Child sex abuse survivor ‘outs’ an abusive priest

Child sex abuse survivor ‘outs’ an abusive priest

She speaks publicly now for the first time

Her alleged abuser is still in active ministry

At least four other victims have come forward

SNAP calls on Diocese of Fresno to “aggressively reach out” to other victims


At a news conference, a child sex abuse victim who was sexually abused by a Reedley priest will name her abuser publicly for the first time and share her experiences as an abuse victim within the Diocese of Fresno.


Monday, June 17 at 10:45am


Outside of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 1515 Baker St in Bakersfield, CA


Sylvia Gomez Ray, a survivor of clergy childhood sexual abuse, Joe George, a Sacramento attorney who represents the sexual abuse victim, and Joey Piscitelli, a Bay Area man who is a long-time leader of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests


Sylvia Gomez Ray, a California woman, has just filed a report with the Attorney General’s office regarding abuse she experienced at the hands of an active priest within the Diocese of Fresno. At the event, Sylvia will name her abuser publicly for the first time.

She will talk about the abuse she suffered. And she wants to let other victims know “you are not alone. You do not have to continue to suffer in silence."

Sylvia Gomez Ray, now 52 years old, was part of the St. Joseph’s youth group when Monsignor John Esquivel first met her and began grooming her. When Sylvia was a teenager, Msgr. Esquivel recruited her to work as the church secretary, replacing another teen that Esquivel had sexually molested. Msgr. Esquivel continued on to sexually assault Sylvia while she worked as the church secretary.

Monsignor Esquivel currently works at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Reedley, CA. He was the first priest ever ordained into the Diocese of Fresno and has worked within the diocese for more than 50 years. In recent years, SNAP has been contacted by at least four survivors of Msgr. Esquivel. One of those survivors stated that they refused to report to the Bakersfield Police Department because the investigator the survivor spoke to stated that his first call would be to the bishop.

There are currently seven priests within the Diocese of Fresno that have been suspended for misconduct, a remarkably high number for a diocese with fewer than 100 parishes. At least four of those priests – Fr. Eric Swearengin, Rev. Raul Diaz, Fr. Jean-Michael Lastiri, Fr. Gaspar Bautista, and Msgr. Craig Harrison – have been suspended due to allegations of abuse. Just last week, the Diocese of Fresno revealed that it had reversed a decision made by previous church officials and removed Fr. Swearingen from ministry. Fr. Swearingen had been previously accused of abuse but the accusations were originally found to be “not credible.” SNAP fears that similar accusations against Msgr. Esquivel may have been treated in the same way.

SNAP is calling on Bishop Joseph Brennan to suspend Msgr. Esquivel from ministry while these claims are investigated. And they are asking that church officials aggressively seek out other victims of Msgr. Esquivel and encourage them to contact the police, local district attorney, and the attorney general. Additionally, because many of the communities that fall within the Diocese of Fresno have large Latino populations, SNAP urges that outreach be conducted in both English and Spanish and should also include the fact that California is a sanctuary status and so any undocumented witnesses or survivors should know that they can come forward without fear of reprisal from the government.

Contact: Dr. Joseph C. George (916) 802-7949 cell, (916) 641-7300 office, Joey Piscitelli, SNAP Northern California Leader, 925-262-3699, [email protected]

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant