Man Sues Catholic Priest for Sexual Abuse Lasting 20 Years

September 7, 1993

A 36-year-old gay man Tuesday charged he was infected with the AIDS virus by a Catholic priest who abused him in a sexual relationship that lasted 20 years, beginning when the man was a boy in the eighth grade.

"I want the church to accept its role in the sexual abuse that I and others have endured at the hands of priests, " Thomas Perea told reporters after a lawsuit was filed in his name against Fr. Delbert Blong and the Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., where Perea said he met the priest.

The lawsuit, seeking unspecified monetary damages, was filed in state court in Boulder, Colo., where Perea lives and works as a substitute school teacher.

Perea, who broke into tears several times, said that only after he had seen television reports of youths molested by priests did he realize he had been manipulated.

He said he was first molested by the priest when he was in the eighth grade in southern Colorado, when he needed counseling for what he described as a "troubled life."

He also said he had attempted suicide several times during high school.

Blong, reached at his home in Lakewood, Colo., said he was "in shock" over the allegations, but declined to comment further on the advice of his lawyers.

Bishop Arthur Tafoya of the Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., which was sued because it employed and supervised Blong, said he had suspended Blong's priestly faculties until further notice as provided in the diocesan sexual misconduct policy.

"My immediate concern is for the welfare of the alleged victim," Tafoya said.

Perea said he continued seeing the priest until November 1992, when he cut off the relationship. The following February he visited Blong in the hospital where he was being treated for a heart ailment. Perea said he learned at that time that the priest was HIV positive.

Perea was diagnosed as HIV positive in March.

Perea, who said he is gay, attributed the priest's ability to manipulate him as the key factor in keeping the relationship alive for 20 years.

Perea was accompanied by a member of the Survivors Network, a Chicago-based organization also known as SNAP which claims 1,100 members nationwide and supports people abused by priests.

Up to 400 priests in the North American church have been accused of sexually molesting parishioners. Some 200 cases have been settled in the United States and $ 400 million has been paid in settlements, according to published reports.

U.S. bishops have asked the Vatican for permission to streamline procedures in order to quickly defrock priests who have molested children.

Pope John Paul II on his trip to Denver last month mentioned priestly pedophilia for the fist time in a public speech.


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