Exiled Texas cleric faces new allegation, removal

Houston Chronicle/November 14, 2003
By Evan Moore

An additional accuser has come forward to say that he was molested by expatriate Texas priest Father Alfredo Prado, now a member of a Costa Rican religious cult.

That accusation comes as the Oblate Fathers, Prado's religious order, have served final notice on the 73-year-old priest that he is about to be removed from the priesthood.

Prado, former pastor of St. Timothy's Catholic Church in San Antonio, became a fugitive from the Oblate Fathers earlier this year when he defied orders to enter a retirement home. Instead, he left the United States and joined a reputedly violent Central American doomsday group.

The priest, who is legally blind and has had a series of heart surgeries, has become the chief celebrant and a ward of the Reina y Señora de Todo la Creado, which translates as "The Queen and Lady of All Creation."

The group, thought to include about 50 members, has been accused of threatening several persons, and attacking and severely beating one Costa Rican priest who criticized them. It is led by Juan Pablo Delgado, a 24-year-old "visionary" who claims to receive messages from the Virgin Mary. Sometimes called "the Virgin Cult" in San Isidro de Grecia, about 20 miles northwest of San Jose, it maintains its "sanctuary" there on several acres.

Among the communications Delgado reportedly claims to have received are messages that the world will end around the end of December, that Pope John Paul II will be assassinated and that Delgado will assume leadership of the Catholic Church.

The group, which has ties to Texas, remained obscure until September, when it came to the attention of Bruce Harris, director of the Central American child welfare agency Casa Alianza, a branch of New York's Covenant House. Harris, who received reports that youths were being sexually molested in the group, contacted Costa Rican authorities.

Those authorities, however, have said there is little they can do without direct evidence that boys are being molested and as long as the youths are placed in the sanctuary by their parents.

One of Harris' primary concerns was Prado.

Prado had been stripped of all clerical authority in 1991, after he differed with the Oblates over theological matters and after he was accused of molesting boys. The Oblates will neither confirm nor deny that Prado was disciplined for molesting boys, though Prado has confirmed that he was accused of such behavior and vehemently denied the accusations.

In June 2002, Ricardo Salinas, 50, wrote the Oblates, accusing Prado of molesting him in San Antonio in 1967, when Salinas was 14, a charge Prado has denied as well.

Now, however, another 50-year-old man, Mike Huerta of San Antonio, has accused Prado of a similar act. Huerta, who read of Prado in the Chronicle, said he contacted the newspaper when he recognized his former priest's name and photograph.

"It was around September 1965, " said Huerta. "I was 12 and my brother was 10, and our father had passed away earlier that year."

Huerta said his mother sent her sons to Prado for instruction for their First Communion.

"Our father had passed away without ever making his First Communion, and my mom didn't want the same thing happening to us," Huerta said.

On two occasions, after the instruction sessions had ended, said Huerta, Prado sent Huerta's younger brother out of the building, then told Huerta he wanted him to try on clothes that Prado was collecting for "the poor people of Mexico."

Huerta said the priest had him strip naked and then try on used underwear while Prado fondled him under the guise of checking the fit. Subsequently, he said, the priest asked him probing sexual questions in the confessional.

Years later, said Huerta, in 1970 or 1971, Prado asked him into the rectory, where he showed Huerta slides of a fair through a View Master. Huerta said the priest had him lie on the priest's bed, looking through the viewer toward the light, then attempted to molest him.

Huerta said he managed to slip away from Prado and left.

"I told my mother, and she wouldn't or couldn't believe me," said Huerta. "I never tried to report it to any authority, but what I said is true."

"I thought about suing once, back around 1990. I called a couple of lawyers, but they weren't very interested, and I just blew it off."

Prado could not be reached for comment on Huerta's accusation, though the priest declared in a recent interview at the sanctuary that "I've never molested any boy."

In the meantime, Father Patrick Guidon, director of the Oblates in San Antonio, said an emissary had been sent to Costa Rica to serve Prado with official and final notice that he was being expelled from the order.

"He (the emissary) spoke to Father Prado and to Delgado," said Guidon. "He said Delgado insisted on giving him a message from the Virgin."

"He said it was `scary.' "

That message was to leave the group and Prado alone.

According to reports, between 20 and 30 teenage boys, most of whom are said to be from Texas, recently arrived in San Isidro de Grecia. Those youths are reportedly dressed as monks, in black cassocks and scapulae, and are said to be busily digging a series of bunkers at the rear of the sanctuary.

The bunkers are said to be for food, in preparation for the Armageddon that Delgado has prophesied for the end of December.

Another U.S. priest, Monsignor Richard Louis Carroll of Mississippi, recently visited the sanctuary while writing a book about religious apparitions. Carroll said he believes Delgado receives messages from the Virgin Mary. The monsignor also said he was not aware of bunkers being dug, and he took issue with descriptions of the group as a "cult" or as "dangerous."

"This is an oasis of peace," he said. "These are kind, loving, decent people. None of these youths are here under duress."

Carroll conceded, however, that he speaks no Spanish, had no conversations with any of the boys or with many of the cult members, and did not venture into the area where the youths are reportedly digging.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.