DENVER (CBS4) – A Catholic priest is on paid leave after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman who asked him for counseling.
Father Jose Saenz is at the center of a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Denver. Police decided not to charge him with a crime over the sexual assault allegations, but now, two years later, the alleged victim has filed a civil lawsuit.
“She became depressed and one night was drinking and called him for help. He offered her to come over and give her some spiritual guidance and some counseling,” the woman’s attorney Jeff Herman said.
The incident happened in 2011. The lawsuit alleges Saenz met the woman at a hotel for counseling and began taking advantage of her intoxicated state, kissing her in the hallways on the way to her room. The lawsuit goes on to say in the room he allegedly removed her clothing, placed her on the bed and prayed over her naked body, then removed his clothes and sexually assaulted her.
“She wasn’t intoxicated to the point where she has no memory. She was not blacked out. She remembers what happened but was not in a position, number one, to consent,” Herman said.
“I can’t comment on the details of the incident,” Archdiocese of Denver spokesperson Karna Swanson said.
Swanson does admit that something did happened that night.
“He made a mistake in 2011. There was an incident. I can’t comment on the particulars of the incident, but it was definitely an act that … there was definitely an encounter with this woman that’s between two consenting adults that probably wasn’t a good act of judgment on his part,” Swanson said.
The church says Saenz resigned after the allegations two years ago. After reaffirming his faith he’s been working at Blessed Sacrament for the past year and more recently a church in Aurora. Now that the alleged victim has filed a civil lawsuit the priest is on paid leave.