A group of parents at a South Florida Catholic school are taking action after their parish priest was allowed to remain on the job following sexual abuse allegations.
A man sued Garcia and the Archdiocese of Miami recently, alleging childhood sexual abuse dating back to the 1980s, when Garcia was attending seminary in Palm Beach County. The man wants to remain anonymous.
“The parents are asking if he can be transferred to a church that has no school attached to it, so there’s no interaction with children at all,” parent Sebastian Rejon said. “That's the overall consensus as a group.”
After the allegations were made, Garcia released a statement in which he said, "I adamantly deny these charges, which I strongly believe were maliciously fabricated. Needless to say, I'm totally innocent of the allegations."
He also passed a polygraph test, according to the Archdiocese.
Parent Lydia Dopico said she is “very concerned,” however.
“I’ve been at St. Agatha now since 2003 and this is the third accusation against this priest. It just doesn't leave me with a good feeling at all,” she said.
Some parents have started an online petition to have Garcia removed from St. Agatha. It had 195 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. The parents have also taken to Facebook and Twitter to try to gain support.
“I'm not judging him – he just does not belong here,” parent Annie Rose said.
Mary Ross Agosta, the communications director for the Archdiocese of Miami, said in an email Wednesday that there are no credible allegations.
She said “this allegation involving Fr. Rolando Garcia has been dealt with quickly, responsively, firmly, and in a just manner."
Garcia also has supporters among parents. Claudia Bailley is one.
“I don't have any concern whatsoever,” said Bailley, who added that she thinks Garcia should stay.