Oratory Priest Suspended after Alleged Sex Abuse

By Jason Cato
The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)
March 5, 2002

A priest at The Oratory in Rock Hill has been suspended after allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor surfaced, the Roman Catholic Diocese in Charleston announced Monday.

Diocese spokesman John Carroll said the church received "creditable information" accusing the Rev. Juan Carlos Castano of the misconduct. Carroll said Oratory officials notified the diocese Feb. 25 after the victim's family reported the abuse.

The suspension came as Catholic dioceses around the country began removing priests accused of molesting children and giving some of their names to authorities.

Carroll would not comment specifically about the allegations, but said the incident is believed to have occurred within the past four months and that the victim's family attended services at The Oratory.

Castano, 44, has been removed from public ministry pending an investigation, Carroll said. His duties included conducting Spanish-language Mass services at The Oratory and the Divine Saviour Roman Catholic Church in York. Carroll said he was not aware of any responsibilities Castano had with youth ministries.

Castano also may have worked as a priest in Charlotte, Carroll said, but that was not part of his role at The Oratory.

The 44-year-old priest came uninvited to Rock Hill in May 1999 after he asked to join The Oratory ministry, Carroll said Monday. After conducting a criminal background check and receiving a recommendation from his priest in Colombia, Castano was granted a three-year visiting status.

The diocese also may have uncovered similar allegation in South America, Carroll said.

"There may be something now that we've looked into it, but we don't have anything for sure," Carroll said. "The bishop and the diocese have zero tolerance for the abuse of children. We took steps immediately upon understanding there were allegations."

That included turning the case over to the Rock Hill Police Department on Monday, though no arrest has been made in the case.

Lt. Les Herring said a preliminary investigation has begun, but officers have yet to interviewed the victim's family.

"We're starting to interview some people to try to see what happened," Herring said. "These are some pretty serious accusations. There might be something to it, but, then again, there might not be."

The Oratory, located at 434 Charlotte Ave., is officially the Congregation of The Oratory of St. Philip Neri. Established in 1934, it's a community of Roman Catholic clergy that supplies priests for three parishes in the Rock Hill area as well as Winthrop University, local hospitals, nursing homes and prisons.

The Oratory houses seven priests, five brothers and two seminary students.

There are other Oratorian communities in Monterey, Calif.; Pharr, Texas; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Pittsburgh.

In the past month, Catholic church officials across the country have given prosecutors the names of at least 80 priests accused over the past half-century of molesting children. Names of the accused were included in news releases, and 10 active priests were suspended, some evicted from their rectories.

Critics say suspending priests before any charges are filed is wrong and violates the men's rights.

The church said it has followed established church policy in reviewing the allegations and meeting with the accuser and the accused. It also stressed that suspensions should not be viewed as a conviction.


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