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Was He “The Priest Who Performs Miracles” – Or a Predator?

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This week we revisit and update a story KQED’s Central Valley reporter Alex Hall brought us in 2020.

Listener advisory: Some accounts of sexual assault in this story contain explicit details and strong language that some may find upsetting or objectionable.

For nearly a decade, Jesús Antonio Castañeda Serna, better known to parishioners as Father Antonio, drew in hundreds of followers from Fresno’s Latino community to his charismatic, Spanish-language congregation, earning him the nickname, “el padrecito que hace milagros” (the priest who performs miracles). Now facing up to 23 and a 1/2 years in prison, his accusers – most of them adult men – say he sexually assaulted them during healing rituals he said they needed in order to heal from curses and sexual sins.

A California Report investigation found Castañeda had been accused before and has moved from the Catholic Church to the Anglican Church and then to another religious group without undergoing complete background checks — or any at all. As he awaits trial, he continues to lead parishioners who swear by his innocence and say Castañeda’s alleged victims made up lies to obtain legal status in the United States.


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