The Archdiocese of Miami secretly paid several men to settle sexual abuse allegations against a Roman Catholic priest, church officials acknowledged.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said church leaders promptly removed the priest and followed church guidelines for dealing with the allegations. She declined to say more because the settlements were confidential.
A lawyer in two of the cases identified the priest as the Rev. Joseph Cinesi.
"People should know that these things are going on, and I'm glad that the shroud of secrecy is unraveling," attorney Russell S. Adler said.
Adler said he represented two men who won settlements in the late 1990s for incidents when Cinesi was at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale. Both men were over age 18 at the time of the abuse, Adler said.
In one case, Cinesi propositioned and stalked a man who lived nearby but did not attend the church. Adler said the priest also sent the man a lewd photograph.
In the other case, the priest abused a man whom he had befriended. The victim had worked odd jobs around the church before the abuse took place, Adler said.
Cinesi stepped down from St. Maurice Catholic Church in Broward County in August 1999, saying he wanted to fight false allegations.
Cinesi could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Another lawyer, Ellis Rubin, said he handled three settlements with the archdiocese for men who were molested as boys. Two of the men were altar servers.
Rubin said confidentiality agreements in the settlements _ reached in 2000 and 2001 _ prevented him from naming the accused priest or the circumstances involving the case.
Since January, dozens of priests nationwide have been suspended or forced to resign, and priests' names have been turned over to prosecutors.
Pope may break silence
VATICAN CITY _ Pope John Paul II may be ready to break his public silence on the sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church.
Vatican officials said John Paul may say something on the matter today when he issues his annual pre-Easter letter to priests, usually an occasion to refer to the celibacy commitment made by Roman Catholic priests.
In recent years, John Paul, who will be 82 in May and has suffered from a string of ailments, has been leaving more day-to-day Vatican business to others while he concentrates on global issues such as reconciliation among religions and peoples and on his worldwide travels.
But John Paul's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, says the pope is in command and fully informed about the scandal.