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Ex-National City Man's Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Abuse By Priest

May 22, 2003 | UNION-TRIBUNE

A former National City resident has filed a suit claiming he was sexually abused for five years beginning in San Diego County in the 1970s by a Catholic priest who was working for the military.

The priest accused of molesting the youth is the Rev. Carmelo "Mel" Baltazar, said Elliott Kanter, the attorney representing the plaintiff.

While the suit does not list Baltazar or the other individual defendants by name, Kanter said Baltazar is the priest who is identified as a "John Doe" defendant. In these kinds of childhood sexual abuse claims defendants are not listed by name until the court rules the allegations have been corroborated.

Baltazar's whereabouts are unknown. Church officials could not say where he is, and he is not listed as currently working in the United States.

The suit, filed last week in San Diego Superior Court, names the diocese of San Diego as a defendant, and the archdiocese of Los Angeles, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Reno, Nev., and Boise, Idaho.

Kanter alleges in the suit that the churches were aware of Baltazar's molestations but covered it up and quietly moved him from parish to parish.

He said Baltazar acted as an informal foster parent for the youth, whose parents entrusted him to the priest beginning in 1976 when the victim was 13.

For the next five years, the two traveled together as Baltazar's assignments took him to other areas, Kanter said.

A spokesman for the Diocese of San Diego said last week that Baltazar never worked directly for the diocese. Instead, he was working for the Archdiocese of Military Services, which provides religious services for military personnel, said Chancellor Roderigo Valdivia.

Valdivia said the priest may have worked for local churches "in an unofficial capacity" when he was living in San Diego.

Officials with the Archdiocese of Military Services did not return phone calls requesting information on Baltazar.

Baltazar had problems long before the priest-abuse scandal erupted in the Catholic church over the past 18 months. In 1985, he was convicted in Boise, Idaho, of molesting a youth there.

At the time, prosecutors said he had a history of molesting boys that stretched back two decades.

A judge, saying the church was partly to blame for not stopping Baltazar despite reports of his sexual contact with boys, sentenced the priest to seven years in prison.

The local man who brought the suit said that when he traveled with Baltazar, they lived together in church housing. He said he was always identified as Baltazar's nephew.

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