*     *     *

She left a message for John Urell—by now a monsignor and the diocese's point man on the sex-abuse scandal—for advice on whether to drop out. On a whim, Casteix also called DiMaria's lawyer, John Manly. She had just heard about the possibility of filing a lawsuit and was exploring her legal options. After hearing her story, Casteix says, Manly told her, "It's not your fault, and I'm really sorry."

"He was the first person who had ever told me that," Casteix says. After speaking with Manly, she decided to quit the committee and file a lawsuit. Urell returned her message; she never called back.

Casteix in 1986, the year the abuse began
Casteix in 1986, the year the abuse began
Tom Hodgman's 1987-88 faculty photo
Tom Hodgman's 1987-88 faculty photo

*     *     *

Casteix told Manly that school officials had known about Hodgman's abusive ways but never did anything about it until after the Daily Nexus piece. When she told the same thing to Schinderle, the lawyer replied the diocese had kept no record of the event. But during the suit's discovery process, Casteix found out the cover-up was worse than she had ever realized.

The diocese turned over more than 200 pages on Hodgman and Casteix. According to the file, four of her classmates showed her Nexus piece to vice principal Lucretia Dominguez, the same woman who dealt with Casteix's suicide attempt. (Dominguez is now Santa Margarita High School's assistant principal and didn't return a call seeking comment for this story). Dominguez immediately arranged a meeting with the students and Hodgman. "This was the first time Mr. Hodgman had any knowledge of her pregnancy and abortion," Dominguez wrote in a Nov. 7, 1989, memo signed by Hodgman. "Concern was warranted because the father of the child was not stated but certainly reference was made to Hodgman."

One of Casteix's classmates (their names are redacted in the memos obtained by the Weekly) said "she was aware" that Hodgman had molested Casteix because "Joelie [sic] had kept her informed." The students demanded to know if Mater Dei officials had disciplined Hodgman for his transgressions. "My reply was that I did not know that there was a serious issue yet to be dealt with," Dominguez wrote.

That same day, Dominguez and Hodgman signed another document. According to the vice principal, Hodgman had confessed to Mater Dei officials in June 1988 that he "dated" a student. Rather than report him to Child Protective Services (CPS) as required by law, administrators instead asked Hodgman to assure them it would never happen again.

"No record of this meeting was placed in his personnel file, and it is only at the request of the principal that it is now being documented," Dominguez wrote in the Nov. 7 memo.

The following day, Hodgman met with Mater Dei Principal John B. Weling. In a memo signed by Hodgman, Weling wrote that the four former students told him Hodgman had dated Casteix and another student. When confronted by Weling, the choir director "admitted to not only dating these two students . . . but [also] having sexual intercourse with them.

"Mr. Hodgman reassured me that he had undergone extensive counseling and had taken many steps in his personal and professional life to ensure that he would never make this terrible mistake again," Weling concluded. "He swore that this sort of problem has not occurred again with any students."

Two weeks later, Hodgman quit. In a resignation letter to Mater Dei's administrative board, Hodgman laid out a six-point plan to spin his resignation for parents and students; one of them was that he resigned for "personal reasons" and that "rumors of physical, mental, or emotional illness are incorrect and need to be discouraged."

Weling honored Hodgman's wishes. In a Nov. 29 note to school faculty and staff, Mater Dei's principal told them Hodgman had resigned "for personal reasons" and praised the admitted statutory rapist for his "enthusiasm, dedication and far-reaching talent. . . . He will be sorely missed by all of us."

On Dec. 12, Weling wrote to the Orange diocese's superintendent of Catholic schools about Hodgman confessing to abusing Casteix. "The student was under 18 at the time, which necessitated my report to [CPS'] Child Abuse Registry," Weling wrote. "As you can see, there is never a dull moment at the corner of Bristol and Edinger!"

Casteix doesn't believe that any such report was made. "I know what a thorough job [Child Protective Services] does. That's why, when the diocese says they investigated my abuse, I know it was a lie," she said. "I was never so much as called by Dominguez or Weling when they fired Hodgman."

The cover-up motivated Casteix to go public. But before that, she visited her father, who had retired and moved to Mississippi. To her surprise, he was supportive and gave his blessing. She broke her years-long silence in July 2003, when she told Register columnist Steven Greenhut about her resignation from the church's sex-abuse board, calling it a "PR sham."

Soon, Casteix began appearing on news programs across the country telling her story. She appeared on CNN, ABC and radio and television shows, as well as in The New York Times, LA Times, OC Weekly and dozens of other publications. Along with other members of SNAP, she protested Brown's policies across the Orange diocese. In one 2004 protest, Casteix and about a dozen SNAP members—almost all victims of clerical sex abuse—stood outside Holy Family Cathedral while rain drenched them. Inside, the lords of Orange County—law enforcement, judges, politicians, developers—were attending a Mass held in their honor. None of them acknowledged the victims.

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