Diocese of Sacramento Helped Abusive Priest Obtain Position in Mexico, SNAP Reacts

According to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento assisted a priest in obtaining a new position in Mexico following four sexual abuse accusations in Northern California. The legal complaint includes a letter, reportedly written by the diocesan attorney and approved by the bishop at the time, allowing the cleric to work in Mexico as long as the diocese there assumed “full responsibility” in the event the clergyman committed a sex offense while working in in that country. 

We applaud the brave survivor, Juan Ricardo Torres, for coming forward. He was promised 30 years ago that Fr. Jose Antonio Pinal Castellanos would be kept away from children. Instead, Juan is the one that is making the world a safer place, as his abuser’s current whereabouts are unmasked and he will hopefully be removed from ministry once and for all. 

Fr. Castellanos is on the list of “credibly accused” clergy released by the Diocese of Sacramento on April 30, 2019, under the name of Jose Antonio Pinal. However, contrary to what the letter says, the list claims that the priest’s faculties were removed in 1989, and that he fled to Mexico. There is absolutely no mention of the deal with the Diocese of Cuernevaca to allow Fr. Castellanos to continue functioning as a priest. 

According to the article, the current bishop of the diocese, Jaime Soto, said on Tuesday that he was “ashamed” of the letter. “This was a grave failure of judgment and a betrayal of trust. The safety of children is our highest priority. In 1989 those in leadership failed to do so. I must own and atone for this.” 

Given the bishop’s response, we can only assume that this letter has been in the diocesan files since he became its head in 2008. We cannot help by wonder how long Bishop Soto been aware of this priest, his crimes, and his whereabouts, as well as the deal that allowed Fr. Castellanos to continue to work as a clergyman? The fact that this information was not included on the diocesan list seems to us to be the complete opposite of transparency. 

It is well past time for Bishop Soto and bishops throughout California to lift the veil of secrecy and expose what has been done in the past and what they are still keeping hidden. If church officials cannot be truly transparent as they have promised again and again, it is well past time for governmental officials to force that transparency.

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board of Directors (dmcnevin@aol.com, 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator (msakoda@snapnetwork.org, 925-708-6175),  Becky Ianni, Treasurer, SNAP Board of Directors (snapvirginia@cox.net, 703-801-6044), Tim Lennon, President, SNAP Board of Directors (tlennon@snapnetwork.org, 415-312-5820), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)


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