Former priest ends his life ahead of abuse hearing in New Mexico

1 min read
A sculpture is pictured outside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Fe, N.M., May 20, 2021. The Santa Fe Archdiocese confirmed in a press release May 24, 2024, that a former priest on its credibly accused list took his own life ahead of a May 24 hearing on criminal charges of sexual abuse. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller, CNS file)

A former Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Sante Fe, New Mexico, ended his life ahead of a May 24 hearing on criminal charges of sexual abuse.

Daniel Balizan, who faced a possible sentence of 10 years to life if convicted, had been arrested in June 2023 after having been indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges of coercion and enticement of a minor.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe confirmed Balizan’s death in a May 24 press release, stating that it was “saddened by the news of former priest Daniel Balizan having taken his life; we pray for comfort for his family and those who cared for him. May God have mercy on his soul.”

Local media reported that court documents also showed Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaymie L. Roybal, who had been assigned to prosecute the case, addressed the court and confirmed the death of Balizan, who was found at home in Springer, New Mexico. The town’s mayor, Boe Lopez, told media that Balizan was a “fixture in the community” and that his death was “an unfortunate loss to all of us.”

Devastating consequences of child abuse

The former priest — who had previously served as pastor of several archdiocesan parishes, as well as rector of Santo Niño Regional Catholic School in Santa Fe — had allegedly used text messages to coerce and entice a victim, named in court documents as “John Doe,” to engage in sexual activity with him between 2012 and 2022. He had been expected to agree to a plea deal at the May 24 hearing, although he also faced two lawsuits for similar abuse with two other minors.

Balizan, who is included on the archdiocese’s credibly accused clerics list, was being prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood, a national effort launched in 2006 to combat child sexual abuse by coordinating federal, state and local resources.

The archdiocese said in its statement that Balizan’s “tragic decision to end his life underscores the far-reaching and devastating consequences of the crime of child abuse — affecting victims, their loved ones, and even perpetrators themselves.

“The Archdiocese of Santa Fe reiterates its steadfast commitment to a zero-tolerance policy regarding the sexual abuse of children and adults. We are dedicated to providing a safe and secure environment for all children and work tirelessly to prevent such incidents from occurring,” the statement said, urging “anyone contemplating suicide to seek help.”

Gina Christian

Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News.