The Dallas Morning News blog
Roman Catholic Church leaders have changed their story about why an internationally prominent priest dropped out of sight this summer. Now they say that the Vatican ordered Monsignor Cristobal Garcia’s suspension from ministry because of sexual abuse allegations, according to the Philippines’ leading newspaper.
Earlier this week, Filipino church officials portrayed Garcia’s absence as simply the result of health problems.
The new announcement coincides with a National Geographic story about the black market in elephant tusks. It quotes Garcia as giving advice on smuggling ivory icons and refers to my 2005 article on him — in which the priest admitted having sex with U.S. altar boys, providing them drugs and fleeing to the Philippines.
It isn’t clear why Garcia stayed in ministry after the admission. He continued to lead a large group of boys at a rural religious compound and oversaw worship practices for the massive Cebu Archdiocese. Among his international credentials: He led his cardinal’s advance team in Rome when Pope John Paul II declared a Filipino sainthood candidate to be blessed.
Now he also could face legal troubles because of his smuggling comments, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports today.
An internationally prominent Catholic priest has dropped out of sight in the Philippines, years after admitting to me that he had sex with altar boys in the U.S. and supplied them with drugs.
Monsignor Cristobal Garcia’s sudden low profile coincides with a new National Geographic article on the ivory trade. It calls Garcia “one of the best known ivory collectors in the Philippines” and quotes him as giving advice on how to smuggle ivory into the U.S., in defiance of a 1989 global trade ban.
The magazine refers to my 2005 investigative piece on the priest, who had fled the U.S. after an altar boy was found in his bedroom. He’s one of over 200 Catholic clergymen we found who crossed international borders to escape justice and stay in ministry.
Filipino church leaders helped Garcia reinvent himself as an authority on worship practices and leader of boys at a rural religious compound. Now he’s said to be resting and receiving treatment for hypertension, according to today’s Cebu Daily News.
Garcia’s archbishop told that Filipino paper he plans to address the ivory smuggling controversy at a news conference soon. The paper made no mention of sexual abuse.