Miami priest suspended over alleged abuse

Oct. 25, 2012 at 4:06 PM
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MIAMI, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- The archdiocese of Miami has suspended a Roman Catholic priest accused by an Iraq War veteran of molesting him in the 1990s.

The suspension, announced late Wednesday, was a change of course for the archdiocese, the Miami Herald reported. Earlier, church officials had accused the news media of being too ready to believe a lawyer who had filed several lawsuits against the Rev. Rolando Garcia that had not been found credible.

Tony Simmons, at a news conference this week, said he encountered Garcia in 1994 when he was a runaway and only 16. He said the priest, then at the Church of the Little Flower in Hollywood, Fla., helped him initially but then sexually abused him.

After Garcia became pastor of St. Agatha Catholic Church in Miami, the priest hired him as a painter, Simmons said. He said he worked there for two years.

"He controlled my job. He controlled where I lived. I was trapped," Simmons told reporters outside the church. "If I didn't do it then, you know, I don't have a job, and if I don't have a job, nowhere to live."

Simmons, now 34, joined the Army in 2003. His lawyer said he was decorated for his service.

His lawyer, Jerry Herman, has filed dozens of lawsuits against the archdiocese, including four naming Garcia as an abuser. While the church has settled many of the suits. officials have maintained the victims are not credible.

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