Saturday, September 19, 2009

More from Miami...

I usually don't care to report these types of cases but I do it to drive home a point: If you are a priest and you are going to get involved with a woman and make babies, PLEASE try to pay some child support because it is the failure to do so that most often sheds a very bright and unwelcome light into your private life. Also because it is the morally and legally correct thing to do.

The priest, the stripper, and their baby

By David Ovalle
Miami Herald

She was an exotic dancer at a Miami strip club called Porky's. He showed up wearing a Hawaiian shirt, eager to share a night in the VIP lounge.

They began a torrid, on-and-off love affair that ended for good in January, after she gave birth to a daughter she says is his. Now, she wants child support and has filed a restraining order against him.

It might be a routine, if tawdry, court case if not for respondent David Dueppen's job: Catholic priest with the Miami Archdiocese.

The sordid story line inflicts another black eye on an Archdiocese already embarassed in May, when popular Miami television priest Alberto Cutié admitted to an affair with a woman, whom he quickly married.

Dueppen, 42, who once served at the same Miami Beach parish as Cutié, is now on leave from his associate priest position at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Pembroke Pines.

Former stripper Beatrice Hernandez filed the restraining order last week, claiming that an argument over paternity and child support escalated when Dueppen began ``grabbing her by the throat and choking her.''

``He is the devil,'' said Hernandez, 42, of Miami, who provided DNA test results naming Dueppen as the father. ``He is the devil dressed as an angel.''

The couple's past relationship was well-known to the church. Three years ago, the archdiocese paid Hernandez a settlement stemming from their long-running affair, which started seven years ago.

Within the last year, Hernandez says, Dueppen -- still a priest -- unexpectantly showed up to rekindle their romance.

The result, she says: Her baby, Marilyn Epiphany Hernandez.

Dueppen, a former Miami-Dade middle-school teacher who became a priest 10 years ago, says his lawyer advised him not to comment.

``I can't talk with you,'' Dueppen told a Miami Herald reporter Friday, adding that Hernandez's version is ``going to have a lot of inaccuracies.''

Dueppen, at his own request, is on indefinite administrative leave, said Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta, meaning he cannot perform church services or appear in priest garb.

Dueppen requested the leave for ``personal reasons'' during a meeting with Archbishop John C. Favalora in mid-August, she said.

Agosta could not say if Dueppen had revealed the baby's existence to the church, but she was unaware of the allegation. ``This information, if it's accurate, is very disappointing,'' she said.

Dueppen, looking to fulfill a spiritual void, turned to the cloth in 1999. He told The Herald at the time he had wrestled with giving up women and his dream of a large family.

``I sit down and ask Him that He give me the strength and the gifts to be able to serve His people,'' he said in an interview then. ``I am following what I believe is the will of God for me.''

A decade earlier, as a student at the University of Miami, Dueppen criticized the school's decision to install condom vending machines on campus.

``It will increase pressure for students to have sex, especially among freshmen. The only safe sex is abstinence,'' he told The Herald in a story on the controversy.

But abstinence was not in the cards when he met Hernandez, according to her account.

Hernandez says she met Dueppen while stripping near Miami International Airport. Her stage name: Lisa.

She spent a Sunday night with Dueppen -- who had shed his priest collar -- drinking wine in the VIP room. Soon, Hernandez says, Dueppen was visiting the club twice a month, and she began visiting him in the Keys, where he started out as a priest at St. Mary's Star of the Sea.

He later transferred to St. Francis de Sales Church in Miami Beach. They lived together in her West Miami-Dade town house for more than three years.

``He talked about having kids and marrying me,'' said Hernandez, who also has an older daughter from a prior relationship.

Hernandez said the relationship ended in 2006 over sexual differences.

Hernandez hired lawyer Jeffrey Herman, who threatened to sue the church under the claim that Dueppen abused his position of power by sleeping with Hernandez, and threatening her and her adult daughter with ``evil spirits'' if Hernandez left him.

The church settled out of court in July 2006, according to a Herald article at the time.

Hernandez says she and her daughter were paid $60,000. As a condition of the settlement, Hernandez and the priest were ordered to stay away from each other, she said.

According to church spokeswoman Agosta, Dueppen then went on leave to come to terms with his ``very public vow of celibacy.'' He returned after 13 months, she said.

``We are a forgiving church. He was addressing the issues and we were assured the issues had been resolved,'' she said.

Hernandez's current lawyer, Michael Feiler, said the church knew Dueppen was a problem and should have done more to ``police its ranks.''

``Instead of taking actions to correct his behavior, they just moved him 15 miles up the road,'' Feiler said.

By early 2008, Hernandez had quit her stripping job and opened a dollar store in Miami. One day, Dueppen showed up, she said.

``He has been looking for me everywhere, in every strip club,'' she said. ``A friend of mine ended up telling him the address of the store.''

They renewed their romance. ``He started talking about having kids again. He wanted to start fresh with me -- and I'm still in love with the guy, and I fell for it,'' she said.

Then, Hernandez discovered she was pregnant.

Dueppen ``refused to believe he was the father and repeatedly told [Hernandez] that she was crazy,'' according to the restraining order.

The priest, she said, finally relented to a paternity test after she threatened to tell the Archdiocese. Despite results showing Dueppen was the father, he refused to pay child support and threatened her into staying quiet, she said.

``Any movement you do -- you call the cops, you call the Archdiocese -- we are powerful,'' Hernandez, in the restraining order, quoted Dueppen as saying. ``You know what I will do. I will take this child away and you will never see this child again.''

Hernandez will be seeking child support and a permanent restraining order, said Feiler, who will represent her at a hearing in Miami-Dade family court on Thursday.

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