Theology professor priest faces sexual abuse allegations
Observer Staff Report | 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.