Sacramento Catholic Diocese Helped Accused Priest Obtain Clergy Position in Mexico, Lawsuit Claims.
By Bob Moffitt
Capital Public Radio
October 15, 2019
|Attorney Joseph George and Juan Ricardo Torres. He alleges that Priest Jose Antonio Pinal Castellanos sexually abused him.|
A new lawsuit filed on Tuesday claims the Catholic Church’s Sacramento diocese assisted one of its priests in obtaining a new position with a parish in Mexico after sexual abuse accusations in Northern California in the 1980s.
The lawsuit includes a letter allegedly written by Diocese of Sacramento attorney Louis N. Desmond and indicates that former Bishop Francis A. Quinn approved a request by Priest Jose Antonio Pinal Castellanos to begin working in Mexico.
Castellanos was accused by four boys of sexual assault, then fled the United States.
The agreement was contingent that the diocese in Mexico “assume full responsibility,” including financial liability, if Castellanos committed a sex offense while working in Mexico.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Juan Ricardo Torres. He says Castellanos was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Gridley, an hour north of Sacramento, when the priest befriended Castellanos’ parents.
He alleges that Castellanos began sexually abusing him in 1983 on overnight trips when he was 15 years old.
"I would spend overnight with him and be an altar boy in a different city that he also was part of, Live Oak and Colusa,” Torres said during a press conference on Tuesday. “At some point, he asked my parents if I wanted to go to Mexico. I said no. I had already been molested, sodomized a couple of times prior to that."
But he says his parents made him go, not knowing about the abuse.
Sacramento Diocese Archbishop Jaime Soto said on Tuesday that he was “ashamed” of the letter.
“This was a grave failure of judgment and a betrayal of trust,” Soto wrote. “The safety of children is our highest priority. In 1989 those in leadership failed to do so. I must own and atone for this.”
Torres and his parents reported Castellanos to the Sacramento diocese in 1989, after Torres says he had become depressed and suicidal. The lawsuit says Torres received some counseling and the promise that Castellanos would not be allowed near children.
Torres says he was angry when he discovered Pinal was still working in Cuernevaca, Mexico. "These are individuals that are supposed to be the closest thing to Jesus Christ or God ... and they're not," Torres said.
Castellanos was not immediately available to discuss the lawsuit.
Torres is filing the suit now even though the statute of limitations has expired. Victims of sexual abuse have been granted a three-year window under a new law, Senate Bill 218, that goes into effect on January 1.
Attorney Joseph George filed another suit on Torres' behalf in 2003, but a court ruled the statute of limitations had run out.
George says the church is still not being transparent about sexual abuse, despite the releasing the names of offending priests and disciplinary actions earlier this year.
"The difference here is that we have a letter in July 1989, the same year, 30 years ago where they're cutting a deal to allow him to be ordained in diocese in Cuernevaca. Is that truthful? That's not transparent," George said.
Torres is seeking compensation for physical and mental pain, suffering and emotional distress.