A Roman Catholic priest in the Philippines inadvertently prompted an investigation against himself after he offered advice for an article on the ivory trade in the National Geographic magazine on how to smuggle ivory statues.
The article with a section titled "How to Smuggle Ivory" has Monsignor Cristobal Garcia instructing readers on the best way to smuggle an ivory statue to the U.S. It is to “wrap it in old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it. So it looks sh**ty with blood. This is how it is done.”
Garcia also gave the reporter, phone numbers, location and names of his favorite ivory carvers, all in Manila, along with advice on whom to go to for high volume, whose wife overcharges and who doesn’t meet the deadlines.
The article says Garcia is one of the best-known ivory collectors in the Philippines and was dismissed from service at St. Dominic’s of Los Angeles in the mid-1980s for sexually abusing an altar boy in his early teens.
However, back in the Philippines, he was promoted to monsignor and made chairman of Cebu’s Archdiocesan Commission on Worship which made him head of protocol for the country’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese.
The Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation officer Sixto Comia said Wednesday that authorities were investigating the origin of ivory icons widely used in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, reported the Associated Press. Garcia, who is based in Talisay city in Cebu province, is reportedly ill and in a hospital, the report said.
The priest has not been charged with any crime and his collection has not been confiscated, according to a CNN report.
According to the Philippine media reports, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, has extended support to the investigation but added that Garcia deserves a “fair and just hearing.”
The archbishop said he would not tolerate illegal acts among Cebu clergy: “Why will I defend somebody if he committed something illegal?” Palma said.
He said that the Catholic Church supports the ban on ivory, “as it is consistent with her doctrine on stewardship of creation,” though ivory was widely used in the past as a decorative material for religious services.
Responding to the earlier lawsuit on sexual harassment against Garcia in the U.S., Palma said that the case had been brought to the notice of Vatican, which had initiated an investigation long before the present controversy erupted.