Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 30, 2023 / 14:08 pm (CNA).
A former priest for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was indicted on charges that he allegedly sexually abused a minor, according to a Thursday news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Daniel Balizan, who had served as a priest in at least eight New Mexico parishes dating to 1989, is accused of coercing and enticing a child under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity, according to the news release. If convicted, the 61-year-old would face a minimum of 10 years in prison.
The child Balizan is accused of victimizing is listed under the pseudonym John Doe. The age of the alleged victim has not been released.
“Abusing children under the veil of religious authority is an attack on the faith itself,” U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez said in a statement. “I am humbled by the bravery of John Doe. With our partners, we will vigorously pursue justice for him and all of our children.”
Balizan was serving as the pastor of Santa Maria de la Paz in Santa Fe when he was accused of sexually abusing a minor. The archdiocese said in a statement that it promptly reported the sexual abuse allegations to authorities upon being informed in 2022 and that he was immediately removed from his position as a pastor.
The statement said the archdiocese has a “zero tolerance” policy related to sexual abuse and “unwavering dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of its community members, especially the vulnerable.” The archdiocese said it has an ongoing commitment to transparency, accountability, and support for the survivors of abuse.
“Most Reverend John C. Wester, archbishop of Santa Fe, urges the faithful to keep all victims of clergy sexual abuse in their prayers,” the statement read. “The archdiocese remains fully committed to cooperating with the authorities as they conduct their investigation.”
The archdiocese encouraged anyone who was sexually abused as a minor or knows about sexual abuse of a minor to report it to the civil authorities. If an abuser is a member of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe or a volunteer or employee, the archdiocese also asked that it be reported to the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 505-831-8144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sexual abuse allegations were investigated by the Santa Fe Resident Agency of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office. The FBI received assistance from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and the New Mexico Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory.
“We have and will continue to do everything we possibly can to protect our children from predators who seek to do them harm by abusing their inherent positions of trust,” Raul Bujanda, FBI special agent in charge, said in a statement.
The DOJ is prosecuting Balizan as part of Project Safe Childhood, which the department launched in 2016 to protect children from sexual abuse.
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