The place is Father Castillo? New Solutions on Oakland Priest Who Left Nation After Abuse Claims – NBC Bay Space

Oakland priest Father Alexander Castillo seemingly vanished in the months after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor. Yet four years later, the Diocese of Oakland still won’t answer many basic questions about the incident, details about what happened, where Castillo is today, and whether the priest might be a danger to children elsewhere.

While the Diocese remains silent, a letter written by Castillo in the wake of his suspension, and exclusively obtained by NBC Bay Area recently, sheds new light on the priest’s frame of mind just before he left the country. Castillo maintains his innocence and blames another priest for his suspension.

The news about Castillo broke on January 30, 2019, when Barber wrote an internal letter to members of the Diocese, telling them Castillo had been accused of sexual abuse and had been placed on leave. 

Before dawn the next morning, the Diocese also made the announcement in a public press release. Yet according to Oakland police, it took another five hours after the press release went out for the Diocese to file a police report.

The Castillo affair led to questions about whether the Diocese may have violated mandated reporting laws after church officials delayed reporting the abuse allegations to police until a day after Oakland Bishop Michael Barber placed the priest on administrative leave. It’s also still unclear when the Diocese first received notice that Castillo, a high-ranking priest, may have abused a child.

A month after Castillo was placed on leave, he left the country, according to the Diocese. Church officials say they still don’t know the priest’s current whereabouts. NBC Bay Area has been unable to contact Castillo since the abuse allegations were first made public.

The Diocese of Oakland did not respond to questions from NBC Bay Area about its handling of the Castillo incident, only to say they still can’t get in touch with him.

“We have not had any contact with Father Castillo since February 2019 and do not know where he is or how to contact him,” Diocese spokesperson Helen Osman wrote in an email. “Therefore, we have no updates to provide.”

To the outrage of victim advocates, Castillo remains absent from the Diocese’s list of East Bay priests with credible sexual abuse allegations, and church officials have steadfastly declined to divulge the findings from their internal probe in the accusations. 

“They’ve never been fully transparent about it,” said former East Bay priest Tim Stier, a longtime critic of how the Catholic Church and its leaders have handled the clergy abuse scandal.

Despite the lack of answers from the Diocese, NBC Bay Area recently learned new details about the case after Oakland police provided limited information in response to a list of written questions. 


Among the new details released by police: The accusation against Castillo involved not one but two possible victims, both of whom were minors at the time. And the alleged abuse occurred between 2011 and 2014, somewhere outside the City of Oakland and not on church property. 

But police say the alleged victims never cooperated with the criminal investigation, so no criminal charges were ever filed against the priest.

Even so, questions remain about how the Diocese and Bishop Barber handled reporting the Castillo allegations to police.

Stier said the Diocese has an obligation to be more transparent about Castillo and whether it believes the priest to be a potential danger to the public.

“I don’t like how they’ve handled it at all,” Stier said.

Clergy members are considered by law to be mandated reporters, required to immediately, or as soon as possible, report potential child abuse to authorities. 

Victim advocates were outraged and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) issued a press release seeking an investigation into the Diocese for violating mandated reporting requirements.

“It’s really suspicious,” said SNAP leader Joey Piscitelli at the time. “And they’re not telling us where the allegation came from.”

Despite the controversy, Oakland police recently confirmed to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit it never initiated an investigation into whether church officials violated mandated reporting laws.

Less than a month after Castillo was accused of abuse, according to the Diocese, the priest seemed to vanish. Church officials filed a missing persons report with police in February, 2019.


A week went by before Oakland police told the Diocese that Castillo, a native of Costa Rica, had been located somewhere outside the country. But according to the Diocese, police wouldn’t say exactly where he was found.

Now, Oakland police say the department never located Castillo, but rather the FBI advised them of his potential location. 

A Department spokesperson also said officers were never able to make contact with Castillo before he left the country, but declined to state when or how those officers attempted to track the priest down.

Not one to take the Diocese’s official narrative as gospel, Stier did some investigating of his own when the Castillo news broke. He got his hands on a letter written by the priest to other clergy members in the weeks following his 2019 suspension. 


“[In the letter] he’s expressing his absolute desolation,” Stier said.

Stier said he obtained a copy of the letter from an active East Bay priest when it began circulating around the Diocese. Neither the Diocese of Oakland nor the Oakland Police Department answered NBC Bay Area’s questions about the letter or its authenticity.

“I died the day Bishop Barber told me somebody made an accusation against me and I was put on administrative leave,” Castillo’s letter begins. Castillo goes on to call the situation “a misunderstanding,” and writes “proving my innocence requires a process I am not strong enough to undertake.”

Castillo also appears to blame another priest, who NBC Bay Area is not naming, for the allegations against him.

“Sadly, I think the mind behind this is a priest,” Castillo wrote. “Who since his time in Fremont was trying to manipulate people against me.”

Castillo goes on to say that the Diocese is “treating me as a criminal” and that the Bishop got “angry and distant” after the allegation. He ends the letter saying, “I trust that our merciful lord will be the one showing me the compassion I couldn’t find on Earth.”

Stier points out there’s no mention of any alleged victims.

“There’s nothing about the victim,” Stier said. “Now, he’s saying that he’s innocent of the charges, but he doesn’t mention the victim at all.”

Four years after Castillo’s suspension, Stier and other victim advocates continue to raise questions about the priest, his current location, and whether he’s a potential danger.

At a recent press conference outside the Diocese of Oakland where advocates demanded more transparency from the Bishop, Stier was present, holding a sign saying, “Where is Alexander Castillo?”

“Anything we learn about it, we have to either learn on our own or we get it begrudgingly when they cannot hold it back any longer,” Stier said.

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