Was He “The Priest Who Performs Miracles” – Or a Predator?
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, JesÃºs Antonio CastaÃ±eda 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 â most of them adult men â say he sexually assaulted them during healing rituals he said they needed in order to heal from curses and sexual sins.
A California Report investigationÂ found CastaÃ±eda 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 â or any at all. As he awaits trial, he continues to lead parishioners who swear by his innocence and say CastaÃ±eda’s alleged victims made up lies to obtain legal status in the United States.
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