Suit: Priest Lured Grieving Woman Into Sexual Relationship

CHICAGO (STMW) – A lawsuit filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court claims a woman grieving over the impending loss of her mother was lured into a sexual relationship with a Catholic priest who was counseling her.

The suit claims the woman met Fr. Fernando Zuleta in November 2008 when her mother was admitted to a hospice where he served as chaplain and grief counselor. She began daily counseling sessions to deal with the impending death of her mother from a terminal illness.

The priest encouraged the woman to meet him for a counseling session at a local restaurant for coffee, according to the suit. He began ordering alcohol for the woman until she became intoxicated.

The suit claims that even though the priest knew the woman was married he began kissing her and touching her body in a sexual manner. In subsequent meetings, he allegedly escalated his advances by engaging in intimate conversation, kissing and sexual touching.

The woman’s mother died one week after being admitted to the hospice and the woman and priest began having a sexual relationship on a regular basis, according to the suit. Until February 2009, the sexual relationship continued, often in the rectory of the priest’s parish, according to the suit.

In December 2008, the woman told her husband about the relationship, according to the suit. Her husband immediately informed the hospice, Zuleta’s immediate supervisor, officials at the Archdiocese of Chicago and the pastor of the parish.

The hospice terminated the priest, but the Archdiocese took no action, according to the suit, which names Zuleta, the Bishop of Chicago and the Archdiocese as defendants.

The suit claims the woman’s life began to spiral out of control during and following her sexual relationship with the priest. It also alleges she suffered extreme emotional distress, including loss of trust, a great sense of betrayal and of being exploited.

The eight-count suit seeks unspecified damages, expenses, attorney’s fees, costs and other relief.

Susan Burritt, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said she wasn’t aware of the lawsuit and does not comment on ongoing litigation.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

  • r brown

    they dont just prey on little boys anymore

  • Don

    Seriouslly….this woman is suing to the church because she couldn’t keep her legs closed. Granted, the priest should be defrocked….but this woman is a joke and if she was my wife, she would be my ex-wife ASAP!

  • Larry

    This sounds like a joke. I think the husband would have a better claim than she does – and against his own wife. This is another embarrassment for the church though. This lawsuit is worth nothing. She’ll be a treat to depose, if it gets that far.

  • jon

    Thats the Chicago way of griefe counseling!


    lets get both side of the stories! I have know him for over 6 years and he is absolutely NOT like this.

  • Retnan

    This woman came on to him and was rejected. She is 20 years older than him. She kept sitting outside the rectory and was told GO HOME TO YOUR HUSBAND. She latched on to the Priest.

    Her husband obviously cannot face the facts and wants to believe it’s the Priest’s fault. That or they just want to steal money from the church.

  • righttrack

    She got snookered by a snake-oil salesman – selling a bunch of hogwash every Sunday, and hoping that you’ll be stupid enough to throw some money into their “begging plates”.

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  • vc

    Wow. Sad story but I must add that she is a grown adult and made a conscious decision to engage in this activity. I don’t see how he forced her into anything. She was a willing participant. She could have said no but she did not.

  • emilia

    A grieving person is a very vulnerable person–no matter how old she/he is. A priest is in a position of power. I hope the woman is lying because I want to trust that anyone in a position of power over others is in that position because he/she wants to serve and would not use that position to take advantage of the vulnerable. But if it is true, the woman IS a victim and there are not be excuses for the priest’s behavior.

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