A suspended Catholic priest has been charged with raping a teenage girl at his former parish in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Inquirer reports. The priest, Rev. Armand Garcia, is also charged with recording their sexual encounter five years ago. According to court records, Garcia surrendered to police on Monday. His alleged conduct first came into public view when the police searched his rectory last year. Sources familiar with the investigation said the charges stemmed from Garcia’s relationship with an altar girl. Investigators believe Garcia had sexual contact with the girl starting from when she was about 16. Garcia, now 49, allegedly offered her alcohol or marijuana during encounters over a period of years, according to the sources, who were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
Garcia is the first priest whom Philadelphia authorities have charged since the conclusion of a 2011 grand-jury investigation that led to prosecutions of five area priests. His arrest comes as the Catholic Church grapples with a clergy sex abuse crisis, kicked off in part by last year’s grand-jury report implicating hundreds of Pennsylvania priests. Garcia was released on $250,000 bond Monday. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 14.