Catholic priest convicted of raping a parishioner in Miami Florida
Fr. Jean Claude Philippe was convicted last week of the sexual battery of a parishioner and faces up to 15 years in prison. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Carmen Cabarga will sentence the priest in the coming weeks. The jury verdict capped a week-long trial for Fr. Philippe, whose arrest was an embarrassing scandal for the Archdiocese of Miami, particularly after the victim testified that she initially told another priest, Fr. Silverio Rueda, about the attack and was told to keep quiet.
We are amazed by the survivor in this case not only for her resilience in the face of this vicious assault but also for her persistence in bringing the attack both to the attention of Catholic officials and then to the police. Her efforts have culminated in Fr. Philippe's conviction. We hope that Judge Cabarga, for the safety of the community, will impose the maximum sentence allowed under the Florida sentencing guidelines and get this dangerous man off of the streets.
Fr. Phillipe tried very hard to convince the jurors that he was innocent. According to news reports, he tried to explain away the detailed information provided by the victim and his own admissions to the police. We are very grateful that the jury saw through his feeble excuses.
We are confident that reporting to law enforcement is the best way to hold abusive Catholic clergy, brothers, nuns, or lay people accountable. The civil authorities can make the allegations public and decide whether or not charges will be filed, even if the desire of a diocese or a Church official is to keep the information quiet to prevent further scandal. Silence only helps those who commit and conceal sexual abuse crimes. This case ended in the best way possible, with a conviction.
We encourage anyone who may have experienced, witnessed, or suspected similar behavior by Fr. Philippe to step forward and report to the police. We also implore the Archdiocese of Miami to update their list of accused clergy to include this priest. Finally, we call on Fr. Philippe's religious order, the Vincentians, to make their own list of abusers, including Fr. Philippe, public.