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MIAMI – Lawyers representing an alleged victim of sex abuse claim the Vatican instructed church officials in Florida to shelter a priest from Cuba who was later accused of pedophilia.
Attorney Jessica Arbour, who represents an alleged victim of the Rev. Ernesto Garcia-Rubio, released a 1968 letter from the Vatican to the Archdiocese of Miami, stating the cleric had been forced to leave Cuba “because of serious difficulties of a moral nature (homosexuality).”
Arbour contends that the wording of the letter was used at the time as code for pedophilia, though archdiocese officials disputed that.
The claims come during a new wave of questions about the Roman Catholic church’s response to sexual abuse allegations in Ireland and Germany, and about the roles Pope Benedict XVI played when he was an archbishop in his native Germany and then prefect of the Vatican’s moral watchdog office.
“I think it means exactly what it says,” Miami archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said of the Vatican’s reference to homosexuality. “And certainly homosexuality does not equate to child predators.”
The letter goes on to state that the archbishop of Miami “will wish to have this information so that whatever steps are necessary may be taken to protect this priest with your accustomed paternal charity.”
Arbour says the priest was put in a position where he was “literally fed victims,” often unaccompanied children who came as refugees from Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Arbour said the priest would take the children in, and that he would require them to have sexual contact with him.
If the child refused, Garcia-Rubio would threaten to deport them, Arbour said.
“He was given access to a very vulnerable population that had a constant stream of potential victims,” she said.
Garcia-Rubio left to work in Honduras in the 1980s, at which time letters were sent to the bishop there expressing concern about the priest’s behavior, Agosta said.
The priest voluntarily withdrew from the priesthood in 1999, Agosta said. His current location was not immediately clear.
Benedict is not specifically named in any of the documents, but Arbour notes he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith between 1981 and 2005. In that role, Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, could have taken action to defrock, or remove Garcia-Rubio from the priesthood, Arbour said.
“There’s 20 years of opportunities for Ratzinger to stop him and he didn’t,” Arbour said.
Garcia-Rubio first petitioned the Vatican to remove him from the priesthood – which is called being laicized – in 1994, a request that would have fallen under Benedict’s jurisdiction as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Arbour said.
“Six years later, he still hadn’t been laicized,” Arbour said. “It was because they had lost the paperwork in Rome.”
Garcia-Rubio later filed the petition again and it was granted.
Arbour does not have any evidence Garcia-Rubio abused children after he first entered his petition.
Agosta said the 1968 letter came from the Apostolic Nuncio because there was no communication with churches in Cuba at the time, nine years after the revolution in which Fidel Castro took power.
“The only reason the Vatican was involved in that particular time in 1968 was because the priests were removed by Fidel Castro out of Cuba,” Agosta said.
Associated Press – March 31, 2010
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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