A former homeless immigrant from El Salvador sued a Roman Catholic priest and the Archdiocese of Miami, contending he was sexually abused when he sought shelter more than a decade ago.
The 35-year-old man, called Juan FR Doe in the complaint filed Tuesday, said the Rev. Ernesto Garcia Rubio sexually abused him at Our Lady of Divine Providence Catholic Church after he immigrated illegally in 1984.
The two-count civil lawsuit contends that the Juan FR Doe suffered emotional distress, humiliation, loss of self-esteem and psychological injuries as a result of sexual battery and negligence.
“He was a thousand miles from his family and this priest preyed upon him at his most vulnerable time,” said Patrick Noaker, a St. Paul, Minnesota, lawyer representing the unnamed plaintiff from South Florida.
Lawyers said the man, who was 16 at the time, was raped once by the priest at the church shelter. The lawsuit claims that the priest “engaged in unpermitted and harmful sexual contact” upon the plaintiff.
Noaker said the teen-ager had fled hardship in El Salvador and asked for help at the church. After the incident, the teen reported the abuse to both the parish and the archdiocese, then kept silent because he was told by the archdiocese that he could be deported if he made the claim.
Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. Agosta said Garcia is no longer a priest in the archdiocese.
Russell Adler, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer also representing the man, said Garcia is now believed to live in South Florida and no longer serves as a priest.
Juan DelCastillo, a county police spokesman, said authorities have an open criminal investigation of sexual abuse against Garcia pending since the 1980s. He declined to elaborate. Agosta said she was unaware of the investigation.
There are currently six sex abuse suits against priests and the Miami archdiocese — five of them filed during the past month.
The archdiocese acknowledged last week that seven South Florida priests have been suspended and four others have retired since 1998 because of sex abuse allegations against them.