The Official Publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany
September 2, 2010
Deacon removed from ministry
BY CHRISTOPHER D. RINGWALD
A permanent deacon who served at Holy Family parish in Albany has been removed from active ministry based on reasonable grounds to believe he sexually abused a minor in the early 1990s, before his training and ordination as a deacon.
The decision by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard was announced at Mass on Aug. 29. His decision was based on the recommendation of the Albany Diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board.
Deacon Angel Garcia can no longer wear clerical garb in public nor officiate at sacraments or in any other capacity. He served at Holy Family for at least eight years. In a 2004 interview with The Evangelist, he said he joined the parish after immigrating from Puerto Rico 15 years earlier. He was ordained a deacon in 2000.
Deacons can perform weddings and baptisms, and can conduct a funeral service (but not a funeral Mass). They also fill many other pastoral functions. A permanent deacon is just that, permanent, as opposed to a transitional deacon, who is in formation for the priesthood.
According to a diocesan statement on the action, Deacon Garcia denies inappropriate contact with any youth. He will avail himself of his canonical rights, which means he is appealing the decision and could receive a canonical (Church) trial.
The removal came as a blow to many at the Albany parish, which was the product of a merger among St. Patrick's, Our Lady of Angels and St. Casimir's parishes, all founded in the mid- to late-1800s. St. Patrick's Church has been used as the worship site for Holy Family parish and today has a large Hispanic community.
As part of diocesan parish consolidations, prompted by demographic and financial challenges, the parish will close in October. The church will remain open as a shrine church, renamed "Our Lady of the Americas" in honor of the building's decades-long service to immigrants. It will be overseen by nearby Blessed Sacrament parish.
Bishop Hubbard's letter was read in English at the Mass by Rev. Ronald Menty, the Diocese's administrative advocate for priests, and then in Spanish by Deacon Miguel Fabian, who also serves the parish. After the liturgy, a smaller group stayed to talk with Father Menty and other officials.
Deacon Garcia has also served as a chaplain at Greene Correctional Facility. His position there remains the purview of state officials, who were alerted to the decision, Mr. Goldfarb said.
The charge against the deacon was made to the Diocese earlier this year. As is routine, it was first referred to legal authorities, in this case the Albany County District Attorney.
After the DA's office determined it would not pursue it criminally, the review board considered the charge and available evidence.
The review board consists of six lay people and two clergy members. It investigates allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy and makes recommendations to Bishop Hubbard.
The Albany Diocese has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse of minors by clergy. No priest can remain in public ministry or can be transferred into, out of or within the Albany Diocese if the Diocese has found reasonable grounds to believe he sexually abused a minor at any time. The Diocese urges anyone who as a child was sexually abused by a Catholic priest or deacon to report the matter to a law enforcement agency or to the Diocese. The Diocese investigates all allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. Contact assistance coordinator Theresa Rodrigues at 453-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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