list, ASU officials asked for and received Lara’s resignation. “Jaime Lara is no longer affiliated with Arizona State University, effective Thursday,” the university said in a statement, according to the State Press, a student-run news outlet.
Lara could not be reached for comment. He came to ASU in 2013 and had been serving as a research professor with the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, which, as of early Monday, still listed his biography on its website.
“Trained as a medievalist, Prof. Lara examines hybrid artifacts and artistic creations at moments of culture contact, principally the contact that Aztecs and Incas had with a European Christian worldview,” the website said. “He is especially interested in how symbols and metaphors, both verbal and visual, mediated understanding or misunderstanding and how rituals, liturgy and theater acted as cultural bridges.”
Lara taught four courses up until the spring semester of 2016, the State Press reported. The Arizona Republic said he taught multiple upper-division art and history classes, including a new course he created titled, “Afterlife of the Apocalypse in Art, Architecture and Western Culture.”