Oct. 13—A Tennessee man is suing a Santa Fe priest who he said sexually assaulted him a decade ago at a local parish when the plaintiff was 15.
In the lawsuit, the man accuses the Rev. Daniel Balizan of exploiting his trust and ingrained obedience to church authority to sexually abuse him for several months, including at Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Community.
Balizan was removed as pastor of the church in August amid an investigation of misconduct. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe at the time would not outline the nature of the accusation against the longtime priest, although a spokeswoman called it "an allegation that is not substantiated but not beyond the realm of the possible."
Balizan had served at Santa Maria de la Paz, a large parish near Santa Fe Community College on the city's south side, since 2012. Before his posting in Santa Fe, he had served at a Raton parish.
Attorney Dan Cron, who is representing Balizan, said he couldn't respond to the allegations because he hasn't had a chance to peruse the lawsuit, which was just filed.
"I have not had the opportunity to talk to Father Daniel about it," Cron said. "I don't really know enough to comment on it."
Levi Monagle, an attorney representing the plaintiff, said although the litigation is based on alleged crimes that happened in 2012, it shouldn't weaken the case, given that many clergy-abuse cases relate to incidents dating back multiple decades.
"There is very strong evidence that our client has brought to bear in this situation," Monagle said.
Monagle said his client has given the Archdiocese of Santa Fe permission to pass information to law enforcement. As far as he knows, no criminal charges are pending, he added.
The lawsuit says Balizan cultivated a friendship with the plaintiff's mother and cast himself as a mentor and father figure for the boy, who was estranged from his father. Balizan used the trust he had built with them to groom the boy for sexual abuse, the lawsuit alleges.
"Plaintiff has only recently [since June 2022] begun to understand that ... he sustained severe emotional and psychological injuries as a result of the childhood sexual abuse," the lawsuit says.
His mother believed her son would be safe while under the care of a priest, according to the lawsuit. As a priest, Balizan had access to Catholic children like the plaintiff and probably felt secure he would be immune from any consequences for his actions, the lawsuit says.
While the church has gotten better at safeguarding children from predatory priests in the past 20 years, the crimes still happen and, probably always will, Monagle said.
"It's a reminder for the archdiocese to stay vigilant," he said. "Don't get complacent. It's not a bygone era."