Calling his behavior “a crime and a sin,” local Catholic Church officials will ask the Vatican to defrock a disgraced Davis priest after he pleaded guilty to statutory rape of a teenage parishioner.
Davis priest Hector Coria Gonzalez will 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, said in a statement Friday. “He will now be held to account for his behavior.”
Eckery said the diocese will forward Gonzalez’s case to Rome and “ask the Holy See to permanently dismiss him from the priesthood.”
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Gonzalez, 46, will serve 90 days in jail for sexual acts with the 16-year-old girl in the rectory of St. James’ Parish in Davis, where he had been a priest since July 2012. Gonzalez will also be placed on formal probation for three years and barred by Yolo Superior Court Judge Paul Richardson from having contact with the girl until she turns 18.
Gonzalez had faced three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse in connection with sex acts he committed over an eight-month span in a home, a car and at the rectory between September 2013 and May, when Davis police arrested him.
Prosecutors on Friday said the disgraced priest would certainly have gone to trial and that the plea agreement spared the teenager from taking the stand. If convicted on the three felony counts, Gonzalez could have faced penalties ranging from probation and jail time to as many as four years and four months in custody.
Police had said Gonzalez had befriended the girl while a priest at the Davis church.
Gonzalez was arrested May 9. The next 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.
Gonzalez was ordained little more than three years earlier, in January 2011, charged with “the ministry of Word and Sacrament,” according to diocesan records. Later that year, in an interview for the Catholic Herald while at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Carmichael, Gonzalez spoke of his journey to the priesthood.
“I felt the call of God, and it surprised me,” he told the Catholic Herald in 2011, saying later that he “wanted to be a caring priest.”
On Friday, Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven called 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 said.