Ecuador: Priest Admits Having Sex With Minor in America

Ecuador Priest

In an unexpected admission of wrongdoing, a priest in Ecuador recently said that he had indulged in sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old boy but at the same time, he shifted the blame for his act onto his victim, saying the teenager had evil in his mind and wanted it.

Reverend Manuel Gallo Espinoza used telephone interviews, email exchanges and even Twitter to refer to his encounter with the young boy in the rectory of a church in Plainfield in 2003 as a mistake while also asserting that he was made to wrongfully flee to his native country of Ecuador after his victim reported the incident to a nun and another priest.

“One thing that I am conscious (of) is he was at that time a teenager, and it is a big mistake for me. But I didn’t force him to do anything he didn’t want,” Espinoza wrote. “He was older (sic) enough to walk away, but I think that I was attracted to him, that is the only explanation that I can think right now. … He had something evil in his mind. He approached me many times.”

Espinoza, 51, who could not be located or interrogated in 2003, is now part of a criminal investigation at the prosecutor’s office in Union County. The agency reopened the case after media reports revealed that Espinoza had returned to America in 2005 to work as a teacher. However, he shifted back to Ecuador after his visa expired in 2014 and continues to reside there.

Espinoza objected to being called a pedophile, saying he had learned an important lesson from the sexual encounter years ago.

“I made a mistake once and that’s (sic) was all,” he said.

David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests in St Louis, urged police officials and prosecutors to slap criminal charges against archdiocesan authorities in Newark, who he alleged had helped Espinoza break and evade the law.

“It’s heartbreaking to learn that, once again, New Jersey Catholic officials told a predator priest to flee the US to evade police,” said Clohessy. “And it’s equally heartbreaking to learn that the priest later returned to the US and got a job around kids and remains a teacher even now.”

When questioned via email if he was aware of breaking the law by having sex with a minor at the age of 40, the priest said that back in his country, individuals at 15 years are not considered innocent. He also clarified that he had not had sex with any other minor.

Espinoza’s victim, Max Rojas Ramirez, offered detailed information about how the priest raped him in a bedroom of the rectory at St Mary’s Church a few days before Easter.

Max Ramirez

Ramirez, who is now 28 years old, served as an altar boy at the same church, where he was also a member of the parish’s youth group. He said that Espinoza attacked him only weeks after he had told a priest during a regular confessional about his confusion over his sexuality.

“I saw him as a priest, and that’s it,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t even know who was in the confessional when I went in there.”

In March this year, Ramirez filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Newark, alleging it of being responsible for his rape and criticizing it of having failed to offer stronger protection to members. In his suit, Ramirez pointed out that he was raped only a year after the country’s bishops, shocked by the church’s increasing number of sex scandals, published a landmark manual called Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Espinoza responded to the lawsuit, saying his victim was trying to revive the issue 12 years later only to make some easy money.

“The explanation that I find to begin again with this incident after many years is ‘EASY MONEY,'” Espinoza wrote.

He constantly blamed his drinking alcohol the night that he attacked Ramirez, saying he was primarily very lonely, depressed and homesick. In later exchanges, Espinoza seemed to retract much of his admission, saying he was so drunk, he could not remember what exactly happened that night.

The priest, who served the church for three years before eventually raping Ramirez, said he was speaking out to prove that he is not guilty for what happened and does not pose threat to anybody else.

“I want people (to) know that a mistake made in my life doesn’t define myself that way,” he wrote in an email. “I am a man dedicated to teach doing my best to help students to get ready to be successful in life.”

Ramirez said that after he had been raped, he reported the incident to his godfather, Jeivi Hercules, and then leader of the youth group, Antonino Salazar. Later on, he was taken to a Catholic Charities office, where he shared the incident with a nun and a priest.

However, Espinoza said that it was Hercules and Salazar that asked him to flee the country.

“They said, ‘You’re going to get in big trouble. You better leave. … God prays for you. Go back to your country,'” Espinoza said.

Before fleeing, the priest said that he met with a colleague for a confessional to admit his crime.

Espinoza also said that he would like to meet with Ramirez to clarify exactly what happened that night and apologize for his actions.

“You know my truth, and I don’t want to make this situation bigger, but to look for a humble solution,” he wrote in an email. “… God bless America. I love it with all my heart.”

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