A California priest has been charged with sexual battery, after he is alleged to have sexually assaulted a San Diego seminarian.
The priest, Fr. Juan Garcia Castillo, is a member of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, a religious community of priests also known as the Eudists. On May 14, Castillo was charged with one count of misdemeanor sexual battery by the San Diego County District Attorney’s office. A preliminary hearing in his case will take place Sept. 21.
Castillo is alleged to have forcibly groped and made sexual advances toward a seminarian after a parish event in early February. The assault was reported to police and diocesan authorities almost immediately, sources say.
Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Diego, confirmed that the diocese had received a report that Castillo engaged in misconduct with an adult. He also told CNA that Castillo no longer has priestly faculties in the diocese.
Castillo, 35, was listed as associate pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Carlsbad, California until late March, six weeks after the assault was allegedly reported to the diocese.
Although Castillo was the subject of a criminal investigation at the time he was removed from the parish, the diocese did not disclose the circumstances of his departure to parishioners, or make any statement at the time Castillo was charged with sexual battery.
Eckery told CNA that the diocese did not disclose to Castillo’s parish the allegation of sexual assault because “it would be wrong for us to influence the case.”
Castillo was born in Honduras, and in 2011 was ordained a priest at St. Patrick’s Parish by Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.
The website of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary’s U.S. region lists Castillo, as of Sept. 17, as “Local Superior of the San Diego Community of the CJM.” He is said to be “working with Eudist seminarians on a family-formation program for the Spanish speaking community.”
Castillo has recently inquired into the possibility of ministry in at least one other U.S. diocese, multiple sources have told CNA.
A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 22. If convicted, Castillo could face up to six months of incarceration, and be listed for life on California’s sex offender registry, the spokesman told CNA.
Eckery said that the Diocese of San Diego does not yet know whether Castillo will face any ecclesiastical disciplinary process after his criminal trial. “We’ll be waiting to see the outcome of the criminal case. At that point, we’ll be informed and we’ll know what the next steps are,” he said.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.