Did Priest Sex Scandal Lead Miami Archbishop to Resign Early?

The AP reports this morning that the pope has accepted the resignation of Miami Archbishop John Favalora, who has led the Catholic Church in Miami, Broward, and Monroe counties since 1994.

Favalora's move seems curious -- if he had stayed until December, he would have been 75 years old and eligible for retirement. Why hang up his mitre now?

No one can say for certain, because the Vatican gave no reason for the resignation; according to the AP, bishops can resign early because of illness or "another reason that makes him unsuited for office."

But in 2008, New Times writer Tom Francis offered one compelling portrait of why Favalora might be "unsuited": He was involved in protecting the Rev. Neil Doherty, who has been charged criminally and in civil suits of drugging and molesting dozens of boys in Miami.

When Favalora took over as archbishop in 1994, the church had just paid $50,000 to one of Doherty's victims.

Favalora was also given a report by parishioners at St. Vincent's in Margate, alleging Doherty had stolen from the till and hired a male prostitute with the cash.

Favalora later drafted a letter saying he investigated the claims and found them "baseless."

But in court testimony, he claimed to have no memory of any allegations about a male prostitute, only about the financial improprieties. Favalora also claimed to be ignorant of the $50,000 payout.

Doherty stayed with the church all the way until 2004, when he retired (though he was suspended from duty in 2002). Several suits claimed that more abuse by Doherty continued on Favalora's watch.

This past September, another victim filed suit alleging Doherty had drugged and molested him.

The Archdiocese of Miami, more recently, has been hit with new accusations that the church covered up sexual abuse claims against Father Ernesto Garcia-Rubio, who allegedly preyed on Marielito boys throughout the 1980s.

Garcia-Rubio had already left South Florida by the time Favalora took over as archbishop.

Pope Benedict XVI has been scrambling this year as sex scandals have reached the church all over Europe and Latin America, and the pope himself has been implicated in a coverup, which he has vehemently denied.

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