BishopAccountability.org
 
 

Priest Accused of Rapes Finds Prominence
Filipino church leaders welcome Garcia despite incidents with altar boys

By Brooks Egerton
Dallas Morning News
March 16, 2005

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/longterm/
stories/031605dnprocris.ac4ad.html

[See also Egerton's Priest Thwarts U.S. Bishops' Abuse Policy by Crossing River about Msgr. Ivan Rovira, and Too Much Tolerance? by Brendan M. Case, Brooks Egerton, and Reese Dunklin, about Revs. Manuel Fernández, Paul Madden, Carl Tresler, José Luis Urbina, Gerardo Beltrán, Javier Gutiérrez, Abraham Anthony, and Jean-Level Eliscard.]

CEBU, Philippines – Here in the cradle of Asia's lone Catholic stronghold, the Rev. Cristobal Garcia is one of the most prominent faces of the church.

He oversees worship practices for an archdiocese of 3 million believers. He bears the baby Jesus' image during annual ceremonies that draw throngs into the streets. He led his cardinal's advance team in Rome five years ago when Pope John Paul II declared a Filipino sainthood candidate to be blessed.

The Rev. Cristobal Garcia acknowledges having had sex with two teenage altar boys in Los Angeles. He says one of the boys 'not only seduced me, he also raped me.' Photo by Cheryl Diaz Meyer / Staff Photographer.

It's a far cry from his despair of 20 years ago, when the Dominican religious order expelled him after a nun told police that an altar boy had been found in his bed in a Los Angeles rectory. The priest fled to his hometown Cebu Archdiocese – which, despite a warning from the Dominicans, put him to work anyway, with children, and persuaded the Vatican to honor him with the title "monsignor."

Respected leader

Cebu Cardinal Ricardo Vidal also has allowed Monsignor Garcia to form a monastic religious society, whose young male recruits call him their "supreme motivator." The Society of the Angel of Peace is based in a village outside Cebu, where the priest also oversees a chapel, a children's Sunday school program and a squad of altar boys.

"I don't think they [Filipino Catholic leaders] have the same standards or concerns we do," said lawyer Lynne Goodwin, who defended the Dominicans in a 1988 lawsuit filed by one of Monsignor Garcia's former altar boys. "I don't think there's any consequence for bad action."

Paul Corral, who was the plaintiff in that case and obtained a financial settlement, said he was stunned to learn of the monsignor's high-profile ministry. "I never thought he would continue that charade," he said.

Cardinal Vidal is not available for interviews, aides said. He has not responded to written questions.

Monsignor Garcia, in an interview at his religious compound, acknowledged having sex with Mr. Corral and another Los Angeles altar boy when they were in their early teens.

One of them "not only seduced me, he also raped me," the priest said.

The boys, he said, obtained sex, cocaine, marijuana and money from him by threatening to accuse him of abuse.

"Who would believe me?" said Monsignor Garcia, who is in his early to mid-50s. "What can a foreigner do?"

His accusers call that defense absurd.

Monsignor Garcia questioned whether U.S. bishops' 2002 "zero tolerance" policy was an overreaction.

"I wonder if some of it is a face-saving mechanism" or "damage control," he said. "In the Third World, the damage is done. Too bad. Live with it."

Filipino bishops apologized in 2003, as their U.S. counterparts had a year earlier, for past secrecy in dealing with sexual misconduct. They acknowledged that this "created the impression of cover-up" and "could have enabled abusive behavior to be repeated."

The Filipinos steered clear of U.S.-style zero tolerance, under which a single confirmed incident of child abuse leads to permanent removal from ministry. Their policy is more flexible: "The bishop will limit the ministry of the individual or even prohibit it, if warranted. No ministry with minors or unsupervised contact with them will be allowed."

Still works with kids

Long before that policy was adopted, the Dominicans' attorney said, the Cebu Archdiocese assured her that Monsignor Garcia would not work with youths.

Yet he began doing so immediately, said a man who worked with him as a priest in Cebu.

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation, said Monsignor Garcia is nearly untouchable because his family is one of the richest in the Philippines. The family owns the country's second-largest electric utility.

Monsignor Garcia said he has been a target because of his family wealth. He said the cardinal "gave me clemency" after reviewing a psychological report on him and material from the Dominicans.

Officials of the religious order said their records don't show why they did not ask the Vatican to defrock him.

"They washed their hands of him," said the other former altar boy with whom Monsignor Garcia admits having had sexual contact. "It's as if no one wants to face what happened."

That man, who is suing the Dominicans and the Los Angeles Archdiocese, said Monsignor Garcia used to have him act out scenes from pornographic videos in exchange for drugs. He said he remains deeply traumatized.

Carla Hass, a spokeswoman for the Dominicans, said the order has learned in the last year of the priest's prominence in the Philippines.

'Distressing' situation

"I can't overstate how distressing that is to us," she said. "He's a bad actor in every conceivable way."

Monsignor Garcia was never criminally charged.

Jane Levikow, who served as a nun at his parish in Los Angeles, said she called police after a priest told her he had found Mr. Corral in Monsignor Garcia's bedroom on a Sunday morning in 1985.

Mr. Corral and his parents said they later spoke at length to police. The parents said officers told them there was nothing they could do because Monsignor Garcia had left the country, and their son didn't want to detail the abuse.

Police said they have no record of the matter.

Ms. Levikow, who is no longer a nun, said she's not surprised. The officer she spoke to, she said, seemed eager to protect the church's image and promised to "bury" the report.

"It was a different climate then," Ms. Levikow said.

E-mail begerton@dallasnews.com

 
 

Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
     
guide of business management sytem guide of job opinions guide of capital goods guide of make fast money guide of Debt restructuring guide of home business guide of income money guide of hospital products guide of international market guide of repair roof before winter guide of website income guide of secure your business guide of face makeup tools guide of jewellery arts guide of tv shows guide of best places on earth guide of job plans guide of cheap cars guide of creating products guide of women tools guide of eat less guide of car insurance process guide of sport stuff guide of garden home guide of cheap insurances guide of electronic tech guide of healthy feeding guide of what is next in fashion guide of improve company guide of tactical insurance guide of make money at home guide of development in business guide of dept loan guide of cooking secrets guide of correct companies guide of jobs with more income guide of reviews o general products guide of improving technology guide of ideal job guide of business sectors guide of dept problem guide of unlimited business guide of suitable insurance company guide of money cars guide of how to market guide of heatlhy diet tips guide of decoration tipse guide of security problems