Philadelphia priest charged with rape, sexual abuse of minor

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A priest from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been arrested and charged with rape and sexual abuse of a minor.

Armand Garcia, 49, was pastor at Saint Martin of Tours in Oxford Circle, but his alleged crime took place in 2014 while he was at the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Roxborough.

Garcia was placed on administrative leave a year ago when the police investigation began.

The investigation began in 2018 with allegations Garcia abused a teenage girl between 2014 and 2017.

The alleged acts happened after the female teenage parishioner was 16. She was a member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

"Disgusted, disgusted. I feel like it was swept under the rug, like it was purposely hidden from the school and parishioners," said Eugene Iacovelli, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary.

"I'm very upset, I feel for our pastor, it puts a lot of stress on this parish," said parishioner, Peter Caruso.

The Archdiocese released a statement on Tuesday calling the allegations "serious and disturbing."

"The Archdiocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement regarding this matter and remains fervently committed to preventing child abuse as well as protecting the children and young people entrusted to its care."

In 2018 Garcia was placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese when they learned of the investigation. He lived in a private residence, was not allowed to present himself as a priest, and did not have access to parishes or schools.
Prior to his leave he was stationed at Saint Martin of Tours in the Summerdale section of the city.

Garcia was ordained in 2005.

The arrest comes at a time when the Catholic Church is under more scrutiny than ever with the Vatican handling a worldwide priest abuse scandal and here in Pennsylvania, with Attorney General Josh Shapiro's release of grand jury reports of priest abuse spanning decades.

Garcia's attorney Bill Brennan said his client posted bail and will defend himself in court. He urges the public not to rush to judgment because of his status as a priest

"I'm treating Father Armand Garcia as Armand Garcia the bricklayer, or Armand Garcia the carpenter, or the car salesman," said Brennan.

"I hope that the public would give him that same sense of fairness and not be swayed by the fact that his collar is turned. He wears a collar but he's a human being and an American and he deserves the presumption of innocence which we all deserve."
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