Mentally disabled man suing El Paso priest for alleged sexual assault

June 8, 2014

[with video]

An El Paso priest is under fire and facing a civil complaint for allegedly sexually assaulting a mentally disabled man.

"He has not been in the Diocese of El Paso since 2002 and he will not be re-instated until this is resolved," said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz.

Father Richard Zamorano was ordained by the El Paso Diocese in 1993 and served as priest at San Elizario Parish, according to Bishop Seitz.

In 2002, he took a leave of absence to move to Tucson, Arizona and care for his mother.

"Around that time in 2002, when he left the Diocese, he adopted 2 boys from Mexico," said Bishop Seitz.

Zamorano joined the Tucson Diocese and was a Catholic high school teacher. He also helped with mass at different parishes.

But one of his disabled parishioners is now suing him for abuse he says happened in 2012.

"To take him to a hotel room, and give him alcohol, and then to sexually assault him is criminal," said Barbara Dorris with the 'The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests' (SNAP) organization.

SNAP is defending the man's claims that both the El Paso and Tucson Dioceses knew Zamorano was an alleged sexual abuser and reportedly didn't do anything to warn the public about him.

"They could openly talk about this situation and beg anyone with information about this crime to come forward," said Dorris.

According to the lawsuit, both the organizations "had a pattern of concealing and failing to report or investigating criminal activities of the priests."

Bishop Seitz argues they took the allegations against Zamorano very seriously.

"We're very clear about that, that when the reasonable allegations comes up, that we would immediately remove the person's faculties until that situation is clarified," he said.

According to a spokesperson with the Pima County Sheriff's Department, officials conducted a criminal investigation into the matter but county attorneys decided to close the case. Zamorano was never arrested or charged.

However, he is still suspended from the El Paso and Tucson Dioceses.

SNAP says it is looking for more potential victims.


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