Former Local Pastor Named in Sex-abuse Probe
By Christian Burney
La Junta Tribune-Democrat
October 31, 2019
The late Father Delbert Blong was named in a report commissioned by the Colorado Attorney General’s office released last week indexing sex crimes against 166 children by variousRoman Catholic priests across Colorado over 70 years.
The report accuses Blong of sexually abusing six males from the 1950s to the 1970s in parishes in La Junta and Alamosa, according to the report prepared by former U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer, who conducted the probe with the cooperation of Colorado’s Catholic dioceses.
The report says Blong abused his first reported victims while serving as the assistant pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in La Junta. His second, third and fourth victims were targeted while he served as pastor at the same La Junta parish, the report states, adding that his fifth and sixth victims were abused during his tenure as pastor at the Sacred Heart Parish in Alamosa.
The report documents Blong’s predatory behavior across each of the six cases. In each example, the report said, Blong engaged in grooming behaviors with each of his victims, telling them in some instances they were special and that his love for them justified his actions.
“His sexual abuse of these boys began right out of seminary, in his first parish assignment,” states the report. “He engaged in grooming behavior and sexual misconduct that was blatant, that continued even after the Pueblo Diocese Bishop told him to stop, and that was known to the Pueblo Diocese right after it began.
“Instead of removing his faculties, sending him for evaluation and counseling, or restricting his access to children, the Pueblo Diocese moved him from La Junta to Alamosa, where he continued to sexually abuse children.”
The Pueblo Diocese was alerted to Blong’s activities on several occasions, according to the report, but despite going through “extraordinary” efforts to provide healing to the victims’ families after Blong’s last victim sued in a scandal that captured national media attention, the diocese never once contacted law enforcement about the pastor’s activities.
In fact, the report indicates that the diocese already had received reports of Blong’s sexual misconduct with children before Blong ever arrived at the parish in La Junta.
In September of 1952, two months after Blong started at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the parish administrator in La Junta notified the Pueblo bishop of Blong’s activities. The administrator reportedly asked Blong to stop but was ignored, the report states.
April 1953: Seven months after Blong had been ordained, he was on his first assignment in La Junta. The administrator in La Junta wrote a letter to the diocese informing him that Blong was engaged in grooming behavior with a group of adolescent boys.
Although Blong was allegedly involved in sexual misconduct with multiple minors, only one victim report stems from that era.
Blong’s first reported victim could be one of “less than 10 boys” that Blong allegedly sexually abused in 1953. The report states that Blong sodomized the 13-year-old male victim once at his living quarters in the parish. Blong had been grooming the boy before that, taking him swimming, giving him a back rub and fondling him multiple times, the report says.
His first victim reported the sexual abuse in 2002 following Blong’s death a few years prior. The Pueblo diocese did not report the abuse to police at that time because Blong already was dead, according to the report.
Victim No. 2 was abused by Blong sometime between 1952-56.
The report states that Blong did not deny abusing his second reported victim. When asked about it, he reportedly said, “I may have fondled him,” the report states.
The report states the attorney’s general was not aware of any evidence that would clear Blong or dispute the evidence against him.
The Pueblo diocese investigated Blong’s activities with his second victim by interviewing him, his victim and their family, but ultimately decided to pursue “Pastoral Healing Events” in 1993 at parishes Blong had formerly served, as opposed to notifying law enforcement of Blong’s documented sexual abuse of minors.
Blong’s third victim was fondled by Blong on a car trip and Blong twice attempted to seduce the boy to go to bed with him. The sexual misconduct and abuse occurred around 1965, according to the report.
The fourth victim was taken by Blong to Denver to shop for church supplies in 1996, states the report:
“That turned out to be a ruse; Blong and Victim #4 just stayed overnight at Blong’s sister’s house, they slept in the same bedroom, and Blong repeatedly hugged and rubbed his genitals on Victim #4 while he tried to sleep.
“Blong was able to get permission to take the boy on this trip by ingratiating himself with Victim #4?s family.”
His crimes continued after he relocated to the Sacred Heart Parish in Alamosa, where he would continue as pastor and meet his fifth and sixth reported victims.
“Blong befriended Victim #5?s family and groomed this boy in part by giving him a key to the rectory and explaining that the vow of celibacy permitted Blong to be sexual with his ‘one and only one’ partner (a grooming line Blong deployed on a number of his victims),” states the report. “After grooming Victim #5, Blong sexually abused him by embracing him and rubbing his genitals on the boy ...”
The fifth victim was abused between about 1970-75.
The attorney’s general report states that Blong abused his sixth victim more than 100 times from 1970-74.
“Victim #6?s lawsuit generated substantial local and national media attention,” states the report. “The Pueblo diocese responded to the suit with an immediate, substantial investigation of the allegations, including interviews and follow-up with Blong’s co-workers at his parishes of assignment, his victims, their family members, and other sources of information.”
The diocese offered healing services to the sixth victim and issued a series of mandatory trainings and workshops for personnel. It also paid for victim counseling, forced Blong to have a psychiatric evaluation, and required him to procure a list of all his past sexual misconduct and abuse.
Despite all that, as the report observes, the Pueblo diocese still didn’t inform law enforcement of Blong’s activities.