Jury Refuses to Hold Church Responsible for Priest's Affair

Associated Press
November 2, 1990

A jury Friday ruled against a former church secretary who sought $$7 million from the Roman Catholic Church, claiming a priest seduced her and made her pregnant.

After several hours of deliberations, jurors declined to issue any damages or hold the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston responsible for the actions of the Rev. Fernando Noe Guzman. Debbie McCorvey, 34, claimed church officials knew Guzman had a history of sexual misconduct and failed to intervene. She has claimed that Guzman, 39, forced her into a sexual relationship with him from July 1985 to June 1987.

Miss McCorvey's lawsuit originally asked for $$11 million in damages, but her attorneys reduced that amount to $$7 million Thursday.

Attorneys for the church maintained that Miss McCorvey consented to the relationship with Guzman. Church officials also have denied knowing the extent of Guzman's history of sexual misconduct.

Guzman has admitted having sex with a teen-age parishioner in 1984 in Navasota, 45 miles northwest of Houston. Six months later, the diocese assigned him to the Houston suburb of Galena Park.

Miss McCorvey claimed Guzman exploited her dependence on him as a spiritual counselor and forced her into a violent sexual relationship. By 1986, Miss McCorvey was divorced from her husband and pregnant by Guzman.

Church attorney Margaret Wilson said that after Miss McCorvey became pregnant, she begged church officials to let her keep her job teaching religion to children and to allow Guzman to remain a priest.

But once Guzman was fired, Miss McCorvey lost interest in him, the attorney said.


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