NJ--Victims urge action by Virginia Catholic officials
For immediate release: Wednesday, Aug. 19
A predator priest worked for three years in a northern Virginia school after raping a boy and fleeing overseas. We urge Virginia school officials and Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde to immediately and aggressively seek out anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered the cleric’s crimes.
A new report says that Fr. Manuel Gallo Espinoza of the Newark Archdiocese admits molesting a boy. When a victim spoke up, two church officials urged him to fly home, Fr. Espinoza says. So he escaped to Equador, and later returned to the US, teaching for years in Virginia and Maryland. Now, Fr. Espinoza is back in Equador, still teaching.
In 2003, Fr. Espinoza fled to South America. From 2005-2008, he worked at Beville Middle School (703-878-2593) in Dale City/Woodbridge Virginia in the Arlington diocese. From 2008-Feb. 28, 2014, Fr. Espinoza taught at Parkdale High School in Prince George's County, Maryland.
This is beyond tragic. It’s inexcusable. And it’s proof that little is changing in the Catholic hierarchy.
It’s heartbreaking that Catholic officials apparently told a suspected child molesting cleric to run from the law. It’s heartbreaking that church staff did little or nothing to help warn police, prosecutors, parents, parents and the public about him. And it’s heartbreaking that the priest has been around kids ever since, later returning to the US to teach and continuing to teach even now in Equador.
We call on police and prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against the Newark archdiocesan officials – and any others - who helped Fr. Espinoza evade the law. We firmly believe that if law enforcement officials are brave, determined and hard-working, they will be able to successfully charge and convict high ranking Catholic staffers who may have obstructed justice, shredded evidence, intimidated victims, discredited whistleblowers, stonewalled police, deceived prosecutors, refused to report child sex crimes or violated any number of other laws.
Shame on every last Catholic employee – in New Jersey or elsewhere - who hid or enabled Fr. Espinoza’s crimes. (Over the years, we suspect that dozens of church officials have learned details about Fr. Espinoza’s crimes, escapes and whereabouts but have kept quiet instead of calling authorities.) They knowingly put innocent children in harm’s way. Their self-serving secrecy and recklessness shows how very little has changed within the Catholic hierarchy. The obsession is still on protecting clerical careers and comfort, even if it means endangering kids.
We call on bishops in three states – Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey – to aggressively seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Espinoza. We also urge them to turn over every single page of records they may have on Fr. Espinoza to police and prosecutors. And we beg these bishops to use parish bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements to prod anyone with information or suspicions to call law enforcement.
These bishops – Newark Archbishop John Myers, Maryland Archbishop William Lori and Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde - should also promptly fire any and every church employee – from custodian to chancellor – who knew or suspected Fr. Espinoza’s crimes but hid or ignored them. Catholics and citizens in each of those dioceses should rise up and demand these firings.
Bishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus, head of the Loja Diocese in Equador, where Fr. Espinoza now works, should publicly and repeatedly warn his flock about the admitted molester.
The school administrators and board where Fr. Espinoza worked in Virginia also have a moral and civic duty to help find others he may have assaulted.
And every single person who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Espinoza or cover ups by his church colleagues should call police and prosecutors today. Whether your suspicions or information seems old, small or inconsequential, it should be given to law enforcement. We never know what tiny fact or vague hunch might make a huge difference in catching, charging or convicting clerics who commit and conceal child sex crimes.
Finally, we applaud Max Rojas Ramirez for having the strength and courage to disclose the crimes he suffered, cooperate with law enforcement and speak publicly. He is a true hero. We hope his bravery will inspire others in pain to step forward, start healing and safeguard others.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected], [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Mark Crawford (732-632-7687, [email protected]), Becky Ianni of Burke VA, DC area director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (703 801 6044, [email protected])