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New Lawsuit Against Archdiocese of Miami for Abuse by O’Farrill

Jeff: My name is Jeff Herman with the law firm of Herman, Mermelstein, and Horowitz. I’m here today to announce the filing of another lawsuit against the archdiocese of Miami. This lawsuit deals with allegations against a priest who is celebrated in the history of the archdiocese of Miami, a father Ramon O’Farrill. And this street has actually been named after- behind me- father O’Farrill. The allegations in this lawsuit are that Alejandro Mora, who’s with me here today from Nicaragua, Alejandro was abused by a priest in Nicaragua. And he alleges, in this complaint, that when he came to Miami at 15 years old, he sought refuge and counselling in his church, Saint Michael the Arch Angel. That is where he met father O’Farrill. He met father O’Farrill, he asked him for counselling and for help in dealing with the pain he had encountered as a result of being sexually abused, previously. According to the allegations here, father O’Farrill took Alejandro, 15 years old, into the confessional where he talked to him and then invited him into the rectory for further counselling. Once into the rectory…

Barbara: Can you say all that over again [inaudible 00:01:14]

Man 1: [inaudible 00:01:15]

Jeff: Oh, yeah. Sure, sure. I’ll just go back the sentence there .The allegations in the lawsuit are that Alejandro met father O’Farrill when he went to the church, Saint Michael Arch Angel, to get counselling for the sexual abuse he encountered while in Nicaragua. Father O’Farrill took him into the confessional where they discussed different things, including the abuse. And then O’Farrill invited him into the rectory. Once in the rectory, father O”Farril gave Alejandro, who was 15 years old, some orange juice. He put some alcohol in it, gave him a couple drinks, and then he sexually assaulted him.

Barbara: Can you take your sun glasses off?

Jeff: Yeah. Father O’Farrill is known in Miami as a anti-Castro priest who is very vocal. What we didn’t know, is we just actually learned, that he actually was arrested in 1993 as a result of being accused of giving false testimony in a criminal case on behalf of a perpetrator, an alleged criminal who accused father O’Farrill of giving this false testimony in exchange for sexual favors. That man was 19 years old at the time. So with me today is Alejandro, who is very brave for stepping forward. I wanna add that it’s important, when victims are brave enough to step forward, that this is the best way to protect children in the future is to expose predators and those institutions that cover for them. Also with me today is Barbara Blaine from SNAP who did wanna make a few brief comments. But first, I’m going to let Alejandro come step up to the mic and talk. Alejandro.

Alejandro: The reason why I have come forward…

Barbara: Just tell them your name first.

Alejandro: My name is Alejandro Mora and the reason…

Barbara: Spell it for them.

Alejandro: Is A-L-E-J-A-N-D-R-O, last name Mora, M-O-R-A. And the reason why I have decided to come forward is because I want to protect any prospect victims that may be out there. And also to tell anybody who was abused by father O”Farrill that they’re not alone. There has been other people also that have been abused. Actually, I was seeking help when I came to father O’Farrill and he did quite the opposite.

Jeff: Okay.

Alejandro: Thank you.

Jeff: Okay. Anyone have any questions?

Man 2: Yeah. When all this occurred, what was going through your mind? You knew it wasn’t right?

Alejandro: Well, I came to him for help and I explained to him what had happened in Nicaragua and he told me that I look very shaken up and I needed to calm down. And I thought that he was gonna help me figure out, you know, what was going on, give me some counselling. However, instead of doing that he got me drunk and then he abused me.

Man 3: And you were just too scared to report him?

Alejandro: Well, I don’t know if you know that, but when victims are sexually abused it’s almost like you’re powerless. Your mind just wanders. It’s like it leaves your body, you’re just not you. And then you realize until afterwords what happens, and then for that reason I decided to not seek anymore help from the church and left the church for good.

Jeff: And before we move on to the next question I’m gonna let him just repeat what he said in Spanish.

Alejandro: [foreign language]

Woman 1: [foreign language]

Jeff: What’s the question? In English.

Alejandro: Okay. What is the reason why I took so long to come out.

Jeff: You can answer.

Alejandro: [foreign language]

Jeff: Okay. And then…

[inaudible 00:06:58]

Alejandro: Okay. I was just saying in Spanish that the reason why I came out and spoke in public is because I want for other victims that may have been abused to know that they are not alone. And also, for the people in Nicaragua to know that they have a pedophile named Monsignor Javier Ortega there that may be putting kids in danger and may have, in the last 20 years, put a lot of people through the same thing that he put me through.

Man 4: Repeat the part where, why it took you so long to come out. Explain that, the shame and everything you felt.

Jeff: I’m gonna let Barbara…

Alejandro: Okay. It took me so long to come out because there’s a lot of shame involved in this. You know, you don’t wanna just come out and tell people that this happened to you. especially when you’re a male. And it has got so many psychological issues that I decided to come ahead and just say it, because there might be other victims that may be in the same case that they’re afraid to come out and they might have had the same problem that I had. And also, to protect the prospective victims in Nicaragua that may be in danger by this priest or may have been abused by this priest in the last 20 years.

Jeff: Okay. Barbara, I’m going to let Barbara from SNAP say something.

Barbara: My names’s Barbara Blaine, B-L-A-I-N-E, and I am president of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. And I think it’s time for archbishop Wenski to step up and do the right thing. There is no reason why father O’Farrill’s name is on a streeet sign, and why he’s being held out as a hero in a city when archbishop Wenski knows of allegations against him. It’s time for archbishop Wenski to come clean. He says that he’s committed to the bishop’s policy which has a commitment to openness and transparency, yet he does everything in his power to keep the dirty secrets hidden. We say, “What’s in those files that archbishop Wenski is holding so close? Why wont he expose the truth?” The truth is what will enable victims to find healing and it will protect children. It’s time for the secrecy and the cover up to end. And we want archbishop Wenski to come clean now and we want him to do all he can to have this sign honoring father O’Farrill removed.

Woman 2: Can you explain the picture you have there? You’re holding photographs of what?

Barbara: I’m holding photos of children who were sexually abused by priests. All of the photos are people who are adults today and they have given permission for their pictures to be used. So, they are all members of SNAP.

Male 5: What does SNAP stand for again?

Barbara: SNAP is Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. And our website is snapnetwork.org, snapnetwork.org.

Jeff: Yes. Yeah. Any more… we can take specific questions now. All righty, thank you everybody.

Barbara: Thank you.