The Archdiocese of Miami continues to defend embattled priest Father Rolando Garcia, who is facing a fresh accusation he used hush money to conceal another priest's abuse of an underaged boy.
That victim, now an adult, appeared before the media Thursday with attorney Jeff Herman to allege that Garcia, currently pastor at St. Agatha Catholic Church in West Miami-Dade, bought the victim's complicit silence regarding his knowledge of the repeated assaults.
"He was paying me to keep it quiet while [Fr.] Cristobal de Jesus Puertas was raping me," said the man, whose identity is being concealed. "This man is preaching to hundreds of people over there and he's wearing a mask."
Fr. Garcia has himself been accused of molesting young boys in the church. The church leader was named in previous lawsuits against the archdiocese alleging he engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with alter boys, with the most recent suit filed in September.
The current John Doe was a prior litigant in a 2010 suit againt Fr. Puertas and the Archdiocese, an action later settled out of court. NBC 6 reports that during the course of that case, the victim did not recount telling anyone of Garcia's role in his abuse.
The archdiocese continued their sustained support of Fr. Garcia, saying in a Thursday statement that Herman did not disclose "all of the facts" about the 2010 lawsuit:
"The allegations regarding Fr. Garcia were found to be inaccurate. There was a settlement involving Fr. Puertas, who is no longer a priest in the Archdiocese of Miami, but no settlement involving Fr. Garcia."
The church also pointed out that it did not make any settlements on behalf of Fr. Garcia when he was named among priests accused in a previous lawsuit filed by Herman in 2004, arguing the allegations weren't credible:
Mr. Herman knows that when that lawsuit was settled, all allegations against Fr. Garcia were deemed not credible. Accordingly, the agreement reached with Mr. Herman at that time specifically identified that none of the settlement funds were related to accusations against Fr. Garcia.
Fr. Garcia continues to lead his congregation at St. Agatha despite vehement calls by some parents and parishioners for his dismissal -- or at least a transfer to a parish that doesn't have a school attached.
“I’ve been at St. Agatha now since 2003 and this is the third accusation against this priest," parent Lydia Dopico told NBC6 last month, before the most recent accusations. "It just doesn't leave me with a good feeling at all.”