The Rev. Charles Peterman, who has been administrating the church since Nickse was suspended in June amid the sexual abuse allegations, asked the congregation to sit. He wished them a merry Christmas and broke the news in Spanish: ``It's very difficult to say this, but these aren't normal days. Yesterday, Father Nickse died.''Many of those in the crowd were not hearing the news for the first time, but there were gasps and sobs.Parishioners and church secretaries consoled each other in the church offices Wednesday afternoon, where the phone rang constantly with people asking about Nickse.''¿Por qué, por qué?'' (''Why, why?'' ) cried one woman.An oversized photograph of the priest rested on an easel by the Christmas tree. A collage of photos hanging on the door showed Nickse, in shorts and a T-shirt, cleaning up his church after Hurricane Andrew; in another shot he was leaning against a broken bulldozer. ''How's my driving? Call 1-800-BISHOP,'' someone had written underneath.
Nickse and Castellanos are two of the most prominent of 12 South Florida priests who have retired or been suspended since 1998 because the Archdiocese of Miami received sex-abuse complaints about alleged misconduct dating back years.Nickse was named in four suits alleging sexual abuse. Richard Fiallo, 31, alleged that when he was an altar boy, Nickse sexually abused him in a racquet club Jacuzzi and in Nickse's car.
''I don't feel like any personal vendetta has been satisfied,'' Fiallo said Wednesday. ``But I do feel shortchanged because I wanted my day in court against him. I wanted him to have to face his accuser before a jury.''Another former altar boy and a former teenage parishioner sued Nickse, alleging similar sexual misconduct. The three men claim the abuse occurred between 1982 and 1985.A fourth plaintiff alleged sexual abuse when the man was already an adult.After the church received its first complaint against Nickse, he wrote a letter to his parish denying the allegations and saying, ``I forgive my accuser.''