Catholic Church officials seek to defrock Davis priest

Woodland Daily Democrat
June 28, 2014

Calling his behavior "a crime and a sin," Sacramento Catholic Church officials told the Sacramento Bee they will ask the Vatican to defrock a disgraced Davis priest after he pleaded guilty to statutory rape of a teenage parishioner.

Hector Coria Gonzalez faces face jail and probation after pleading guilty to the charge Friday in Yolo Superior Court.

"Father Coria's behavior with the minor was a crime and a sin," Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, told The Bee Friday in a prepared statement. "He will now be held to account for his behavior."

Eckery told The Bee the diocese will forward Gonzalez's case to Rome and "ask the Holy See to permanently dismiss him from the priesthood."

Gonzales, 45, entered his plea at a conditional hearing Friday morning, where he admitted to one felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

The girl made her first appearance in the courtroom on Friday, stating that "all of the conduct between the two was consensual and there was no abuse or manipulation," according to the Davis Enterprise.

The girl, identified as "M.L." in court documents, expressed that she did not want to see the matter prosecuted, and added that she would record her comments in a letter to be read at Gonzales' sentencing, the Enterprise reported.

The remaining charges — two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse, and a single misdemeanor count of oral copulation with a minor — were dismissed.

According to the complaint, these charges stem from encounters between Gonzales and M.L., 17, that took place at a home, in a vehicle and at the church rectory over eight months.

Under the new plea, Gonzales will be sentenced to 90 days in county jail with three years formal probation. He will also be required to attend sexual offender counseling, and have no contact with the victim until she turns 18 this November.

Gonzales is due to be sentenced at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 8, in Department 1.

Gonzales had been a staff pastor at St. James Parish in Davis for almost two years. After his arrest in May, Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento put him on leave. According to a Facebook page of St. Thomas Catholic Church in Paradise, he was ordained in January 2011.

Gonzalez was arrested May 9. The following day, the diocese officials stripped him of his duties, ordered him out of the rectory and placed him on paid administrative leave pending the resolution of the case.

Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven told The Bee that Gonzalez's crime an "abhorrent act and intolerable," but said prosecutors were "very pleased" with the plea deal.

"He took responsibility, and (the victim) won't have to be put through the pain and suffering of having to testify at trial," Raven told The Bee.


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