Secret File on Ivory Collector Priest

Since publication of my story, Blood Ivory: Ivory Worship Catholic Church leaders in Cebu have called me a liar and have suggested I be declared persona non grata for exposing Msgr. Cristobal Garcia’s past and his encouragement of smuggling by those who want ivory religious icons.

Here is the man they defend:

Father Cristobal Garcia: Priest fled to the Philippines and rose in the Church

By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer

January 29, 2013

Father Vincent Serpa, pastor of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Eagle Rock, knew he had a problem with Father Cristobal Garcia. He just didn’t know how big.

“A family came to him to report that the associate, Father Cristobal Garcia, was involved in giving cocaine to minors in the parish,” said then-Monsignor Thomas Curry, vicar of clergy for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in a 1988 confidential memo to then-Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, three years after the incident.

“To see if he could find any evidence of this, Father Serpa went into Garcia’s room while he was celebrating Mass and found…Read More

As Court records indicate, Church leaders knew of Garcia’s risk to children from the mid 1980s.  This 1988 LA Times article certainly served notice.

Here are a few more stories worth looking at to get a sense of the coverup in Los Angeles.  The trafficking of ivory and the killing of elephants does not compare in its horror to the harming of children.  If the Church is willing to cover up the former, how reliable are their promises on the latter

The archdiocese’s cover-up, Los Angeles Times

Editorial

The release of confidential files on 1980s clergy sex abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese is the beginning of the end of a long and sordid saga.

January 23, 2013

For years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles fought to keep secret its confidential files concerning pedophile priests. Hundreds of sex abuse victims hoping for a full accounting of what church leaders knew about the growing scandal and what they did to stop it were rebuffed time and again.

But the cover-up is finally coming to an end. On Monday, a series of memos and letters filed in a civil case confirmed that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and other church leaders plotted to shield pedophile priests rather than turn them over to police and prosecutors.

The documents, which date to 1986 and 1987, show how Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, his top advisor on sex abuse cases, discussed strategies to keep priests from coming to the attention of law enforcement….

Los Angeles Archdiocese kept sexual abuse in the shadows, Daily News Los Angeles

Church protected priests accused of child molesting

 

Thousands of pages of court documents show how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for decades knowingly shielded more than a dozen priests suspected of child sex abuse.

A Los Angeles News Group special report offers an in-depth look into how and when the church knew about the abuse and chose instead to move accused priests from parish to parish, even allowing the most abusive to move out of the country….

 

My First ‘Persona non Grata’ (at least from a Cardinal)

Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu would like to have me declared ‘persona non grata’ for my story Blood Ivory: Ivory Worship.  The Cardinal suggests I lied about my interest in religious devotion. He is mistaken. I studied this topic and interviewed many people to help me understand the context for venerating holy images regardless of whether they were ivory. This was an honest interest in Filipino culture and is reflected in the story and here. No word yet how Cardinal Vidal would treat Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, the alleged pedophile and ivory aficionado featured in Blood Ivory whom Vidal promoted to Monsignor and made a leader in an archdiocese of 4 million Catholics, knowing Garcia’s past.  If that isn’t a lie of omission I don’t know what is.

Cardinal Vidal and Monsignor Garcia during the  Installation of Archbishop Jose S. Palma, 2011 C. Bryan Christy

“‘Of course I have a lot of things to explain,'” Vidal tells the Cebu paper today regarding Garcia. “‘Even if the Holy See will ask me about it, I have here the documents,’ Vidal said.”  Cardinal Vidal and Archbishop Palma are soon to be on their way to Rome for the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod.  I wonder what the soon-to-be saint would think.

My First Political Cartoon (the Mouse or the Elephant?)

The above cartoon is how the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper reads Blood Ivory: Ivory Worship this weekend even though Blood Ivory clearly states that China dwarfs the Philippines in its impact on the ivory trade (including this call out quote: “By all accounts, China is the world’s greatest villain when it comes to smuggled ivory.”) and exposes how the Chinese government has exploited the CITES system for its gain.

The Cebu paper would apparently prefer its readers go on living in ignorance of any wrongdoing by Catholic leadership no matter the harm to children, elephants, or civil society at home or in Africa (though racist depictions of Chinese are apparently fine).

How different it might be if the Cebu paper recognized that the comparatively small size and high concentration of ivory collectors/carvers/traffickers among Filipino Catholics offered an opportunity for Filipino Catholics at large to correct a problem, and in doing so to lead the world in the protection of the elephant and the improvement of civil society in both Africa and the Philippines.  Think big or think small–that’s the choice.

Is the Church Tossing Out Environmental Opportunity?

With all of the opportunity for good Blood Ivory represents for people in Africa (and the Philippines), not to mention for elephants, it is disconcerting that the archbishop of Cebu believes that my exposing the ivory trade results from anti-church “bias.”

The Archbishop would appear to want things both ways: He wants to take credit for the Vatican’s finally investigating Monsignor Garcia on child sex abuse charges the Church has known about for a quarter century (hilighted in Blood Ivory), while assessing blame on Blood Ivory’s report about Catholics’ role in the global ivory trade.  Both are facts worthy of positive leadership.  The treatment of children has been such a hard-learned lesson for the Church I grew up in, can it be true the Church will miss the same lesson when it comes to animals and the people who protect them?