Queens Pastor Tasked with Investigating Pedophile Priests for Diocese Accused of Child Sex Abuse by Flushing Man
By Bill Parry
Queens Times Ledger
September 10, 2019
|Monsignor Otto Garcia is shown in this 2013 New York Daily News photo outside St. Joan of Arc Church in Jackson Heights.|
The longtime pastor of St. Joan of Arc Church in Jackson Heights and current parochial vicar at St. Teresa’s Church in Woodside was named in two lawsuits filed Tuesday under the Child Victims Act as an alleged sexual abuser.
Monsignor Otto Garcia, who was cleared after a Diocese of Brooklyn investigation in February determined allegations against him were “unsubstantiated,” was accused of child sexual abuse by Tom Davis, 61, during a Manhattan press conference on Sept. 10.
Garcia was the vicar general with the Diocese of Brooklyn, and part of his duties involved investigating allegations of sexual abuse made against clergy members. He remains an active priest, and celebrated Mass at St. Teresa’s Church as recently as Sept. 8.
Davis told reporters on Sept. 10 that he kept the incident to himself for nearly five decades before finally coming forward.
“I was molested by Father Otto Garcia when I was a child back in the 70s and I kept it to myself for more than 45 years,” Davis said during the conference arranged by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates. “He was able to pick me as a prime victim because of my parent’s involvement in the church. I just didn’t think anyone would believe me. I said nothing until my parents passed.”
Davis said that his sexual abuse began when he was a teenage altar boy at St. Michael’s Church in Flushing, where his mother was a fifth-grade teacher in the parish school and his father was the parish basketball coach.
He said on Tuesday that he was so ashamed by the sexual abuse that it caused him to fall into drugs, alcoholism and ruined relationships before finally seeking help. Davis would tell his story to the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which found that there was “insufficient support” to find his claim eligible for compensation.
“I reported [Garcia] to the diocese and even picked him out of a lineup, but after a two-day investigation, they just swept it under the rug,” Davis charged.
The Diocese of Brooklyn categorically denied the allegations.
“On November 29, 2017, the Diocesan Review Board, chaired by Joseph Esposito, a retired NYPD Chief of Department and former Commissioner of the New York City Office of Emergency Management, informed the Bishop that based on their review of the findings of the investigators, they unanimously determined the allegations to be not credible,” a Diocese of Brooklyn spokesperson said. “The board determined that there was a lack of evidence to substantiate the allegations against Monsignor Garcia.”
Davis’s attorney Jeff Anderson, who has been filing child sex abuse charges against Catholic priests for decades, accused the diocese of a coverup.
“Garcia is a top diocese official working under three different bishops. As a vicar general, he was designated by the bishop to get the reports and investigate them,” Anderson said. “He was the guy investigating other priests. He was called the fixer, the Michael Cohen of the Diocese of Brooklyn.”
After Davis came forward, Anderson noted, another individual came forward to accuse Garcia of abuse and filed a lawsuit as a John Doe.
“As to the second lawsuit filed against Msgr. Garcia by Jeff Anderson, law enforcement will be notified, and an investigation will begin once we have sufficient information to do so,” the Diocese spokesperson added. “If that allegation were to be found credible, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Zero Tolerance Policy is very clear. If any clergy member is found to be credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, he is permanently removed from his ministry.”
Garcia remains active at St. Teresa’s on 50th Avenue in Woodside, where he celebrated Mass last Sunday. Anderson urged Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, leader of the diocese, to remove Garcia from public service.
“Bishop, please, it is time to get him out and get him out now,” Anderson said. “Do the right thing.”
Garcia, at times, has been considered as a candidate for bishop, with deep connections to the Vatican who also served on several religious boards including Catholic Charities.
Davis, who previously worked as head plumber at Shea Stadium, said that he once worried that coming forward with his story would destroy his career. After recovering from decades of drug and alcohol abuse, he had a message for survivors of child sexual abuse.
“It’s not too late to come forward and stand up to these monsters like I did, please,” Davis said defiantly.