October 24, 2019
Elise Schmelzer
Denver Post

A Pueblo priest who served as a Colorado state senator sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl and a high school junior before joining the statehouse, according to a report about clergy sex abuse in Colorado.

John Beno, who died in 2000, served as a Democratic state senator representing Pueblo from 1981 to 1986 and sat on multiple committees, including the joint budget committee and the education committee.

Beno is one of 40 priests named in a report published Wednesday by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The report details an 8-month investigation into clergy sex abuse in Colorado. Beno’s connection to the General Assembly was first reported by Colorado Politics.

Beno’s victims reported being abused by him in 1996 and 2005.

One woman said Beno raped her in 1961 when she was a first grader at St. Francis Xavier Parochial School in Pueblo, according to the report. She said that if she reported the rape she would be committing a mortal sin.

The woman reported the abuse in 1996, when Beno was on medical retirement from the priesthood. When confronted with the allegation, Beno said he had no recollection of sexually assaulting the girl and didn’t recognize the woman’s name, the report states.

The Pueblo diocese never reported the allegation to police, according to the report. It did, however, pay a financial settlement to the woman after corroborating the victim’s story.

The second victim said Beno raped her while she was a junior at Seton High School in 1968 or 1969. Beno said her family would be excommunicated if she told anybody. The woman said she confronted Beno in the 1980s about the abuse by writing a letter. He then asked her to meet and when she arrived, she was met by Beno and three lawyers, according to the report.

Beno did not deny the allegations in the meeting but threatened the woman with eternal damnation, according to the woman.

She reported the abuse in 2005, after Beno already died. The diocese did not report her allegations to police but its internal conduct review board substantiated her allegations, the report says.

When Beno died, state lawmakers issued a resolution mourning his death.

“Father John Beno was a man who was known for his quick and humorous wit, and he was respected and loved by those who knew him,” the resolution stated.

Beno also served on the board of directors of the Colorado Migrant Council and the director of the Women’s Career Development Center, according to the resolution.


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