A Roman Catholic priest has pleaded guilty to lewd acts on a 5-year-old girl in his Hispanic ministry.
The Rev. Juan Carlos Castano, 44, was sentenced to two years in prison and two years’ probation on Friday after he told Judge John C. Hayes III he acted inappropriately with the girl at her Rock Hill home in 2000.
After the incident, the girl told her 10-year-old brother, who promptly told his mother. The victim’s family reported the incident in February 2002 after the local parish circulated a questionnaire about how Castano’s work among the area’s Hispanic Catholics could be improved.
Assistant prosecutor Willie Thompson said once the victim’s family came forward with the allegations, the Charleston Diocese hired a private investigator to whom Castano admitted his actions.
The investigator then reported the incident to Rock Hill police.
Castano told investigators he fondled the girl through her clothes while he was baby-sitting after her mother went to work.
Castano was arrested in March 2002 as the nation was wrapped up in the unfolding scandal involving Catholic priests accused of molesting young parishioners.
The victim’s mother asked for a stiff punishment on Friday’s hearing.
“A person who is God’s representative shouldn’t do these things,” the Spanish-speaker said tearfully through an interpreter. “When someone doesn’t act correctly, they deserve punishment.”
The mother said since the incident her daughter has regressed in her development and requires counseling because of her mental state.
Castano’s attorney, York County public defender Harry Dest, portrayed the cleric as a sexually and socially naive person who has lived a sheltered life from his boyhood in Bogota, Colombia, to entering a seminary at age 18 and being ordained into the priesthood 15 years later.
Castano came to the United States in 1999.
Although not a member of the Oratorical order, he lived at The Oratory in Rock Hill, from where he served the growing population of Catholic Hispanics in York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
Castano’s actions “had a chilling effect on people in the Hispanic community,” Thompson said. “He was a man to whom people confessed sins and their deepest secrets.”
As part of his sentence, Castano will be required to register as a sex offender and will not be allowed to be around young children without another adult present.
He also must undergo counseling and pay $808 restitution to the victim’s family for wages lost as a result of his actions, Hayes said.