Father Richard Zula
Diocese of Pittsburgh
Withdrawn from Ministry: 1996
Assigned as follows:
- 6/1966–6/1971: St. Cyril of Alexandria (North Side, Pittsburgh, PA)
- 6/1971–12/1973: Most Blessed Sacrament (Natrona Heights, PA)
- 12/1973–6/1980: Our Lady of Czestochowa (New Castle, PA)
- 6/1980–5/1984: St. Michael Archangel (Munhall, PA)
- 5/1984–6/1986: Sisters of St. Mary & Ann (Marianna, PA)
- 6/1986–9/1987: St. Clement (Tarentum, PA)
- 9/1987: Admitted to the Institute of Living (Hartford, CT)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Richard Zula:
In September 1987, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, under the command of Bishop Anthony Bevilacqua, received its first complaint regarding Father Richard Zula, alleging that he had engaged in violent sexual activity with a minor at a rectory. This conduct involved three other adult males who were not priests.
On September 25, 1987, a meeting was held between Zula, Father Ted Rutkowski and Father Robert Guay. Documentation of the meeting consisted of handwritten notes that included the name of the child victim, followed by three additional names. Among other things, this document listed “parties at Marianna rectory;” “alcohol, marijuana;” and “oral sex, attempt anal sex, whips, rectory bedroom, offer to pay private room fee at St. V., present activity.”
Following this meeting, Zula was sent to Institute of Living, in Hartford, Connecticut—a now notorious hospital with a psychiatric ward that specialized in the treatment of priests accused of child abuse—in September 1987.
When Zula was discharged in January 1988, Zula again confessed his criminal conduct, saying, “I got involved in some inappropriate sexual behavior and my bishop has sent me here for an evaluation.”
Father Zula’s Arrest for Child Sexual Abuse
The Grand Jury’s review of these materials compels the conclusion that the Diocese of Pittsburgh was prepared to return yet another admitted child molester to ministry. However, external factors changed that judgment when a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the victim against the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Zula began sexually assaulting the victim in 1984, at which time the victim was still under the age of 16. The victim further advised that the sexual abuse occurred approximately once a week for another 3 years and that it included oral sex, sadomasochistic behavior, and attempts at anal sex.
On November 10, 1988, an arrest warrant was issued for Richard Zula, who was charged with over 130 counts related to child sexual abuse. By the fall of 1989, Zula had entered a guilty plea to two counts and was awaiting sentencing.
Meanwhile, the Diocese began to receive additional complaints of child sexual abuse against Zula. One caller stated that Zula had made frequent sexual advances on her son and at least two of his friends when they were 13-year-old altar boys. The mother reported that Zula asked the boys to pose like statues and attempted to tie them up using rope.
However, there is no indication that the Diocese reported this complaint to law enforcement. In fact, the Diocese was utilizing diocesan resources and personnel to advocate for Zula at his upcoming sentencing proceeding.
The Diocese continued to receive reports of past criminal conduct on the part of Zula even after his release. In 1993, a victim reported that Zula systematically asked them to strip, assume a kneeling position, have their hands tied by a clothesline type rope and subject them to a beating with various types of whips and leather straps.
Shortly after this report, the Diocese finally began “laicization,” the process to remove Zula as a priest.
Father Zula Resigns
In 1996, the Diocese entered into a memorandum of understanding with Zula whereby he was allowed to resign and was prohibited from ever seeking future assignments within the Diocese. In return, the Diocese agreed that it would continue to pay him $750.00 per month for sustenance and provide medical coverage for him.
On January 31, 2001, another victim disclosed abuse by Zula. The victim reported that
Zula asked him to remove his clothes so that he could beat him with a belt. On December 14, 2001, the Diocese increased Zula’ s sustenance payments to $1,000 per month as of January 2002.
In July 2007 the Diocese learned that Zula had been volunteering at the Good Shepherd Church in Braddock and dispatched a letter to Zula reminding him that such activity was not permitted.
Zula died on September 27, 2017. He was never required to register as a sex offender in the state of Pennsylvania.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so do not delay in reaching out to us.