Priest accused in sixth lawsuit


Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 10:54 p.m.

MIAMI — A man who says a former Roman Catholic priest sexually abused him as a teenager sued the Archdiocese of Miami for at least $25 million Wednesday, raising the number of lawsuits involving the ex-cleric to at least six.

The 21-year-old man, identified in the complaint as John Doe No. 28, alleges that Father Neil Doherty sexually abused him while Doherty served as pastor at St. Vincent Catholic Church in Broward County, which falls under the archdiocese's jurisdiction.

Doherty — who was charged last year with several counts of child molestation — befriended the boy when he was 14 in 1999, according to the lawsuit. After a "quick grooming process" tThe pastor began sexually abusing Doe in various locations, including Doherty's car and in the bedroom of the St. Vincent rectory, said Jeffrey Herman, Doe's attorney.

Doherty gave the boy an undisclosed amount of money after each molestation, Herman said. The Circuit Court lawsuit is one of at least six that allege inappropriate behavior between young boys and Doherty, some alleging abuse dating back almost 30 years.

The archdiocese was notified as early as 1979 in a letter that Doherty abused a 16-year-old boy, offering drugs and money in exchange for sex, Herman said. In a 1992 letter addressed to then-Archbishop Edward McCarthy, one parent wrote: "Our son was given drugs — Quaaludes, in excess — and then raped by Father Neil Doherty."

Still, the archdiocese didn't dismiss or reprimand Doherty, but kept him in positions that put him in contact with children, the lawsuit alleges.

"This isn't a case where the archdiocese can say, 'Oh, that was back in the '70s. We've learned a lot since then,"' Herman said. "This happened in 1999 with a priest who the archdiocese already knew for three decades was already abusing children."

The archdiocese said on its Web site that it was not aware of this newest charge "until after it was reported in the media."

"If the allegation is true, a great sin has been committed; such behavior is never acceptable for any member of the church," the statement said.

Law enforcement authorities have been notified about the latest allegations, archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said.

A spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Police Department's Sexual Crimes Bureau refused to comment on any ongoing investigations involving Doherty.

Doherty retired in 2002 and is not permitted to wear clerical garb, celebrate the sacraments or have any assignments, Agosta said.

Doherty's attorney, David Bogenschutz, did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment.

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