Max Rojas Ramirez stands outside St. Mary's Church in Plainfield. Ramirez, 28, has filed suit against the Archdiocese of Newark over an alleged rape when he was 15. A church review board found the allegation credible last year. Photo by Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for

Priest admits sex with minor, says teen 'wanted' it

Max Rojas Ramirez stands outside St. Mary's Church in Plainfield. Ramirez, 28, has filed suit against the Archdiocese of Newark over an alleged rape when he was 15. A church review board found the allegation credible last year. Photo by Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for

Max Rojas Ramirez stands outside St. Mary's Church in Plainfield. Ramirez, 28, has filed suit against the Archdiocese of Newark over an alleged rape when he was 15. A church review board found the allegation credible last year. Photo by Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for

NEWARK, N.J. – In an extraordinary admission of wrongdoing, a priest sought by authorities in New Jersey has acknowledged engaging in a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old boy, but he deflected blame for the incident by saying the teen "wanted" it and had "evil in his mind."

In a telephone interview with NJ Advance Media, in email exchanges and in a lengthy post on Twitter, the Rev. Manuel Gallo Espinoza said it was a "mistake" to have sexual contact with the boy in the rectory of a Plainfield church in 2003. He said he fled to his native Ecuador after the victim told a nun and another priest that Gallo Espinoza raped him.

"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," Gallo 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."

Gallo Espinoza added: "He had something evil in his mind. He approached me many times."

The 51-year-old priest, who was not questioned by detectives in 2003 because he could not be located, is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Union County  (N.J) Prosecutor's Office.

The agency reopened the long-dormant probe after inquiries by NJ Advance Media, which reported late last month that Gallo Espinoza returned to the United States in 2005 to work as a teacher. He said he went back to Ecuador when his visa expired last year and that he remains there now.

Gallo Espinoza said he does not consider himself a "pedophile person" and that he learned a lesson from the encounter.

RELATED: Full statement by the Rev. Manuel Gallo Espinoza on

"I made a mistake once and that's (sic) was all," he said.

David Clohessy, director of the St. Louis based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on police and prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against the Newark archdiocesan officials who helped Gallo Espinoza 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."

Asked by email if he realized he was committing a crime by having sex with a 15-year-old boy when he was 40, Gallo Espinoza responded, "I just came fr (sic) my country and really in Ecuador a person at 15 years old is not consider (sic) so innocent."

He added that he had not had sex with other minors.

Gallo Espinoza's accuser, Max Rojas Ramirez, said the priest raped him in a bedroom of the rectory at St. Mary's Church in Plainfield shortly before Easter in 2003. Ramirez, now 28 and living in Elizabeth, was an altar boy and a member of the parish's youth group at the time.

He said Gallo Espinoza attacked him weeks after he told the priest in confession that he was confused about his sexuality. Ramirez flatly denies Gallo Espinoza's contention that he sought anything more than counsel.

"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."

He added that he was gratified Gallo Espinoza admitted the encounter, saying it shows he has been telling the truth.

NJ Advance Media published Ramirez' name at his request.

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In March, Ramirez filed suit against the Archdiocese of Newark, saying it was responsible for the priest's behavior and should have established stronger protections. The incident took place just a year after the nation's bishops -- badly shaken by the church's sex abuse crisis -- established a landmark document known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Gallo Espinoza made reference to Ramirez's lawsuit in his correspondence, saying the victim had revived the issue after 12 years to cash in.

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

He repeatedly blamed his use of alcohol the night he took Ramirez to the rectory, saying he drank too much because he was depressed, lonely and homesick.

In later emails, Gallo Espinoza sought to retract his admission, saying he was so drunk he didn't remember the incident and simply accepted Ramirez's claims.

Gallo Espinoza, who had served at St. Mary's for three years leading up to the sexual encounter, said he wanted to speak out to prove that he is a good person and that he is not a danger to others.

"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."

He said he continues to teach in Ecuador.

He added that stress from the incident has contributed to lasting medical problems, chiefly gastritis and colitis.

It was not immediately clear how Gallo Espinoza's admission will impact the criminal investigation. Mark Spivey, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, declined to comment on the status of the probe or on the priest's statements. The criminal statute of limitations on sexual assault was abolished by the state Legislature in 1996.

Should the prosecutor's office charge Gallo Espinoza in absentia, it faces the hurdle of extraditing him. The United States and Ecuador do have an extradition treaty, but a 2012 analysis by the online magazine Slate found the South American nation to be among the least cooperative partners.

Beyond the fate of Gallo Espinoza, the circumstances of his departure raise new questions about those who were made aware of it early on.

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 Ramirez has said that within days of the attack, he reported it to Jeivi Hercules, his godfather, and Antonino Salazar, then the leader of the charismatic youth group at St. Mary's. Both men confronted the priest, Ramirez said.

Shortly afterward, he said, Salazar brought him to a Catholic Charities office, where Ramirez told a nun and a priest what had happened. The account is confirmed by a transcript of an interview Salazar gave to police in 2003. It was Catholic Charities that ultimately notified the prosecutor's office, records show.

While the circumstances of Gallo Espinoza's abrupt departure have never been fully disclosed, he said in the telephone interview it was Salazar and Hercules who told him to run. Hercules, who has since entered the priesthood, is now parochial vicar at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington.

"They said, 'You're going to get in big trouble. You better leave. ... God prays for you. Go back to your country,'" Gallo Espinoza said.

Before leaving, he said, he attended confession with another priest and admitted what he did.

Gallo Espinoza said he then bought a plane ticket. He did not inform Archbishop John J. Myers or any other official of his plan to run.

Hercules has not responded to numerous requests for comment. Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the priest would not consent to an interview.

Salazar's wife said the couple would have no comment.

Gallo Espinoza said he wanted to speak with Ramirez to apologize and to "clarify things."

"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."

(Mark Mueller writes for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.)



  1. ““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,” Gallo 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.”

    Of course it’s the only explanation you can think of right now. It’s the only explanation that any priest, called by god to the priesthood, swearing vows of chastity, caught with his hands down the cookie jars pants, can think of. Otherwise, the cognitive dissonance between what a priest is supposed to be, and what so many of them actually DO, would be too great.

    Now where have I heard this story before? In the great Christian tradition of moral responsibility, of course.

    The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”

    But it doesn’t end there.

  2. 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

    One more time: we have a confused, sexually repressed and obsessed, pedophilically oriented Catholic priest, who probably entered into the priesthood in order to escape from his sexuality. Or even more likely, given his comments, he was probably doing the same thing in Ecuador, and is in the priesthood because it gave him access.

    And in this very thread, the usual suspects will show up, claiming sexually healthy gay men are really the culprits, and this man’s pathology and criminality are typical of people who are as horrified by this as any decent person would be.

    And the best part of all? He was obviously helped to escape by the Catholic hierarchy…

    Because (yet another) scandal in the church is far worse than enabling a pedophile to commit his crimes, and evade responsibility.


  3. Maybe it was done out of sincerely and deeply held religious belief? That makes it OK, right?

  4. Priests, ministers and rabbis are in positions of great trust. That so few abuse that trust is admirable. However, safeguards should be in place for all these men and women to combat loneliness, to provide wholesome and regular recreation, communal prayer, sharing and caring. Most people go to church or synagogue once a week. The church does far more work than that! Bishops have a grave obligation to see that the flock is cared for by able and healthy men and women who minister to their congregations. Stop going to so many meetings and go to rectories and churches frequently. Be involved, because you will have to answer for your stewardship to none other than YHWH Himself!!

  5. How typical to blame the rape victim.

    Sadly, the overwhelming majority of pedophilic rape is heterosexual, committed by fathers against their daughters. But, due to deep cultural hatreds and biases fueled by Bible-cultists, it seems only same-sex incidents ever make the news.

  6. First, this priest is unbelievably stupid. Whether a person is 15 or 99, sexual conduct is verboten when you are a dddCatholic priest….whether in Ecuador or the USA. Though I believe the child may have seduced him, that type of seduction is to be understood as immature and not a sign of consent by all rational adults. All of us are aware that teens are highly sexual today, so it’s not hard to imagine this kid going “where the money is”. That is beside the point, though, the priest must face the justice of society and the Catholic church…..

  7. No matter what the incident, the priest is wrong on every level. A priest, by his holy vows, is never to have sexual conduct with anyone, in any country on earth. A 15 year old boy is certainly capable of seducing this priest, but all rational adults are to view such advances as immature and no indicator of consent. This priest must face his punishment from society and the Church.

  8. Well, Dominic, we are in 100% agreement on this one. Hell must’ve frozen over.


    The priest had his chance to face punishment within the church and society, yet nothing was done. In fact, apparently he had enough time to escape — enough leisurely time. And the church has made no effort to return him from Ecuador. In fact, it’s not even clear that he’s not a priest there.

    Meanwhile, his neighbor has become a priest as well.

  9. Well, Pope Francis seems to be acting much quicker on these cases…let’s hope it continues.

  10. Sister,

    “That so few abuse that trust is admirable…”

    25,000 cases of priest pedophilia in the USA is not ‘so few’!

    The decent priests who remain need to quit this insipid primitive philosophy which forgives depravity and surrenders to evil.

    There is no Gandalf God looking out for those priests.
    There is no truth in the claim Gandalf God is looking out for children either.

    Think for one moment of how intellectually corrupting and immoral it would be to surrender yourself to Gandalf.

  11. Dominic,

    “A priest, by his holy vows….”

    ….Must forgive himself!

    “Any and all sins will be forgiven [even perversity]…” – JESUS (Mark 3:28)

    Christianity endorses this immoral, horrific theory
    which fundamentally encourages criminal behavior and discourages self-restraint.

    Shame on you.

  12. One thing I’m not clear on is who was the pitcher, and who was the catcher. If the priest said he was raped, then what does that really mean? I suppose if he was on the receiving end of things, then he can make that claim, but if on the giving side, then there is no detectable remorse in any of his statements. At minimum, there should be deep sorrow and regret in his statements, but, I don’t really sense that. In any event, he is either a bisexual man who became a priest, or a gay man. The only good thing to be taken from this article is that supposedly this only happened once during his time as a priest. But we need more information, as the article is incomplete.

  13. Which part makes your fantasies more exciting? You know what, lets just say, whichever way works for you. 🙂

    You seem to take a very unnatural interest in the mechanics of the molestation act. Its like you trying to get pointers from the priest.

  14. Larry, how many people were outraged at the number of boys and teenage boys who were abused and sodomized by a certain element within the Catholic priesthood (making up about 3% of the priests) mostly in the latter part of the 20th century. And I for one have noticed one common thread in all of those cases: there was no regret, no admission of wrongdoing, no sorrow. Their position seems to be one of excuses, and blaming others. And that is at total odds with the Catholic Faith; their character is way out of sync with the type of man the Church most often pursues for the priesthood. So it makes me nervous that this man was never flagged, or warned by his bishop about his actions. And until I read more about it, I am not sure what to make of this priest.

  15. And yet your interests were on the mechanics of the molestation. Not concern for the victim or outrage at the perpetrator. Something people generally go out of their way to avoid considering.

    Quite unusual.

  16. Of course they were. That tells me who the aggressor was.

  17. Because apparently you are looking pointers on how to molest teenagers.

  18. Dominic,

    The immoral core of Christianity is Jesus’ command to forgive evil.
    It has produced 2000 years of uninterrupted horror.

    Let alone the evil message that a person had to be slaughtered in blood sacrifice for your personal benefit. Religion is a delusion.

    When you grow up,
    perhaps you will understand.

  19. @ Greg

    It tells you absolutely NOTHING of the sort. It just tells me what you have told me any number of times: that you have had, and continue to have a fundamental misunderstanding and outright ignorance of gay male sexuality, and what it actually means to be a gay man, as opposed to a repressed, sexually confused, self-hating predatory man who is same-sex attracted and cannot deal with it.

    If you want to actually learn something, I suggest you google pushy bottom and power bottom. Unfortunately, I am afraid that you are so blinded by your prejudices, religion, and ideological needs that you will misunderstand that as well.

  20. Look at the example of Joseph in the Bible. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him in Egypt, and he FLED from her (Genesis 39:7-20). She claimed rape to Potiphar, and he was imprisoned for some time for a crime he did not commit (and later released). He was evidently innocent in that case.

    This priest, however, should have known better that his action would be wrong, he did not flee from the person and his advances, did not communicate to others about this problem, certainly is not innocent, and decided to put the blame on the other person. Big difference from Joseph!

  21. As a side note to this, when Potiphar’s wife told Joseph to lie down with her, he replied “how could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

    The Mosaic Law was not even in effect at that time; yet, he still knew this was wrong!

  22. Max, you being an atheist should not concern yourself with the rubrics of religion or the life and message of Christ. Your unbelief also clouds your mature understanding of what you call “2,000 years of uninterrupted horror.” You spew hate coupled with an overall ignorance of history, philosophy, and religion. So, why do you persist?
    Imagine, which you can’t, a history without Godfearing citizens…a society completely immersed in its own self gratification. No atheistic society has not collapsed on itself, yet Christianity still thrives and provokes us to this day.

  23. Dominic,

    “You should not concern yourself with…religion”

    Oh, but unfortunately I must. Because the religious insist.

    It is apparently a priority of religion to shove itself in my face every day:

    Religious decrees over women’s rights
    various horrific suicide bombings,
    genital mutilations,
    lying to children about hell
    Fleecing poor people of their money
    25,000 cases of pedophilia from priests

    Religion won’t shut up – so I have to keep speaking.

    And you are completely wrong about Atheism.
    Our ATHEISTIC CONSTITUTION is what keeps you safe from being slaughtered by other religious sects:
    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion…”

    That is Atheism at its finest.
    To decide to have a religion is to squander your true American freedoms:

    “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”
    – James Madison
    to Wm. Bradford, 1774

  24. Dominic, you are laying down laws for others, but if you believe so earnestly in Catholic sexual teaching, do you not know that pretty much any sexual activity you are involved in is verboten? (Romans 2:1)

  25. Ben, political correctness is attempting to wipe out the clear correlation between gay men, and sodomy with boys. Studies have shown that between 30 and 40 percent of gay men have engaged in male pedophilia. Now, however, they declassify men who sodomize boys as being gay, so the thought-police are attempting to hide the correlation. But if I were a detective, looking for probable causes, then only a fool would overlook the connection. It is clear to me that you are not be a pedophile, but many gay men who joined the Catholic priesthood abused both young and teenage boys. The Catholic Church now screens gay men who have ever engaged in gay sex from their seminaries. That is very wise, as they have been shelling out big $$$ to victims now, and have seen front and center where the problem emanates from, while the Left has moved into conceal mode.

  26. “Studies have shown that between 30 and 40 percent of gay men have engaged in male pedophilia.”

    Really? Which studies? Are you trotting out those VERY fake FRC numbers? Funny how the authorities like Nicholas Groth say that this is simply not the case.

    If you want to talk about mythical political correctness– hiding behind yet another bogey man of the right wing– your stance completely ignores the nuances of the reality of the situation in favor of your politically and religiously motivated agenda. It ignores the reality that some people are just pedophiles, and that is what interests them. It ignores the reality that men who are confused, repressed, and somewhat sexually attracted to males are using their positions as CATHOLIC PRIESTS to gain access.

    As always, TWO WORDS: Jerry Sandusky, universally proclaimed heterosexual. and a man who molests boys.

    All that this whole screed shows is that you are desperate for gay men to be the culprits.

  27. Greg1, the details of the encounter are contained in the (Newark Star-Ledger) article. Gallo never claimed that he was raped by Ramirez. Ramirez stated in a detailed narrative contained in the article that he was sleeping in the rectory, at Gallo’s invitation, after several hours of hanging out with a drunk and depressed Gallo in the church parking lot. The priest forced himself on Ramirez. If you need more details to “satiate” your “curiosity,” read the article.
    On a separate note, I’m taking with a big grain of salt the Archdiocese of Newark’s claim they had no role in this. After all, they only requested his laicization in 2010. We know that soon-to-be-“retired” Abp. Myers has a history of shielding and even helping abusers in both the Diocese of Peoria and here in Newark (google Michael Hagee).

  28. Michael FUGEE, sorry. (Hagee’s got his own problems but child abuse isn’t one of them.)

  29. “……Studies have shown that between 30 and 40 percent of gay men have engaged in male pedophilia…..”

    The most common form of pedophilia occurs when two gay men kiss on the mouth in front of children and thereby attempt to implant the notion in young minds that it normal to practice sodomy when the child reaches the legal age of consent.

  30. bqrq,

    “The most common form of pedophilia…..kissing in front of children”

    Homosexuality is a form of love. You would rather have children fear Hell – a fictional invention designed to instill fear – The biggest Christian lie of them all.

    The depravity of religion is not only the ignorance it maintains –
    but the despicable practice celebrating ignorance as a virtue.

    Religious philosophies are a fundamental cause of evil in this world.

  31. No Greg1, its called facts. Bigots have been using that unfounded smear tactic for a while now.

    The truth of the matter is, the repressive atmosphere seen in religious groups (who are predominately anti-gay) has been enabling sexual abuse for a very very long time.

    “Studies have shown that…”
    Given your propensity for making crap up, you need to add a link to whatever study you feel like pretending to cite.

    Its clear that pedophiles are attracted to religion because it confers a level of unquestioned authority based on nothing more than arbitrary criteria.

    Testimony of convicted pedophiles have shown they go for targets of opportunity. Since adult male on underage female sexual abuse is the most common, few parents leave girls unattended with adult male supervision (outside of school).
    “pedophiles have no gender preference in prepubescent children.”


  32. Atheistic Constitution? I seem to remember God mentioned, or inferred quite often. And as great as Madison was as a Founding Father, he belittles the civilization formed through belief in Christ. I suppose he was a member of the elite that assumed men alone were responsible for the changes in thinking Jesus began. Pompous ass.

  33. Atheistic Constitution? I seem to remember God mentioned, or inferred quite often. And as great as Madison was as a Founding Father, he belittles the civilization formed through belief in Christ. I suppose he was a member of the elite that assumed men alone were responsible for the changes in thinking Jesus began. Pompous ass that he was, along with Jefferson and Franklin.

  34. Homosexuality is not a form of love, it is a sexual attraction, and the existence of Hell is as real as your closed mind. Warning even children of Hell is no different than warning them of drug use. They should be frightened. And religious philosophies are only evil to the sinner, they impede their lust for indulgence in frivolities.

  35. Dominic,

    “Madison..belittles the civilization formed through belief in Christ.”

    NOTHING about America was formed from a belief in Christ – the US Constitution was founded by SEVEN NON-BELIEVERS OF CHRIST!

    “I suppose he was a member of the elite that assumed men alone were responsible for the changes in thinking Jesus began.”

    JESUS started nothing.
    All of the Jesus legends existed for thousands of years and came from other religions.

    Christianity is plagiarized from thousands of older superstitions:

    The Egyptian Book of the Dead
    Greek Mythology
    Hellenist gods

    You have obviously read nothing of history.

  36. “The Christian religion…millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended…the most bloody religion that ever existed.”
    – John Adams,
    letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

    “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”
    – Benjamin Franklin

    “The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
    – George Washington

    “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”
    – John Adams

    “The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion.”
- Abraham Lincoln

    “obscene stories..voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions..vindictiveness, which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon.. religion is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.”
    – Thomas Paine

    The founders hated Christianity. Get over it.

  37. Dominic,


    You have no evidence for ANY of your claims.
    Your claims are therefore nonsense.

    You believe nonsense. Too bad for you.

  38. Dominic,

    There is no mention of God in our Constitution.

    This is as close as it gets:
    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion…”

    Therefore it is Atheist.
    No Church would ever utter such a statement, because it is an Atheist statement.
    No Pastor would ever utter such a statement, because it is an Atheist statement.
    No Rabbi would ever utter such a statement, because it is an Atheist statement.
    No Imam…
    No Clergy…
    No Nuns…
    No Deacon…
    No Pope…

    Get over it.
    America is an Atheist country by LAW!

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