A woman spoke out publicly Monday accusing the Rev. John Esquivel, a former priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bakersfield, of sexually abusing her when she worked as a secretary at the church during the mid-1980s.

Bakersfield resident Silvia Gomez Ray, now a 52-year-old pharmacy technician, said at a mid-morning news conference in front of the church that she was 17 or 18 years old when she was groped, open-mouth kissed and verbally abused by the monsignor, who works as a priest at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Reedley.

Gomez Ray said Esquivel had a "larger-than-life personality" and was widely adored when he worked at St. Joseph. "But he was a different person behind the rectory doors," she said.

The accusations are the latest in a series of accusations that have surfaced recently against priests serving within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.

OTHER ACCUSERS

A representative of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which advocates for victims of abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, said he has been contacted in recent years by three other women who said they were sexually abused by Esquivel, and that two of the accusers, now in their mid-20s, were 16 at the time of the alleged abuse.

The SNAP representative, Joey Piscitelli, said he has filed allegations on their behalf with the state Attorney General, as well as with police in Bakersfield and Reedley.

Esquivel, who worked at St. Joseph from 1983 to 1994, did not respond to a request for comment Monday morning.

DIOCESE STATEMENT

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, which oversees St. Joseph and St. Anthony of Padua, issued a news release Monday afternoon saying it will file a report with the Bakersfield Police Department by the end of the day Monday.

"It is diocesan policy to report all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred," the release stated.

"This matter was also added to the agenda of the Diocesan Review Board that is meeting this afternoon," it continued. "The Most Reverend Joseph V. Brennan, Bishop of the Diocese of Fresno, looks forward to receiving the recommendations of the Diocesan Review Board that is guided by the Charter for the Protection and Children and Young People, and will fully cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation."

GUILT, SHAME

Gomez Ray said she began working with Esquivel after she joined a youth group at the church and he assigned her duties including counting monetary donations. She was later offered a position as secretary, replacing a woman who she said Monday had also endured sexual abuse by Esquivel.

Gomez Ray's employment at the church lasted just four months, during which time Esquivel would touch her inappropriately, including massaging her buttocks, she said.

Adults she reported the abuse to at the time of the alleged abuse dismissed her and "shut her down," which she said made her feel guilty and ashamed.

"It never entered my mind" to report the abuse to authorities, she said. "I buried this but I never forgot."

She was unable to state with certainty whether she was a minor or an adult at the time of the alleged abuse, adding, "It's been so long."

SECOND CLERGYMAN

Besides her sister, the one person who believed and stood by her was an associate priest whose job at St. Joseph was his first assignment. Gomez Ray declined to identify him. A Sacramento attorney who stood next to her at Monday's news conference, Joseph George, said the man still works for the diocese.

Gomez Ray said she was finally persuaded to come forward with the allegations after speaking recently with the woman she replaced as church secretary.

Gomez Ray said she spoke up out of a desire to hold him accountable, protect other potential victims and to remove sexual predators from places of worship. She added she is not seeking money from the church and is not pursuing a civil case over the alleged abuse.

She encouraged other victims of sexual abuse by priests to contact SNAP, not diocese officials, because "once you sign with them you sign away your rights," she said.

"I'm confident that others will come forward," she said.

George asserted Gomez Ray's case was not unique, in that others alleging abuse by Esquivel at St. Joseph were assigned duties by him while they were active within the church's youth group.

"Basically, that was his M.O.," referring to Esquivel's alleged modus operandi, or pattern of operation.

(11) comments

fkcrp

What happened to the policy of not revealing the identity of alleged sexual abuse victims? Why is her name (and picture, for God sake) shown? I would be livid! Furthermore, this casts doubt on the truthfulness of the allegations. Even if she wanted her identity revealed, the Californian should have refused and ran the story with her name as a Jane Doe. Something is very fishy and against policy here.

fkcrp

What happened to the policy of not revealing the identity of alleged sexual abuse victims? Why is her name (and picture, for God sake) shown? I would be livid! Furthermore, this casts doubt on the truthfulness of the allegations. Even if she wanted her identity revealed, the Californian should have refused and ran the story with her name as a Jane Doe. Something is very fishy and against policy here.

Sheebe

So, because some were so weak that they were not taught to speak out when a wrong happened to them, especially sexual assault. A person can be punished over something 30 years ago? Do remember that karma does slap back. You see idiots that have no idea that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. That is ok. Those type usually don't have a happy stable life. Beware of SNAP. Be very aware.

Nevermind

Sure, and if someone murdered your mom 30 years ago, and multiple witnesses finally came out with the story, you would ignore it, right? Opinions aren't facts, including yours, and they don't convict people. If the accuser finally comes forward and says she wants no money, her only reward is people like you throwing her under the bus. Maybe THATs the reason they don't subject themselves to ridicule? Yeah, that's what people are in it for, to be traumatized as kids then abused again years later by someone who was not there and knows nothing about the circumstances. The same kind of rhetoric as yours occured when accusations about Bill Cosby popped up. First it was one accuser, then six, then fifty, and still......they were all liars because Cosby never cussed on stage, had a kids show, and hawked Jello. The bottom line is, he isn't in jail because of anyone's blog opinion, and you eviscerate "idiots" for having an opinion, while peddling your own.

LocalCatholic

How is a man supposed to defend himself against an accusation from 30 years ago? What happened to presumption of innocence? Due process? Evidence?

Nevermind

Uh, he still legally gets all that, opinions don't change that fact. Either by those that defend him, or those that believe the "alleged" victims.

PedoHater

send the pedo church into bankruptcy and into the dust heap of stupidity!

REMUDA

Also . . . remember ! --- Only . . . Name, Rank & Serial No. . . . ! ---- Semper Fortis . . . !

REMUDA

Next . . .

lrlopez74

Remember, Bakersfield: In God and serial sexual abusing priests we trust.

SNAPJudy

Let's hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by John Esquivel will find the courage to come forward and contact law enforcement no matter how long ago it happened. Keep in mind that silence only hurts but by speaking up there is a chance for healing and protecting others today. Judy Jones, SNAP "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" 636-433-2511, SNAPjudy@gmail.com

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