The Diocese of Pueblo was created from the then Diocese of Denver in 1941. The diocese encompasses the southern half of Colorado, from Utah to the west, to Kansas in the east. While the geographical area of the diocese is large, its population is small and the diocese is considered similar to mission territory.
The Diocese of Pueblo has joined the Archdiocese of Denver and the Diocese of Colorado Springs in conducting a third-party investigation of its files concerning priest abuse. The investigation will be followed by a compensation fund similar to the ones already established in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey and administered by Attorney Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros.
Bishop Accountability lists 12 priests who’ve ministered in the Diocese of Pueblo as having credible accusations of child sexual abuse lodged against them. Nearly half of those listed belong to religious orders which means they will not be included in the investigation nor covered by the compensation fund.
The diocesan priests who have been listed as sexual abusers include Fr. Delbert Blong who was sued by a man who contracted AIDS from the priest after being abused by Blong for two decades. The abuse allegedly began during a counseling session in 1971 when the victim was an eighth-grade student and occurred regularly and repeatedly until approximately November of 1992.
The victim said the molestation took place on trips and in rectories in both Colorado and New Mexico.
Blong died in Colorado in 1999.
Fr. Andrew Burke was accused of the sexual abuse of an altar boy in the 1970’s while Burke was assigned to St. Pius X Catholic Church in Pueblo. During Burke’s laicization process in the 1970’s, Burke admitted to struggling with a psycho-sexual issue. When the abuse allegation was made in 2004, Burke admitted to the abuse and committed suicide a year later. After the initial allegation was made public, other survivors of Fr. Burke came forward.
Fr. William Groves was ordained in 1980 for the Diocese of Pueblo. In 1990, he was accused of, and ultimately pleaded guilty to, sexual assault on a child, a class four felony. Groves, then 37, was removed as pastor of St. Ignatius Church and given 4 years’ probation and ordered to undergo sex offender treatment. However, Groves was accused of sexually abusing children soon after being ordained a priest. He was removed from the Diocese in the 1990’s but remains working in church related ministry in North Carolina.
Fr. Michael Kurz was ordained for the Diocese of Pueblo in 1975. In 2008, he was accused of sexually abusing a child in the 1970’s. In spite of the abuse allegation, Kurz is currently active in the Diocese of Rockford Illinois. The Diocese of Rockford said the allegations were unfounded and false since Kurz was not assigned to the parish when the abuse was alleged and wasn’t yet ordained during another time when abuse was alleged.
Fr. Daniel Maio was ordained in 1966 and was serving as the diocesan Youth Director when at least two allegations of sex abuse surfaced. The two allegations were similar in that both stated that Maio gave them alcohol and marijuana and played strip poker with them before sexually assaulting them orally and anally. Maio died in 2006 before he had to face the abuse allegations.
The Colorado statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors has prevented many cases from moving forward in court. It is expected that the independent investigation will bring forth more abuse cases as well as more Diocese of Pueblo priests who abused minors. The major drawback concerning the investigation is that it will only focus on diocesan priests and not the many religious order priests who’ve served in the Diocese of Pueblo. If you or a loved one have been abused by a priest in the Diocese of Pueblo, please call Attorney Joe Saunders who has been assisting abuse survivors for twenty years.