Lambs to Slaughter

Miami's Catholic leaders covered for a priest who drugged and sodomized at least a dozen boys.

Ultimately Doherty was allowed to choose a counselor — a friend — who suggested the archdiocese accept the priest's "candid and forthright assertions of his innocence."

Apparently it did just that.

Eventually the archdiocese discounted Tony's claims and characterized him and his parents as extortionists. In 1994, after the family threatened to take the story to the media, the archdiocese paid Tony's parents $50,000 in exchange for a promise not to sue.

Neil Doherty's crimes were buried for years.
Neil Doherty's crimes were buried for years.

In 2003, while conducting research for a criminal case against Doherty, prosecutors turned up evidence for criminal charges against the archdiocese, for being negligent in allowing Doherty to continue counseling boys, after it had already received abuse reports. A prosecutor informed the archdiocese that it might have filed a case had the statute of limitations not already lapsed. LaCerra died in July 2000, and Archbishop McCarthy passed away in June 2005. Doherty, meanwhile, returned to St. Vincent in Margate to resume counseling boys.

By the late Nineties, Doherty had every reason to feel invincible. A slew of boys had come forward to report abuse but not a single charge had stuck.

At roughly the same time the archdiocese reached its settlement with Tony's family, it was welcoming a new archbishop, Rev. John C. Favalora, who had held that position at dioceses in Alexandria, Louisiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida.

Favalora was greeted by a disturbing report from a group of parishioners at St. Vincent who were upset with Doherty. The group had written Archbishop McCarthy alleging Doherty was stealing from the church till and that he'd placed a known male prostitute on the payroll. The parishioners hoped that Archbishop Favalora would investigate.

He assigned Marin, who had inherited LaCerra's role as chancellor. Marin's investigation cleared Doherty of wrongdoing. In 1995, the chancellor drafted a letter, to be read at a Sunday service and bearing Favalora's signature, describing how the archbishop had examined the parishioners' report but that two audits found no evidence of financial impropriety and that "Likewise, [Favalora] examined personal accusations made against Father Doherty and found them baseless" — an apparent reference to the report involving the male prostitute.

But in depositions last year, Marin said the investigation focused on only the financial charges. He claimed to be unaware of the allegation about a prostitute, and although Favalora became archbishop the same month and year, December 1994, the archdiocese settled its case with Tony's family, both Favalora and Marin said they were unaware of the $50,000 payment.

;"And do you know whether they did?" Herman asked.

"No, I don't," Favalora said.

In Marin's deposition, Herman asked the monsignor whether the settlement combined with the long history of abuse allegations in Doherty's personnel file ought to have warranted a more thorough investigation of the Margate pastor.

"Hindsight is 20/20," Marin replied.

That doesn't bring an ounce of comfort to Sam, who speaks through a clenched jaw on a mid-March afternoon at a coffee shop in Margate, not far from the place he says he first met Doherty.

Sam, who agreed to speak with New Times on condition his identity not be revealed, says he was in fourth grade and playing football near his home, across the street from St. Vincent's parking lot and landscaped courtyard. When he stepped away from the game to smoke a cigarette, the eight-year-old saw Doherty's tall form emerge from a car and walk toward him.

"I hid my cigarette — like cuffed it," says Sam, "and [Doherty] says, 'No, man, if you want to smoke, it's not that big of a deal.' He was trying to be the cool adult. He was trying to gain my trust that way — and it worked."

The two struck up a friendship, and it progressed quickly. "We would talk for hours and hours about my beliefs," says Sam. "He is a very intelligent man. He was my friend at first. Then he was my mentor. Then he was my father. And it went from that to the abuse."

It would be awhile before Sam's parents learned of their son's new friend, and when they did, they didn't approve. But Sam still visited Doherty almost every day, he says.

The priest would pour Sam a soda in a red plastic cup. In a 2005 interview with a police detective, Sam recalled one occasion when after drinking the soda, "I passed out, and I walked out of [Doherty's] house later not remembering what had happened." He had pain in his rectum. Asked by the detective to elaborate, Sam responded irritably: "I felt as if I'd been fucked in my ass."

Sam found a wad of money in his pocket but couldn't recall how it got there. The rest of the details follow the same path as those of boys 20 years before: alcohol and drugs leading to blackouts and waking to Doherty in the midst of his assault.

It was the end of Sam's childhood. He was no longer interested in BMX racing or playing war games with kids on the same cul-de-sac. He was depressed, and Doherty recommended drugs. "I'd get angry all the time, and he said to drink beer and smoke pot because it would lessen my anger," says Sam. But those chemical effects made him yearn for uppers, "which is when I took coke."

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