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  Teacher's Suit Claims Priest Gave Him HIV

By Jessie Mangaliman
Newsday
September 8, 1993

A gay school teacher in Boulder, Colo., filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that a Catholic priest there had infected him with the AIDS virus after sexually abusing him for more than 20 years.

Thomas Perea, 36, a substitute teacher in the Boulder public schools, said the Rev. Delbert Blong, of Lakewood, Colo., began abusing him as a parochial school student in 1971 and continued on a regular basis until November, 1992.

"I have to come to terms with the fact that everything he told me was a lie.

Our relationship was not normal. It was abuse," Perea said from Denver. "I want others to get out of this type of relationship."

Blong, 67, who discovered he had contracted the AIDS virus in February, said he was "davastated" by the accusations. A priest for 41 years, Blong retired two years ago. He said he informed Perea that he had AIDS as soon as he learned he had the disease.

"I personally thought I was infected by him but I can't prove that either," said Blong, who conceded that he had a long-term relationship with Perea.

The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of money for damages, was filed in Boulder County District Court.

It also names Bishop Arthur Tafoya, the leader of the Pueblo Diocese, as a defendant, and accuses him of negligence. The church "knew or should have known of Father Blong's dangerous and exploitative propensities," the lawsuit said.

A spokesman for the Pueblo Diocese was not available for comment.

At a news conference in Denver, Perea said that Blong first molested him in 1971 during a counseling session when he was an eighth-grader at Sacred Heart Church school in Alamosa, Colo.

The sex was unprotected, said Perea, who is gay. He said he believes he was infected by the priest because he had practiced safe sex with other lovers, all of whom have tested negative for the AIDS virus. Perea said he tested positive in March.

Perea also alleged that two other lovers of Blong have died of AIDS, and two others have the AIDS virus.

Blong said that he gave Perea financial help during their relationship. "I helped in so many ways but it was not for sexual favors," Blong said. "There was a lot of seduction on his [Perea's] part."

Perea said he just recently realized that, as a teenager, he was a victim of sexual abuse.

"Like so many other victims, he [Perea] didn't identify the conduct as abuse.

He suffered in secrecy and shame," said Jeffrey Anderson, an attorney for Perea.

"The fact that this priest has been operating in that diocese for quite a while is symptomatic of what's going on at the Catholic Church," said Laura Barrett, a supporter of SNAP, the Survivors Network by Those Abused by Priests, a support and advocacy group based in Chicago.

 
 

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