Editorial: A ‘problem’ like Msgr. Cris-A A +A
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
WHEN it rains, it pours and, for Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, rather heavily. Caught in the swirl of the National Geographic article on the illegal trade of ivory, Garcia is also being chased by his past, and this has become a sidebar to the current controversy he is embroiled in.
It does look like National Geographic has not been fair to Garcia and even to Cebu with the way the story was angled. While the article, titled “Blood Ivory,” noted that China is the bigger participant in the ivory trade, it focused on the Philippines and Cebu, exaggerating the role of our veneration of Sto. Niño icons in the global ivory trade.
Garcia was portrayed in the article as one of the best known ivory collectors in the Philippines, ensuring his acquisition of the bad guy status. Not only that, his being involved in a sexual abuse case in Los Angeles more than twenty years ago was dredged up.
Interestingly, that case has been subject of an investigation by the Holy See, the reason for Garcia’s “removal” (Archbishop Jose Palma’s term; Msgr. Achilles Dakay called it “suspension) from his assignments in the archdiocese in June this year, or months before the National Geographic article came out.
Dakay said the “suspension” includes barring Garcia from officiating masses.
The move was obviously made pending the completion of the investigation. Still, it removed an “anomaly” that surfaced since Garcia left the United States and returned to Cebu in 1985, which was his being assigned to sensitive posts like heading the archdiocese’s commission on worship. For his critics, Garcia should have been made to account for the accusations hurled at him instead of being raised to prominence.
In fairness to Garcia, he is not the only one given such a treatment. The Cebu archdiocese has been consistent in the manner it has been dealing with cases of erring priests. Its acts have given people the impression that the Catholic Church has a different concept of crime and punishment as the prevailing justice system.
Still Garcia, who Palma said is sick, should find comfort in the fact that closure is near for the incident that has been haunting him for years now. Whatever the decision of the Holy See will be, it wouldn’t be as painful to accept as his being unfairly pilloried by people who don’t know the truth about what happened more than two decades ago.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 27, 2012.