EL PASO, Texas - A former El Paso Catholic priest on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a girl from age ten through her teen years took the witness stand in his own defense on Friday and vehemently denied those accusations.
But 68-year old Miguel Luna did acknowledge having a "secret baby" in Juarez, seemingly confirming a bombshell revelation by prosecutors the day before that he had fathered a daughter with a prostitute while in the priesthood — and then used church money to pay for her care.
Luna is charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault of a child in a case that dates back to the 1990s while he was still an active priest; the alleged victim is now a 36-year old woman.
Luna's accuser testified at the trial's start that she was an altar server at Corpus Christi church when he first began sexually abusing her. She told jurors the sexual conduct continued until she moved away from the area when she turned 17.
Luna on Friday acknowledged first meeting the girl at age ten, but he repeatedly rebuffed her claims of abuse under questioning from his own defense attorney.
"No, never," Luna replied several times when asked if he had ever sexually assaulted or touched her inappropriately as either a child or a teenager.
Prosecutors contend Luna was a "wolf in sheep's clothing," exploiting his role as a priest to engage in sex acts with the girl. But the defense contends the now-grown woman was motivated by money to report the alleged incidents.
Luna started working as a priest in the 10-county Catholic Diocese of El Paso in 1982, but was later removed from ministry in 2013.
The Diocese has said that Luna admitted to the assaults when church officials first became aware of the allegations and looked into it. Bishop Mark Seitz testified about the church investigation into those allegations earlier this week.
In addition, it was disclosed that Luna was sent in 1988 to the Shalom Center in Houston, a rehab facility for priests and nuns in need of mental health counseling, but prosecutors contend the therapy failed in Luna's case.