|Two New Lawsuits Filed against Ontario Pastor Imprisoned for Child Molestation
By Sandra Emerson
September 22, 2011
ONTARIO - Two new civil lawsuits have been filed against the Rev. Alejandro Castillo and the Diocese of San Bernardino on the behalf of two brothers in Castillo's parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Ontario.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP, held a news conference outside of the church Thursday to announce the lawsuits alleging sex abuse by Castillo and a cover-up by the diocese as well as to call out to any other victims.
"For us, we got Alex Castillo behind bars, but what's important is to hold accountable the people who covered up for him," said Joelle Casteix, western regional director for SNAP. "It's the institutional cover-up that puts kids at risk. That's why these suits are so important."
Castillo, 58, last month was sentenced to one year in prison for committing lewd sexual acts with a 12-year-old boy in his parish.
Castillo pleaded no contest as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that carried a one-year sentence in jail.
The boy involved in the criminal conviction, now 15 years old, as well as his older brother, 18, filed the lawsuits against Castillo and the diocese Wednesday.
The suits charge that the priest had a 20-year history of predatory behavior, which was well-known by Diocese of San Bernardino officials.
The suits also contend that Castillo was intentionally placed in poor, Spanish-speaking communities where children are less likely to report. When church officials were informed of the abuse allegations in 2010, they refused to report the crimes to law enforcement.
"Given our well-documented commitment to protect children from abuse through both policy and action, it is disappointing to be named in these lawsuits," diocese spokesman John Andrews said in an emailed statement. "With regard to the minor whose family has filed this lawsuit, we followed our policy for responding to allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by church personnel. The information was provided immediately to police and Rev. Castillo was removed from ministry."
The plea bargain prevented a public trial and as a result, it was not known how much the diocese knew of Castillo's behavior and whether there were more allegations, Casteix said.
"That's why the civil process is so important," she said. "It allows us to go forth and find out who knew what. It allows us to reach out to more victims."
Casteix said five other victims have come forward.
John Manly, an attorney for the victims, said during the conference that the lawsuit is not about the Catholic faith or the parishioners, but rather the members of the hierarchy who continue to protect priests who act out sexually with children.
"This is simply about child protection," Manly said. "Increasingly apparent to us that the diocese was well aware that Father Castillo had serious problems of acting out sexually and yet put him in this beautiful parish and gave him access to kids. That's not okay."
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