Man seeks removal from the list of accused attackers in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe | Local News


Rudy Blea continues to pay a heavy price for a sexual affair he had 51 years ago, at age 19, with a 17-year-old boy.

The incident led to his inclusion on the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s list of clergy and other Catholic hierarchies who are credibly viewed as accused child sex offenders. Blea says he shouldn’t be on the list.

The state district court and US bankruptcy court records in New Mexico detail how he got to the list of the 80 men – priests, deacons, brothers – who are widely known as pedophiles. The documents also describe Blea’s arguments as to why he shouldn’t be listed among them.

His main argument is that he never served as a Catholic priest or in any other role in the archdiocese that would qualify him as a member of the church hierarchy. The Archdiocese said he had, however, studied in the 1970s at the Immaculate Heart of Mary seminary in Santa Fe and later at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, where men prepare for the priesthood.

Blea also argued at a recent U.S. bankruptcy court hearing that the incident involved consensual sex, Judge David Thuma wrote in an opinion. The hearing took place in connection with the Archdiocese’s 3-year-old bankruptcy case, in which around 385 people claimed to have been abused, often as children, by clergy linked to the Catholic institution.

But in 1994, some 25 years after the episode, the other man sued Blea and the Archdiocese, alleging that Blea raped him in a Catholic retreat during a vulnerable period of his life. The incident occurred in the summer of 1970 when Blea helped lead a group of young Catholics to a retreat at the Benedictine monastery of Pecos.

Blea settled the case with the man, who is now deceased, for $ 5,000, according to multiple court records.

Thuma wrote that in his opinion it was not clear whether the Archdiocese had made a payment as well.

In 2018, the same year the Archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Blea filed a lawsuit in the state’s district court accusing the Archdiocese of libel for including his name on the list of abusers. sex credibly accused. The lawsuit said the Archdiocese “announced to the world that … Blea was a Benedictine priest who was a child molester” and that he had failed to conduct a proper investigation.

The lawsuit has remained in abeyance as the bankruptcy case continues.

Blea, who was employed by the New Mexico Department of Health for 15 years, declined to be interviewed. He is the personnel manager of the agency’s dental health program.

His representations to the United States Bankruptcy Court came to nothing.

Thuma recently wrote in an opinion that a court in many cases, including this one, does not have the right to set aside a church’s management of its own activities. Neither the bankruptcy court nor the state’s district court have jurisdiction to determine whether it was appropriate for the Archdiocese to put Blea on the list, Thuma wrote.

Reverend Glenn Jones, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, wrote in an email Thursday: “Mr. Blea was not put on the list for no reason. but to date has not used it.

Thuma’s opinion in September said that an archdiocesan review committee first reviewed Blea’s case and then re-examined it after Blea’s protests. The board amended Blea’s roster to note that he had been “in training” to become a member of the clergy. But neither the review board nor Archbishop John C. Wester altered the fundamental conclusion that he should be named on the list.

The legal briefs of Blea and his lawyers are strewn across 840 bankruptcy cases, in which the archdiocese seeks to raise enough money through the sale of property, donations and insurance to settle with the victims.

Because he is on the credibly accused list of clergy, Blea can no longer serve as a volunteer coordinator at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi or the board of directors of the Catholic Clinic Villa Thérèse, nor participate in parish volunteer groups. He has been a “lay minister” in Catholic churches for at least 39 years, according to Thuma’s 17-page ruling last month.

Thuma’s order notes that the state has also banned Blea from government activities involving children.

Blea wants the Archdiocese to admit that he never had a chance to respond before his name was put on the list; sending letters to publications and websites saying he was put on the list in error; and issue statements to parishes in the archdiocese saying that he is a Catholic in good standing and should be allowed to serve as a volunteer, board member and in other activities.

His lawyer, Annie-Laurie Coogan of Santa Fe, wrote that Blea “has never been filed, and her statement has not been taken at any time in the past 51 years since that single allegation.”

In a document, Blea and his lawyer argued that the 17-year-old boy was not a minor in 1970 because the church’s definition of a minor changed in 2001 to 18 and was 16 before that.

Blea also maintains that he was never a member of the clergy or seminarian who worked within the boundaries of the archdiocese and was never convicted of abusing a child.

In a 2017 letter to Wester, after the list was released, Blea wrote that he “had a very short relationship (over the summer) with a non-clerical friend.”

He wrote in the letter that he had decided to settle the civil case against him “to avoid legal costs” and because a lawyer had informed him that he would be “tapped in the media” if the trial used to take place.

The Archdiocese claims in numerous court documents that Blea never claimed he was innocent of the case and in fact admitted that he had sexual contact with the teenager.

Blea hoped to be removed from the archdiocese’s bankruptcy proceedings so that he could pursue his own case against the institution in state court. But one of the archdiocese’s lawyers argued he should not “jump to the front row” as hundreds of claimants await a bankruptcy settlement.

Thuma froze state proceedings, in part so that no one could use this route to access Archdiocesan funds until a bankruptcy settlement was reached. The judge said he would make no exceptions for Blea.

He wrote in an opinion three weeks ago that Blea could perhaps argue in court that he was defamed and, if he wins, stop the publication of defamatory statements. But the courts do not have the power to order the archdiocese to remove his name from the list or to determine whether he was close enough to the church hierarchy in 1970 to justify his inclusion on the list, a declared the judge.

“The court cannot oversee church courts to ensure that the rights of members under canon [church] the law are protected, ”Thuma wrote.

He added that Blea had to pursue his case through the church’s appeal process.

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