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Ex-Student's Lawsuit Accuses Priest of Rape

Sep 6, 2003 | South Florida Sun-Sentinel The Rev. Neil Doherty has been accused in a lawsuit by a former student at St. Anthony Catholic School in Fort Lauderdale of drugging and raping the youth more than a dozen times in 1976, when he was 12.

Doherty, now pastor of St. Vincent Catholic Church in Margate, has been on administrative leave since spring of 2002, said Mary Ross Agosta, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami. She would not comment Friday on why Doherty, 60, was placed on leave. Three calls to his home telephone number went unanswered Friday.

A woman who answered the phone Friday at St. Anthony hung up on a reporter when asked to speak to someone about Doherty. The office at St. Vincent was closed Friday.

Hollywood attorney Jeffrey Herman filed suit Thursday in Broward Circuit Court against the archdiocese and St. Anthony School, but Doherty was not named as a defendant. He served at St. Anthony from 1974 to 1978.

The suit accuses the archdiocese of knowing about the alleged sexual abuse and doing nothing to stop it. Agosta said the archdiocese has not seen the lawsuit and she could not comment on the allegations.

The suit is among about 25 civil complaints against the archdiocese and its clergy in the past year, Agosta said. Most suits accuse the archdiocese of concealing sexual abuse.

In the latest case, the plaintiff, identified only as "John Doe," now 39 and living in Broward, has never reported the allegations to Broward prosecutors, his attorneys said. Even so, the archdiocese will report them as part of its abuse procedures and offer help to the alleged victim, Agosta said.

According to the lawsuit:

"John Doe" began going to St. Anthony in the Victoria Park neighborhood in 1973. When he was in fifth grade, Doherty began counseling him for emotional problems. The next year, Doherty introduced the student to marijuana and they smoked it in the school rectory.

The pastor also tried to "mentally program the student to make him receptive to his sexual advances" by telling stories that "demonize women" and praise homosexual acts.

The sex happened in the summer between sixth and seventh grade, when Doherty insisted on sleepovers with the student. "Doherty would get prescriptions of Quaaludes, Valium and other psychotropic drugs with prescriptions issued in the name of deceased priests. Doherty forced [the boy] to take these pills," the suit said.

Doherty told the boy he liked him so much that he brought him to meet his mother at her Palm Beach County apartment, where they first had sex. But the mother was never there. On at least 10 occasions, Doherty took the student to an apartment behind a St. Anthony parishioner's house. Another time, he took the student to a Palm Beach hotel.

Each time, the pastor gave the student drugs, including prescription pills and marijuana. The student passed out and awakened to find his clothes disheveled. One time, the student awoke to find Doherty on top of him, but he was too weak from the drugs to resist.

The student never told anyone about the alleged assaults, which Doherty said were secret because they had a "doctor-patient relationship," the suit said. Doherty also told the boy that the Catholic Church supported the sexual acts committed on him.

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