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Statement by the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin on the Arrest of Jesus Antonio Castañeda-Serna

Statement by the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin on the Arrest of Jesus Antonio Castañeda-Serna

Press Release
February 26, 201921395

On February 24th 2019, Jesus Antonio Castañeda-Serna, a former priest in the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, was arrested after victims filed complaints with the Fresno Police Department.

Castañeda (commonly known as Father Antonio Castañeda) joined the diocese in 2008 as the vicar of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Fresno, California. On the evening of October 29, 2017, Bishop Eric Menees received credible accusations that Castañeda had committed sexual misconduct against adults in the diocese. The following morning, Bishop Menees suspended Castañeda from all pastoral and priestly ministry and reported the accusations to the police.

The Anglican Diocese of SanJoaquin hired an independent third party to conduct an internal investigation. Pursuant to diocesan policy, Castañeda was notified of his right to representation at an ecclesiastical trial convened to hear the accusations. On November 24, 2017, Castañeda informed the bishop he would not contest the accusations, and he consented to be deposed from priestly ministry in the Anglican Church. Castañeda was then stripped of all priestly roles, privileges, and standing, and Bishop Menees began lending day-to-day pastoral care and oversight to Castañeda's former congregation.

Since Bishop Menees first learned of the accusations against Castañeda, the Anglican Diocese of SanJoaquin has made pastoral and clinical counseling available to all victims who have already, or who may still, come forward. The diocese is committed to the physical safety, mental health, and emotional and spiritual well-being of all our members. If anyone has been, or believes they may have been, a victim of sexual misconduct or abuse by the clergy or staff members at any church in the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, we encourage you to contact law enforcement and/or the Diocesan Office (559-244-4828, www.dioceseofsanjoaquin.net). We will do our utmost to help you and to seek justice.

If you believe you have been a victim of clergy sexual abuse please contact the Fresno Police Department at 559-621-7000 and request to make a report.

The Rt. Rev. Eric Vawter Menees, Bishop

*****

A former priest of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin was arrested Sunday by Fresno Police following a 13-month investigation of allegations of sexual abuse.

At a news conference held on 25 Feb 2019 Fresno District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp reported Jesus Antonio Castañeda Serna had been arrested Sunday on eight felony and two misdemeanor sexual abuse charges lodged by 22 adult victims.

"He would be facing a maximum of 11 years and six months" if convicted on all charges, the district attorney said. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyers urged other victims to come forward. "It's our hope that as we progress that we'll be able to interview all of the 22 victims and we hope other people to come forward."

Fresno police began their investigation after having been informed in 2017 by the Diocese of San Joaquin of credible allegations of sexual abuse committed by Mr. Castañeda. A statement released by the Rt. Rev. Eric Menees stated that after complaints were received by the diocese, Fr. Castañeda was suspended and an investigation launched. The priest declined to contest the charges and accepted a sentence of deposition from Holy Orders.

Ordained a Roman Catholic priest, Mr. Castañeda served the Catholic Diocese of Yakima as pastor of St Juan Diego parish in Cowiche from 1997 to 2006. He was received into the Episcopal Church's Diocese of San Joaquin in 2007 and served as vicar of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Church in Fresno until he was defrocked in 2017.

Mr. Castañeda is alleged to have preyed on Mexican immigrants, whom he would invite to his office for prayer sessions. Detectives alleged Mr. Castañeda would perform a "healing ritual" using a massage table and oils -- and that these encounters would then take a sexual turn. He told his victims that by masturbating they would be freed from curses.

"He used his position as a religious leader to convince these victims to be spiritually right with God," the lead detective told the press conference.

At the time of his arrest Mr. Castañeda had started an independent church, Holy Spirit, in Fresno and was arrested on Sunday by detectives. He was released from custody on Monday after posting bail and will shortly appear for arraignment.

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