Suit Claims El Paso Priest Molested Man in the 1970s

By Aaron Martinez
El Paso Times
June 12, 2015

An El Paso man who claims that he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest in El Paso in the 1970s filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Catholic Diocese of El Paso claiming negligence on the church's part, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that the Rev. Denis Tejada, who was serving at St. Patrick Cathedral at the time, allegedly abused the man who was 10-year-old at the time between 1974 and 1975. Tejada is no longer a priest and could not be found for comment.

The alleged victim, who is identified in the lawsuit as John Doe, said he was as an altar server at the church and would help Tejada with church services. In 1974, Tejada asked the victim to help with a Mass early in the morning.

Tejada reportedly asked the victim's mother if the 10-year-old could stay the night at the St. Patrick Cathedral's rectory since the Mass was early in the morning, according to the lawsuit.

The boy stayed the night and allegedly slept in the same bed as Tejada, the lawsuit states. The victim claims that Tejada began talking to him about "puberty and sex." The lawsuit claims that Tejada "sexually molested John Doe throughout that night and the next morning."

The victim claims in the lawsuit that he heard other priests walking around the rectory as he was being sexually abused and none of them made any attempts to check on him.

The lawsuit claims that the victim was allegedly sexually abused repeatedly by Tejada from 1974 to 1975.

According to court records, no criminal charges were ever filed against Tejada.

The victim is suing the Catholic Diocese of El Paso because it allegedly failed to "disclose the extent of the problem of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic clergy, and with Tejada in particular, and the severe psychological problems that would result from such abuse if not properly treated."

The lawsuit states that the diocese "fraudulently concealed this information, allowing Tejada access to children for his own sexual gratification."

The victim is suing for physical, emotional and financial damages caused by the alleged sexual abuse. According to the lawsuit, the victim has experienced a "loss of faith in God" and "suffered a diminished wage earning capacity."

El Paso Catholic Diocese Bishop Mark Seitz said in a statement that if the facts of the case prove that the alleged assault took place, the victim can receive some form of relief from the church.

"We are very concerned about anyone who has suffered abuse," Seitz said. "Though time passes, we know the pain for the victim remains. And we know that to be true for many of the nation's sex abuse victims."

He added, "the Diocese has had a process in place for many years through which anyone who claims sexual abuse by a priest, religious or employee of this Diocese can file a complaint. If the complaint is found to be credible, they can receive relief in a form justified by the facts of the case."

According to El Paso Times' archive, Tejada was accused in 2002 of sexually assaulting a boy in 1973 when the Las Cruces Catholic churches were still under the El Paso diocese.

Tejada was removed from his pastoral and administrative duties in 2002 after the allegation was made.

Tejada was ordained in 1972 and served at several churches in El Paso, Las Cruces, Canutillo, Chapparal, La Union and Hobbs, N.M.

Aaron Martinez may be reached at 546-6249.








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