St. Agatha Catholic Church Pastor Placed on Administrative Leave After Latest Sexual Abuse Allegations: Archdiocese

Father Rolando Garcia has adamantly denied abuse charges made against him

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    NBC 6 South Florida
    Father Rolando Garcia

    The Archdiocese of Miami announced Wednesday that it has placed Father Rolando Garcia on administrative leave because of the newest sexual abuse allegations brought against him.

    The Archdiocese said in a statement that it did not know about the allegations from Tony Simmons before he made them public in a news conference Tuesday.

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    Tony Simmons said on Tuesday that South Florida priest Father Rolando Garcia sexually abused him over a long period. Simmons and his attorney Jeff Herman spoke at a news conference, while the Archdiocese of Miami said that none of the lawsuits that Herman has filed involving Garcia have been proven credible. (Published Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012)

    After learning about them, the Archdiocese put Garcia, who is the pastor of St. Agatha Catholic Church, on administrative leave on Wednesday. The Archdiocese also said it will offer counseling to Simmons and investigate the matter following procedures in its “Protecting God’s Children” policy.

    Simmons said he was a 16-year-old runaway when he met Garcia at Church of the Little Flower in Hollywood in 1994. A lawsuit filed Tuesday says that Garcia initially gave him assistance and counseling, but began sexually abusing Simmons after they went to a movie one night.

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    Some parents at the St. Agatha Catholic Church and school in southwest Miami-Dade are seeking to have Father Rolando Garcia removed after sexual abuse allegations were made against him. Parents Sebastian Rejon, Lydia Dopico and Claudia Bailley gave their opinions. Garcia has previously denied the charges, while the Archdiocese of Miami said in a statement Wednesday that are no credible allegations. (Published Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012)

    The abuse continued when Garcia employed him as a painter at the church from 2001 to 2003, Simmons said.

    Two lawsuits have been filed recently against Garcia, who has adamantly denied the abuse charges.

    The Archdiocese said Wednesday that it previously placed Garcia on administrative leave in August after one alleged victim made allegations against the priest.

    "Father Garcia was extremely cooperative and voluntarily took a lie detector test that supported his denial of having abused anyone at any time. At that time, the Archdiocese also interviewed the alleged victim," the Archdiocese said.

    After the Archdiocesan Review Board said that the allegation was not credible, Archbishop Thomas Wenski returned Father Garcia to St. Agatha's following his 10-day leave, the Archdiocese said.

    "Upon his return, Father Garcia read his statement at every Mass on the August 24-25, 2012, providing full disclosure of the allegation and the outcome of the investigation," the Archdiocese said. "Subsequent to these events, (a) lawsuit was filed against Father Garcia and the Archdiocese of Miami."

    Its statement concluded, "During this time, we ask for your prayers for the parishioners of St. Agatha Church, for Father Garcia and for all those affected by this latest accusation."

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