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Archived: Latino Catholics Must Make Children’s Safety a Priority

Last Sunday, officials at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Ontario revealed to parishioners that Rev. Alex Castillo was removed from ministry earlier this summer because of allegations that he abused two young boys at the church. By failing to immediately disclose the cause of Rev. Castillo’s removal from Our Lady of Guadalupe in June, the Church let nearly four months go by where other potential victims of Rev. Castillo suffered in silence.

The case of Rev. Castillo reveals two truths: one, the clergy sex abuse crisis is not limited to an Anglo-Saxon Catholic population, but it reaches broadly within many ethnic communities, including the Latino community in California. Second, the Catholic Church continues to practice secrecy at the expense of transparency and honesty with its parishioners and the public.
I served proudly for 14 years in the state legislature and was the first woman chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus in California.  I am now working on behalf of victims of child sex abuse. As a Latina and a mother of two sons, I recognize that it is culturally very difficult to break the silence in the Latino culture when a child has been sexually abused by a revered and beloved priest in the community. There is shame and cultural pressure, and often family allegiance to a priest, but those difficulties are overcome every time a survivor of child sex abuse speaks out.

With every new survivor that comes forward, there is a recovery of power. Every survivor who courageously speaks out becomes a voice of experience that protects others and helps those who have been wounded. We as a Latino community must make it safe for victims of clergy child sex abuse to come forward and break their silence.

If one word describes out Latino community, it is family. As a mother and a dedicated public servant, I value the strength of our Latino community and the strong religious faith of many Latino Catholics. While still honoring our community, our faith and our churches, we need to make children’s safety a priority in the Latino community. We can learn from the case of Rev. Castillo.

We must demand transparency from our churches and embrace those among us who break their silence to reveal that they too have been abused by a clergy member as a child.  This effort is not about bringing down our churches, rather it is about lifting up brave and courageous victims who have been abused as a child, thereby making our churches, our families and our communities stronger and safer for children.