COURTS

Miami Archdiocese faces another sex abuse suit over teacher serving 23-year sentence

 

dnoriega@MiamiHerald.com

A new lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Miami claims that the head pastor at Coral Springs St. Andrew Catholic School covered up sexual abuse by a music teacher over several years.

The alleged abuser, Miguel Cala, currently is serving a 23-year-term for several cases in which he molested children during music lessons at their homes.

The new suit alleges that Cala repeatedly raped a boy at school between 2006 and 2010, starting when the boy was 6.

According to the lawsuit, Father George Puthusseril saw Cala abusing the boy but did not report the misconduct. Instead, he urged the boy not to tell his parents, allowing Cala to continue the abuse.

Puthusseril was promoted to the rank of monsignor at the Archdiocese of Miami in January.

“There were opportunities for the archdiocese and St. Andrew School to protect children from Cala, but they chose not to make the safer choice,” said Jeff Herman, the lawyer representing the boy and his parents.

The victim and his family are not identified in the lawsuit.

Mary Ross Agosta, an archdiocese spokesperson, issued a response Tuesday stating that, “As in any lawsuit, the Archdiocese of Miami and its church personnel have fully cooperated with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in its investigation of allegations against Mr. Cala.”

Moreover, Father Puthusseril “has testified under oath that he had no knowledge of any sexual abuse by Mr. Cala during the teacher’s tenure at St. Andrew’s.”

The archdiocese has been embroiled in sexual abuse scandals, many of which involve civil suits handled by Herman.

The Miami Herald reported in October that Herman has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Miami, leading to tens of millions of dollars in settlements.

In this latest suit, Herman accuses the archdiocese of systematically “accepting, protecting and concealing their knowledge of sexual predators.” Although Cala was not a priest, he had constant access to children as a middle school music teacher at St. Andrew. According to the lawsuit, the school’s administrators ignored numerous “red flags,” including warnings from a school pediatrician about Cala’s behavior toward his students.

The lawsuit says the archdiocese received signals of Cala’s dangerous tendencies as early as 1998, when he was at St. John Vianney Seminary in Miami. There, he confessed to his spiritual advisor about sexual fantasies with young boys. In spite of this and later warnings, the archdiocese hired Cala to work with children.

The lawyer who represented Cala in the cases that led to his imprisonment did not respond to a phone call requesting comment on the latest accusations.

After the press conference, Herman said the victim in the new lawsuit kept quiet for several years. After the boy began to suffer from emotional instability, his parents sought help.

“Miguel Cala stole our son from us at a very early age and caused irreparable damage to our entire family,” the statement from the victim’s mother said.

“Our son struggled significantly while keeping this secret for so many years and continues to struggle in the aftermath of finally revealing it.”

Herman said he hoped the lawsuit would draw attention of other parents whose children came into contact with Cala.

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