Priest accused of sexually assaulting congregant under guise of ridding him of curse
A former Anglican priest in California manually stimulated a nude congregant with massage oil on a couch under the guise of ridding him of a curse, the alleged victim claims.
A man who took the stand Wednesday in the sex assault case against Jesus Antonio Castañeda Serna — who previously ran Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church in Fresno — said he was deceived by the cleric when visiting his private office in September 2014 for help getting over a breakup and ongoing tension with his kids, the Fresno Bee reports.
But the victim — who said he was also considering leaving the church at the time — testified that Serna instead took advantage of him by coercing him to get naked on a sofa, where the priest massaged his body, including his genitals.
“Knowing he was a priest, I did it out of faith,” the man testified during Serna’s preliminary hearing in Fresno County Superior Court, adding that he was unsure what to think initially.
Serna, 51, then told the alleged victim that women regularly put curses on men and that he suspected his ex-girlfriend’s sister was to blame for his troubles. To rid the man of the hex, Serna said, he needed to masturbate him until he ejaculated, the victim testified.
“He said he had to see the sperm in his hand to see the type of illness I had and the severity of it,” he testified.
The man soon realized that Serna was using him for sexual gratification rather than curing him of any ills. He later tried to kill himself due to the overwhelming shame, he testified.
Serna’s attorney, meanwhile, questioned why the man didn’t go to police about the alleged multiple sex assaults. But the man insisted he was too embarrassed to speak about them, although he did tell some friends, as well as a Catholic priest and an official in Serna’s church.
Serna was charged with 18 counts of felony sexual battery in February. Fresno police said they had identified three alleged victims at the time and said there could be as many as 22, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“He used his position as a religious leader to convince these victims that what he was doing to them had to occur in order for them to be … right with God,” Police Chief Jerry Dyer told reporters.
The priest convinced his parishioners that they were cursed or had to atone for sins before rubbing them with a “sacred oil,” Dyer said.
Serna was stripped of his duties by the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin in November 2017. He previously worked as a Catholic priest in Washington state from 1997 through 2006 and has since started his own church in Fresno, according to the Fresno Bee.
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