A Pennsylvania priest was arrested Monday for allegedly raping an underage girl years earlier in an illicit encounter he is said to have recorded.
The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News reported that Reverend Armand Garcia, 49, was charged with rape a year after police began their investigation, which involved a search of his rectory. With prosecutors declining to reveal details surrounding Garcia’s arrest, sources told the news outlet that the criminal probe stemmed from his inappropriate relationship with an altar girl at Immaculate Heart Parish in Roxborough, which began when she was 16.
Citing court documents, the outlets reported that the rape charge was in reference to a 2014 incident the accuser reported shortly after Garcia was transferred to St. Martin of Tours Parish in 2017.
Sources also claimed Garcia provided the girl with marijuana and alcohol at various locations, including the parish’s rectory and his living quarters, over the years.
WPVI reported that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia placed Garcia on leave last March when they learned of the criminal investigation. The suspension meant that he was barred from presenting himself as a priest, and was restricted from entering parishes or schools.
Parents of children who attend Immaculate Heart told KYW-TV that they only learned of the ongoing criminal investigation after Garcia’s arrest.
“I feel like it was swept under the rug,” one parent commented.
“I feel like it was purposely hidden from the school and hidden from the parishioners.”
In an email to the Inquirer and Daily News, archdiocesan spokesperson Kenneth Gavin said the diocese isn’t contributing to Garcia’s legal bills and that his ministry is under restriction.
“These charges are serious and disturbing,” Gavin said in the email.
“The Archdiocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement regarding this matter and remains fervently committed to preventing child abuse.”
In addition to the rape charge, Garcia, who was reportedly ordained in 2005, was charged with corruption of minors and sexual abuse, according to KWY-TV.
He was released after posting $250,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for March 14.
[Featured image: Armand Garcia/Philadelphia Police Department]