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Family Files Suit Against Diocese of San Bernardino over Child Molestation

Family Files Suit Against Diocese of San Bernardino over Child Molestation

The Press-Enterprise September 22, 2011 — The parents of two brothers allegedly molested by an Ontario, CA priest have filed a civil suit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, alleging the diocese knew about previous allegations of abuse against the priest, but officials covered up past sexual abuse and predatory behavior.

The civil suit against the Diocese of San Bernardino alleges the parish and diocese knew of “Father Castillo’s dangerous propensities and tendencies as a child molester, sexual harasser and sexual abuser” before the two boys were molested, but the diocese and parish did nothing to warn the boys, their families or other parishioners.

There was a “tolerance and culture of sexual abuse” in the diocese, the suit states.

The priest, Rev. Alejandro “Alex” Jose Castillo, 58, was sentenced to one year in jail on August 31, 2011 for molesting one of the brothers in late 2008. The boy was 12-years-old at the time. He could have received 22 years in prison, if convicted of all eight original counts. However, the boy’s parents agreed to a plea bargain of one year in order to shelter their son from the trauma of testifying.

Castillo also allegedly molested the boy’s 16-year-old brother, the family says, but the statue of limitations had expired on this case, and no charges could be brought — as is the case with three other boys or men who were allegedly abused by Castillo.

The abuse against the boys occurred repeatedly in late 2008 in Castillo’s Ontario home and car, the suit states. The boys, now 15 and 18, were both Castillo’s godchildren.

The civil lawsuit was announced in a press conference held at the Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Ontario on Thursday, Sept. 22 — Castillo’s former parish. The suit is also listing Castillo, Our Lady of Guadalupe parish and monsignor Gerard Lopez, the diocesan vicar who allegedly lied to the boys’ parents in 2010, telling them Castillo had never been previously accused of abuse. Meanwhile, court documents suggest Lopez told Ontario police in 2010 that he had investigated two other abuse allegations against Castillo, but concluded they were unfounded.

In a statement, the diocese said it is “disappointing to be named in these lawsuits,” as the diocese says church officials apparently reported the 12-year-old’s abuse allegations immediately to police and stripped Castillo of his priestly duties.

Meanwhile, the parents’ attorney worries that the alleged cover-up happened years after an explosion of lawsuits by sexual abuse victims. Despite promises, he says, the dioceses haven’t dealt with the issues and haven’t gotten rid of priests who are preying on children.

Since 1978, the Diocese of San Bernardino has paid $20.3 million to settle sex abuse cases.

The civil suit is seeking unspecified damages on behalf of the two brothers, stating the boys suffered depression, anxiety, nightmares, shame, and problems in school and with intimacy and relationships due to the abuse.

Joelle Caterix, the western regional director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the civil trial will reveal evidence detailing what information the diocese and parish knew, and when they knew it.

On top of serving in Our Lady of Guadalupe, a primarily Spanish-speaking parish, Castillo also served in three other predominantly Latino parishes in San Bernardino, Rialto and Ontario, as well as in the Los Angeles area and in diocesan and statewide leadership posts.

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