Santa Fe Archdiocese Faces Defamation Lawsuit
By Phaedra Haywood
Santa Fe New Mexican
March 23, 2018
A Santa Fe man is accusing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe of defamation, claiming in a new lawsuit that the Catholic organization wrongly included his name on a list of 74 priests, deacons and brothers who have been convicted or credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct over the last few decades.
Rudy Blea says in his complaint, filed this week in the state District Court in Santa Fe, that the list issued last fall identifies him as a member of the Benedictine Order — “by implication” announcing to the world that he was a “Benedictine priest who was a child molester.”
The list, released at the urging of sexual abuse survivors who had long demanded accountability from the Catholic Church, actually refers to Blea as a brother of the Benedictines, which would mean he was a monk rather than a priest.
But Blea says in his complaint that he was never a “brother, monk, deacon, or priest” in any Catholic order.
Court records show Blea was identified as a monk from the Pecos Benedictine Monastery in a 1994 civil suit accusing him of molesting a minor in 1969 or 1970 at a religious event. The suit also named the archdiocese, a bishop and the Benedictine monks as defendants.
Blea filed an answer in that case, saying he and the plaintiff both attended a religious retreat in Albuquerque in 1970, but he denied that he was ever a monk and said he never molested the plaintiff.
That case was dismissed in 1997 after the plaintiff, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Blea and the bishop named in the case all filed a joint motion seeking to dismiss it. This often indicates a case was resolved through an out-of-court settlement.
Blea says in the complaint filed this week that he tried to address his concerns about being named on the archdiocese’s list of accused clergy, but when he spoke about the issue with Human Resources Director Annette Klima, she “became belligerent” and never investigated his claim. Instead, he said, she summarily ordered him to cease and desist having any contact with the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and the Villa Therese Catholic Clinic, where he had been a volunteer on its board of directors.
He then complained to higher-ranking Church officials, including Archbishop John C. Wester, Blea says, but nothing was done.
Reached by phone Friday, Blea, who works for the state Department of Health, said his attorney had advised him not to comment on the case.
His attorney, Pierre Levy, also declined to comment.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has said it would issue a revised list of priests, deacons and brothers who have been convicted of sexual abuse or have faced credible allegations, and said the new list would include more details about the men, such as the parishes where they worked.
So far, that has not happened.
Spokeswoman Celine Radigan did not respond to messages seeking comment on when the archdiocese plans to release the new list.