Priest Says Church Knew of Other Sexual Incidents Involving Former Priest

Associated Press
October 20, 1990

A Roman Catholic priest accused of seducing a church bookkeeper and making her pregnant was caught with his pants down during a child molestation in his previous parish, another priest testified.

Church officials did not punish the Rev. Fernando Guzman after the 1984 child molestation because they believed it was an isolated incident, the Rev. Daniel Scheel, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston, testified Friday.

The church is the target of an $$11 million lawsuit by Debbie McCorvey, 39, who claims officials knew of Guzman's sexual misconduct and failed to protect parishioners when they transferred him to Our Lady of Fatima in the Houston suburb of Galena Park. Under questioning by Ms. McCorvey's attorney, Jack Zimmermann, Scheel said Guzman was found with his pants off, molesting a 13-year-old girl in the kitchen of her Navasota home.

"We believed that he was repentant, that it was a one-time moral slip, and it was forgivable," Scheel said.

"By you?" Zimmermann asked.

"By God," Scheel replied.

Ms. McCorvey was bookkeeper and religious education director at the Galena Park parish. She claims Guzman seduced her into a manipulative 15-month sexual relationship when she sought counseling from him after an attempted suicide.

Church officials claim Ms. McCorvey pursued the romance with Guzman soon after his arrival in Galena Park and that they are still in contact.

Guzman, 35, was transferred to Our Lady of Fatima in 1985. According to testimony, the relationship with Ms. McCorvey began soon after and that by 1986, Ms. McCorvey was divorced from her husband and pregnant by Guzman.

Guzman and Ms. McCorvey were fired after she told a nun she was pregnant by the priest. Church investigators also discovered Guzman previously had fathered two children in Mexico, Scheel said.

Gary Schoener, a Minneapolis psychologist, told the jury that Ms. McCorvey did not freely consent to the relationship because she had been a battered wife and was suffering mentally.

Schoener, who also examined Guzman for the trial, testified that the priest had a sexual control problem for which he should have sought treatment.


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