Notre Dame professor accused of sex abuse kills himself

South Bend Tribune
March 15, 2016

University of Notre Dame theology professor the Rev. Virgilio Elizondo was found dead of a gunshot wound Monday in his San Antonio home.

SAN ANTONIO — A University of Notre Dame theology professor accused of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s killed himself Monday.

Police responded to a report of a shooting at the home of the Rev. Virgilio Elizondo fewer than 10 minutes before his official time of death on Monday afternoon, according to the law enforcement and county records, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

The 80-year-old Elizondo had vehemently denied the allegations put forth by a San Antonio man in a lawsuit. The man, who has not been identified, lived in a San Antonio orphanage as a child. The accuser says he was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of another priest, the Rev. Jesus Armando Dominguez, from 1980 to 1983. The accuser says he sought counsel in 1983 from Elizondo, who was then a priest at the San Fernando Cathedral, about what Dominguez had done to him, but Elizondo kissed and fondled him. The man's lawsuit named both priests and the Archdiocese of San Antonio as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Dominguez would molest the boy multiple times per week. If the boy complained, Dominguez would feign a heart attack, or threaten to kill the boy and himself, the lawsuit claims. Dominguez later served as a priest in Los Angeles before being defrocked and charged with 58 criminal counts of sexual abuse, according to the Los Angeles Times. Dominguez disappeared, and police believed he had fled to Mexico, The Times reported.

San Antonio Police Department officers were called at 1:55 p.m. Monday to a house owned by Elizondo. The Bexar County medical examiner confirmed to the Express-News on Tuesday that Elizondo was pronounced dead five minutes after officers arrived, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Elizondo had been a theology professor at Notre Dame since 2000. Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown responded to an inquiry about Elizondo's status with the university by sending a link to a memoriam on the Notre Dame website. That memoriam referred to Elizondo as a professor of pastoral and Hispanic theology. Elizondo last taught at Notre Dame in the fall of 2014, Brown said.

"Extolled as a founder of U.S. Latino religious thought, Father Elizondo was hailed in Time magazine as one of the leading spiritual innovators in the United States," that memoriam stated. "Yet when he shared his beliefs about the connections between religion and people, he would recall the grocery store his immigrant parents owned in San Antonio, where he spent most of his life. 'I came from a neighborhood where no one thought I would make it out or amount to anything,' he said. 'Even as a boy, I knew I wanted to do something good for the world.' ”

In 1997, Notre Dame awarded him the Laetare Medal, known as the oldest and most prestigious award for American Catholics.

Funeral arrangements are pending, according to the archdiocese.



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