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Theology professor priest faces sexual abuse allegations

| Saturday, May 30, 2015

Theology professor Fr. Virgilio Elizondo, who is widely considered the founder of U.S. Latino theology and won the 1997 Laetare Medal, was named in a San Antonio civil suit alleging Elizondo sexually abused the unnamed plaintiff when he was a minor, according to a report originally run by WSBT.

The lawsuit was filed against the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Fr. Jesus Armando Dominguez and Elizondo last Tuesday in Bexar County district court. It alleges Dominguez repeatedly sexually abused the plaintiff, listed as “John Doe” in the 1980s. When the plaintiff asked Elizondo for help dealing with Dominguez’s abuse in 1983, the lawsuit alleges “Elizondo began to fondle the Plaintiff’s genitals, taking advantage of the same sexual liberties Plaintiff complained of with Father Dominguez,” according to excerpted court documents published by WNDU.

“As Father Elizondo reached over, kissed him, and began to fondle him, the Plaintiff immediately became angry, frustrated, scared, and confused because Plaintiff thought that he would help,” the suit states. “Instead, he gave the Plaintiff more reasons to feel unsafe within the care and guard of the Roman Catholic Church. Once again, the sexual abuse of the Plaintiff continued.”

In a report in the San Antonio Express-News, Elizondo denied the allegations.

“The allegations made against me are not true and have absolutely no basis in fact,” Elizondo said in the Express-News report. “I deny all the claims which have been asserted against me.”

The suit seeks unspecified damages and claims the plaintiff has suffered from anger, depression, emotional distress, addiction and suicidal attempts as a result of the abuse.

According to his personal website, Elizondo joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1999, but still maintains his primary residence in San Antonio, where he works with Catholic Television of San Antonio and St. Rose of Lima parish, and commutes to the University.

Elizondo, who serves as a professor of Pastoral and Hispanic Theology and as a fellow at Institute for Latino Studies and Kellogg Institute, has taught a range of theology courses, focusing on Latino spirituality. In the fall, he is scheduled to teach three courses, including the popular U.S. Latino Spirituality course that can satisfy a student’s second theology requirement.

According to a statement released Friday, a spokesperson for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has called for the University to suspend Elizondo immediately. In an email Friday, though, University vice president for public affairs and communications Paul Browne said “Fr. Elizondo’s status has not changed,” but the University would not comment further at this time.

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  • SNAPJudy

    It’s never too late to speak up about being sexually abused.
    Let’s hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by Father
    Jesus Armando Dominguez and Father Virgilio Elizondo, will find the courage to
    come forward and contact law enforcement no matter how long ago it happened.

    Silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing
    the truth, and therefore protecting others.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest
    Associate Director, USA,
    636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,
    SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

    • Rachel

      The allegations against Elizondo are false. They are just that, allegations. He is innocent until proven guilty, and it is immoral for SNAP to act as if he is automatically guilty. Please be reasonable.

      • DPierre

        Don’t expect SNAP to be “reasonable.”

        SNAP is a vile and vicious organization.

        I have followed SNAP extensively for years.
        SNAP is an anti-Catholic cabal masquerading as a victim support group.

  • DrRosemaryEileenMcHugh

    I am a family physician. I have met many who have been sexually abused by priests. It is very likely that Fr Elizondo is guilty of sexual abuse of this unnamed plaintiff and likely of others who do not yet have the courage to come forward. It takes a lot of courage to speak up about being sexually abused, especially being sexually abused by a priest, who should be representing the goodness of God.

    Having family members who have graduated from Notre Dame and St Mary”s, I have respect that these institutions will want to do the right thing. As this is a student run newspaper, I recommend that the students become more informed about the worldwide problem of clergy sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults that is still going on. More solid truth can be found at these websites: http://www.bishopaccountability.org and snapnetwork.org.

    False allegations have been found to be less than 2%. The victims are often told by the clergy predators that no one will ever believe their story. Please google the recent Royal Commission’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Ballarat, Australia, the hometown of Cardinal Pell, one of Pope Francis’ chosen eight cardinals. The commission has just learned that more than 55 boys have committed suicide when they gave up hope of their stories of being sexually abused/raped by their religious brother and priest teachers being believed, because of the lies or denial of the truth by the predator clergy, by their superiors, and by the hierarchy.

    I hope Notre Dame and St Mary’s will do the right thing. I have worked with members of the
    Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for several years. I am impressed by how hard they are working to help the Church to do the right thing.

    The Church’s covering up of sexual crimes against children will never end if people will not face the truth that the sexual abuse is still happening by clergy, including by pastors in my own hometown of Chicago! I have hope that the students of these fine universities will have the discernment to search for the truth, wherever it will lead you, and then to speak out for truth and justice, since the Church has made the priesthood a haven for sexual predators and tried to block justice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse. I feel sorry for the many good priests who are getting a bad name because of the few bad ones.
    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, MD, MSpir

  • empathylouis

    Without substantial evidence, I refuse to believe that Father Elizondo would commit such acts. I have known him in a professional capacity for several decades now. He has always been kind to me. Even as a child, he was always quite respectable around me. I truly question the validity of this man’s claims. He has waited 30 years to present them, and, to my knowledge, has not presented any valid resource as to back up his claim of molestation.