A retired Miami priest who's already behind bars awaiting criminal trial on sexual battery charges is the subject of a new lawsuit filed Thursday that claims he drugged and sexually abused a teen boy in the 1980s.
The lawsuit, filed against the Archdiocese of Miami, claims Father Neil Doherty, 69, began the abuse when the victim, Dennis Montero, was 15 years old.
Montero, now grown, discussed his allegations against Doherty at a Thursday afternoon news conference.
“He continually gave me money,” Montero said. “He gave me $80, $50, $100, bought me beer, bought me marijuana. He would offer me money if I could bring him other kids, so that he can have sex with them.”
The Archdiocese was told by the news media about the lawsuit Thursday, church officials said.
“As always, the Catholic Church’s concerns are for the victims and a prevailing sense of justice and healing,” said Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami. “Over these past ten years, the Archdiocese has been forthcoming and taken steps to keep children safe through training and background screenings of all its employees, volunteers, clergy and teachers.”
Agosta said the Archdiocese of Miami’s policy is clear: a report is made to the State Attorney’s Office, an internal Archdiocesan Review Board reviews the allegation and pastoral care and counseling are offered to any alleged victim.
Doherty is the subject of numerous sex abuse lawsuits and is being held without bond in Broward County jail in a separate abuse case. In November 2011, a jury awarded a $100 million verdict to a sex abuse victim of Doherty. He has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case.
According to the lawsuit, the victim, Dennis Montero, had been a troubled youth who would smoke marijuana and hang out with other boys at the Keystone Trailer Park in Miami.
The abuse began one day in or around 1984, when Montero was introduced by his friend to Doherty, the suit claims. Doherty took Montero to a trailer, where he gave Montero wine which was drugged and caused Montero to lose consciousness, the lawsuit claims.
A few days later, Doherty again took Montero to the trailer where he gave him alcohol and drugged him and sexually abused him while he was semi-unconscious, the suit claims.
Over the next 18 months, Doherty sexually abused Montero on multiple occasions at the same trailer, took nude photos of Montero, and told the teen he was "blessed," the lawsuit claims.
"Doherty 'blessed' Dennis, made him feel special, and told him that his job was to share God's love," the lawsuit said. "Doherty led Dennis to believe that his acts of abuse were normal."
The lawsuit claims Doherty used his position as a priest and counselor with the Archdiocese to sexually abuse minors beginning in 1969, the year he was ordained.
According to the lawsuit, the Archdiocese allegedly had knowledge of Doherty's inappropriate contact with children, failed to take action to protect alleged victims and actively concealed alleged abuses.
The suit claims that the Archdiocese was notified in 1972 of Doherty "legally adopting" a "young adolescent who often stays in his room overnight" but that the Archdiocese didn't investigate the incident and Doherty wasn't reprimanded but was transferred out of parish under guise of not getting along with the pastor.
It also claims that in 1979, Archdiocese officials received a complaint that Doherty gave a 16-year-old boy drugs and molested him while the boy was being treated in a mental hospital in or around 1977, but that the allegation wasn't investigated.
According to the suit, an investigation done in 1987 revealed Doherty had sexually abused multiple boys in Montero's neighborhood, but the investigation was cut short and the information obtained was concealed by officials in the Archdiocese.
In 1992, the Archdiocese sent Doherty to an out-of-state pedophile treatment center, which recommended his removal from ministry, the lawsuit claims. But Doherty was never removed, and it wasn't until 2004 that he voluntarily retired, the lawsuit said.
The suit filed Thursday claims negligence on the part of the Archdiocese, and accuses them of destroying, concealing, hiding or altering incriminating documents related to abuses. It seeks compensation of over $5 million.
In its statement Thursday, the Archdiocese said if anyone has been a victim of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy or church personnel, he or she should contact the local law enforcement department. Also, the Archdiocese of Miami’s Victims Assistance Hotline is 1-866-802-2873.