Top church officials in Miami, warned of a pedophile priest, not only offered to "protect" him, but also put him in charge of a boy's dormitory, where he molested a young Nicaraguan immigrant, a lawsuit claimed Thursday.
The suit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court against the Archdiocese of Miami by a sole claimant, "John Doe," said the church was negligent in covering up for the Rev. Ernesto Garcia-Rubio and allowing him to have contact with young boys.
Church officials countered that the case is decades old, and the priest is no longer affiliated with the archdiocese.
Garcia-Rubio, now defrocked and in hiding in Central America, came to Miami from Cuba in 1968, according to the suit. Shortly thereafter, Coleman Carroll, then archbishop, received a letter from Luigi Raimondi, the Vatican's delegate to the United States.
Garcia-Rubio, the letter said, was "forced to leave Cuba because of serious difficulties of a moral nature [homosexuality]."
Three days later Carroll responded to Raimondi. "I assure you that I will do what I can in every way to protect him," the archbishop wrote.
"Not only did they look the other way, but they offered to protect this priest," said Jeffrey Herman, the Hollywood lawyer representing the victim and 18 other individuals suing the archdiocese in separate cases over abuse allegations.
In the '70s, the archdiocese quietly investigated Garcia-Rubio's relationships with boys. Though no evidence of impropriety was found, Herman said this was further proof church officials knew of the priest's tendencies.
In the early '80s, Garcia-Rubio was put in charge of a home for Cuban boys who had come over in the Mariel Boatlift. In 1984, Doe, then a 14-year-old fresh from Nicaragua, came to Garcia-Rubio for help with immigration paperwork.
The priest assisted the boy into the night, told him he must stay over, then raped him in the rectory of Our Lady of Divine Providence Church in Sweetwater, according to the suit. Garcia-Rubio assaulted the boy again the next day, threatening deportation if the teen spoke out.
"At the time, I couldn't defend myself," the victim said in an interview from Herman's office, where the suit was announced. "I was just a ... boy coming from a different country."
The episode caused depression and alcohol and drug abuse, said the victim, who came forward last year after seeing news of other assaults by priests. "I don't believe in the church and the system any more," he said.
In 1988, Garcia-Rubio fled the country after separate allegations of abuse were raised against him. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office did not pursue charges against him at the time, citing a lack of victims. Since then, however, at least four other men have come forward to say they were assaulted by the priest.
Spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta, in a prepared statement, said the archdiocese will respond to this new allegation "in the appropriate legal forums."
"The accused is no longer a priest nor has been associated with the Archdiocese of Miami for 15 years," Agosta wrote. "As always, our prayers and concerns are extended to any victims of sexual abuse and those accused."