By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
"If I went through with the pregnancy," she added, "someone would go to jail, I wouldn't attend UCSB in the fall, and I would surely lose my family, the single most important thing in my life."
Students at the university commended her on the piece. But two of Casteix's classmates at Mater Dei who attended UCSB—including the girl who was with her the first day Casteix met Hodgman—drove down to Santa Ana and showed the story to Mater Dei officials.
Casteix didn't hear about the meeting between her classmates and school officials until weeks later, when a friend told her Hodgman had been fired. Casteix was shocked but connected the dots. She went to her friend's room to thank her for the action, but the girl seemed cold.
"We didn't do it for you," the girl told Casteix. "We did it for the other victims. We don't care what happens to you."
* * *
Casteix graduated from UCSB in 1992, moved to Colorado and got married. She tried to teach high school, but "seeing how vulnerable [students] were to everything killed me"; she left the job after a year. Her marriage lasted two years. Her mother died in 1997—dead for a week before family members found her.
Eventually, Casteix moved to Palm Springs but tried to keep her distance from Orange County—and definitely Mater Dei's social circles. The school's alumni are well-known for their fealty toward the school; while administrators told parents, students and staff Hodgman had left to pursue higher education, the rumor mill among Monarchs past and present maintained it was all Casteix's fault. The few times Casteix returned to the county, former friends shunned her. "People told me I was trash, so I thought I was trash," she says.
After a couple of years in Palm Springs doing publicity for theater troupes, Casteix returned to Orange County in 2000.
Then, in 2001, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Orange diocese settled a $5.2 million lawsuit brought by Ryan DiMaria. In it, DiMaria alleged that Michael Harris—former principal at Mater Dei and Santa Margarita high schools, friend to developers and politicians, one of the most popular priests in Orange County history—had repeatedly molested DiMaria while he was a student at Santa Margarita during the 1990s. This wasn't the first time Harris had been accused of assaulting boys: He resigned in 1994 after similar incidents dating back to the 1970s at Mater Dei emerged. DiMaria's case never went to trial, but depositions revealed church officials knew about Harris' attraction to teenage boys yet didn't do anything about it. It was also revealed that Harris targeted his victims by inviting them to dinners and plays and helping him at home—the same tactics Hodgman used against Casteix (see "The Army of God," Aug. 12, 2004).
Casteix's father had mailed Joelle clips about Harris once the allegations were brought out in 1994. But the DiMaria settlement angered her. "The diocese didn't learn anything with me," she said. Instead of stewing, Casteix tried to do something.
She wrote to Pat Murphy, then Mater Dei's principal, now its president. Casteix wanted to help the school with its burgeoning sex-abuse scandal. "Instead of contributing to the problem, I would like to be a part of the solution," she wrote. "It is not my intention to go public, seek damages, or embarrass the school in any way, although it would be an easy route to take. Instead, I would like to help solve the problem." Casteix asked to meet with Murphy and other school officials and talk about helping with its "zero-tolerance" policy, a set of regulations a judge forced the diocese to implement as part of the DiMaria settlement.
"My reputation is unimportant, and I would much rather 'go public' in front of a gymnasium full of MDHS parents and students than to have The Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times and the public at large continue to believe that you turn a blind eye to sexual misconduct," she concluded.
"I thought they just needed a good PR person to teach them how to navigate the scandal," says Casteix, who specializes in crisis management.
A couple of days later, she received a phone call from Maria Schinderle, general counsel for the Orange diocese. They met for lunch at Maggiano's in South Coast Plaza and talked for two hours. There, Casteix reiterated she wanted to be a part of the solution. A couple of months later, Schinderle came back with two offers: a job, and an invitation to share her story alongside other victims before the church hierarchy. Casteix took the latter. Schinderle did not return calls seeking comment for this story.
At the first meeting, Casteix and about six other sex-abuse survivors spoke before bishops Tod D. Brown and Jaime Soto and other church officials. For hours, the victims "bared our souls, shared our stories," Casteix remembers. While Soto was engaged and caring, Brown seemed blank. "He acted as if he was there because someone told him he was supposed to be there," Casteix recalls.
Nevertheless, Casteix and another victim were invited to join a panel that would investigate sex-abuse charges, which were now flooding the diocese as the California Legislature revoked the statute of limitations for sex abuse for a year and the Boston archdiocese sex-abuse scandal made national headlines. The group met once a month at the diocese's Marywood headquarters in Orange. But Casteix lasted only six months. "One priest would bitch and moan [about] public records of priests . . . that it was ruining their names," Casteix remembers. "Another would blame the media and say it was anti-Catholic. Everyone blamed greedy lawyers. Not once did we discuss an allegation of sex abuse."