Priest Charged in Sex Abuse of Boys in Oxnard, CA
Prosecutors are trying to find Father Fidencio Silva
in connection with 25 counts of child molestation. He was last known
to be stationed in Mexico.
By Steve Chawkins and Fred Alvarez
Times Staff Writers
March 28, 2003
A Catholic priest who used to be in charge of the altar-boy program
at an Oxnard church was charged Thursday with 25 counts of child
molestation by the Ventura County district attorney's office.
After an investigation that took nearly a year, prosecutors are
seeking an arrest warrant for Father Fidencio Silva, 53, who served
at Our Lady of Guadalupe church from 1978 to 1986. They will start
extradition proceedings when they locate Silva, who as recently
as 2002 was serving at a church in Mexico.
The criminal charges follow a lawsuit filed by eight men, including
two corporate executives, an attorney and two police officers. They
were altar boys, 11 to 15 years old at the time, who helped Silva
at services, according to a spokesman for the district attorney's
The criminal charges came as the clock was ticking on a state-imposed
one-year limit between police learning of possible molestations
and prosecutors filing charges. They also came with Easter just
around the corner -- a season of renewal especially meaningful this
year for Manuel Vega, 36, an Oxnard police officer who is one of
"What this does, not only for myself but other victims of
Father Silva, is validate us as victims," said Vega, who this
week urged a state Assembly committee to freeze the statute of limitations
in child sex-abuse cases.
"For so many years, we all lived with these horrific incidents
in silence and shame," Vega said. "Now, we are one step
closer to getting to the truth."
For nearly 20 years, Vega pushed memories of the abuse into his
subconscious, he said. In fact, he met with the priest in 1991 to
ask whether he would consider performing a marriage ceremony for
him and his fiancee. But Vega said he felt strangely anxious in
the meeting and backed away from the idea.
It wasn't until he left the Marines the next year and entered the
police academy that recollections of the alleged acts began to emerge.
Privately grappling with his experiences, Vega tracked down other
former altar boys who also claimed to have been molested by Silva
at the church, in the rectory and on outings. The group hired attorneys
to file suit against Silva, his order and the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
They also urged local prosecutors to take up the case.
On Thursday, Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Patricia Murphy said the
felony complaint caps a painstaking investigation into suspected
sex abuse by Silva and at least two other former Ventura County
With the alleged crimes occurring so long ago, prosecutors have
struggled to obtain evidence. They recently used a grand jury to
subpoena witnesses and last month urged a judge to force the church
to turn over documents. Joe Deems, an attorney for Silva's order,
Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, could not be reached for comment.
He told The Times last May that the order investigated Silva after
a 1995 complaint and concluded he had not committed a crime.
Silva received counseling during a leave of absence, before taking
his post in San Luis Potosi, a mountainous state in central Mexico,
In an interview last year with a television reporter, Silva said
he asked boys to model for paintings but denied molesting them.