Sex Suit Vs. Priest Is Settled

By Virginia Culver
Denver Post
December 16, 1994

An out-of-court settlement has been reached in a suit filed against a Catholic priest by a man who alleged the priest molested him for more than 20 years and gave him an HIV infection.

Terms of the settlement are secret.

Thomas Perea, 38, a substitute teacher in Boulder, sued the Rev. Delbert Blong and the Pueblo Catholic Diocese last year, claiming he and the priest had a sexual relationship from 1971 until late 1992. During that time, he said, the priest infected him with HIV.

Perea said he learned he had HIV in March 1993. His suit alleged the diocese knew of Blong's activities, but did nothing.

After Perea filed his suit, Blong admitted the sexual relationship with Perea. The priest also said he had learned last year than he had AIDS, the deadly disease resulting from HIV.

However, Blong, 68, last month filed a countersuit, claiming that he got HIV from Perea.

Blong contended that he had a "few" sexual relationships, but that Perea had many more.

After Perea filed suit and Blong admitted the relationship, Pueblo Bishop Arthur Tafoya withdrew Blong's "priestly faculties," prohibiting him from performing sacramental duties. Blong, who served his entire priesthood in the Pueblo Diocese, now lives in the Denver area.

The Rev. Edward Nunoz, Pueblo Diocese vicar general, yesterday said that all parties agreed not to disclose terms of the settlement, which was reached last week.

The diocese admitted no wrongdoing. Nunoz said that "this kind of makes the best of a terrible thing and it releases a lot of our staff who have been spending time on this case."

He declined to respond when asked if other accusations have been made against Blong. But he did say there are no other lawsuits against Blong.

At the time Perea filed suit, Tafoya said the diocese was "surprised" at news of the Blong-Perea relationship and that it had never had similar complaints about the priest.

Perea alleged that Blong first "molested him" when he was 15.

He claimed that Blong had always insisted that protection was unnecessary because he was monogamous. However, Perea said, Blong later admitted to him that he'd had sex with four other men, all of whom were infected with HIV and two of whom later died of AIDS.

Blong denied ever saying that, and said he learned he had AIDS in January 1993 when he was hospitalized for salmonella poisoning and heart surgery - several months after his last encounter with Perea.

Perea contended he always used protection with his other male lovers, all of whom tested negative for HIV.

"Since I was young, confused, insecure, feeling alone and abandoned, I felt, here is someone older, saying he loved me and would protect me and take care of me," Perea said at news conference when he filed his suit.

He accused Blong of manipulating him with money, gifts and trips, and preying on his insecurity and low self-esteem.

"My life has been tossed upside-down, and I have a lot to lose," he said. "But yet, I have the chance to gain my self-respect and my dignity back by coming forward today."

Efforts to reach Perea, Blong and their attorneys yesterday were unsuccessful.

Blong, a native of Iowa, spent his 41 years as a priest in La Junta, Pueblo, Durango and Alamosa.

When word hit that part of the state last year that Blong had admitted the relationship with Perea and had AIDS, parishioners were shocked.


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