Priest in HIV Suit Admits Having Virus

By Tom Roberts and Carlton Elliott Smith
Chicago Tribune
September 10, 1993

A retired Roman Catholic priest admitted this week that he has been diagnosed as HIV positive after he was accused of infecting a Colorado man with the AIDS virus during 20 years of sexual abuse.

"I am not denying it, although it was very wrong," Rev. Delbert Blong, 67, who lives in Lakewood, Colo., told a reporter for the Denver Post in a phone interview. "I guess we all have to own up to what we have done wrong, and I've done wrong. . . . All these years I have lived with that weakness."

It was unclear whether Blong also was admitting the abuse charges. He would not confirm the sexual relationship, saying only he "was good friends with (the alleged victim). . . . I don't want to say anything more. I am totally devastated."

After filing a lawsuit Tuesday, Thomas Perea, 36, of Boulder read from a statement: "This sexual abuse has shattered and will shorten my life. I'll do anything I can to prevent others from being hurt too."

In the news conference, Perea said the priest told him this year that he was HIV positive and that he had had more than one sexual partner, two of whom have already died of AIDS. At the time of the alleged admission, the priest was in the hospital for a heart disorder.

Perea said he tested positive for HIV shortly thereafter.

"He lied to me. He said I was the only one," said a sobbing Perea.

However, The Rocky Mountain News quoted Blong denying charges that he had more than one sexual partner and suggesting that Perea may have infected him.

"He's the only one I ever had any relations with," Blong told a reporter for the NBC "Today" show.

Perea appeared Tuesday morning with his attorneys, Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul and S. Scott Lasher of Boulder, at a news conference in Denver sponsored by SNAP (Survivors Network by Those Abused by Priests) . SNAP is a Chicago-based support group for individuals molested by Catholic clergy.

Anderson has represented hundreds of clients throughout the United States in clerical sex-abuse cases. The suit, filed in Boulder, asks unspecified damages from the priest and from the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo, which Perea contends should have known about the abuse.

He admitted that he, too, had been sexually active with multiple partners, but said, "I have practiced safe sex with each of my short-term partners. But Father Blong insisted we never use protection. He always told me I was the only one he was sexual with."

Perea said he was molested by Blong at the age of 15 and continued to be involved with him sexually until last year.

Anderson said that by filing the suit, "hopefully we can send a wakeup call to the church."

He said he believes that the diocese had some knowledge of Blong's activities because that is the historical pattern in such cases. But he was unable to point to any specific evidence that the diocese knew of the priest's activities.

Bishop Arthur N. Tafoya of the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo said that as a retired priest, Blong had no duties or responsibilities. However, the diocese, under a policy dealing with allegations of sexual abuse, has suspended Blong's permission to celebrate mass and administer sacraments until further notice.


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