Suicide note of renowned Texas priest accused of molestation says ‘I am a sinner in need of forgiveness and mercy’
By Tobias Salinger
New York Daily News
April 12, 2016
|A lawyer for a man who accuses longtime San Antonio, Tex., Catholic priest Virgilio Elizondo of molesting him released Elizondo's suicide note Monday.|
|Father Elizondo, 80, had served as pastor for decades at San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio. He was also a professor at University of Notre Dame.|
|Broadcasts of Elizondo's Mass in Spanish once drew over 1 million viewers each week.|
|A May 2014 file photo shows San Fernando Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States.|
A celebrated Texas priest confessed to sins in his suicide note but didn’t admit anything about the allegation he molested a boy who asked for his help 33 years ago.
Lawyers for an anonymous man suing Father Virgilio Elizondo, another priest and officials with their archdiocese released the typewritten one-page note Monday, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The San Antonio Police Department confirmed it provided the lawyers with the note found on the scene after Elizondo, 80, shot himself in the head March 14.
“How can I best be of service? At this time it is by offering my life as a final gift,” the note said. “I freely choose my moment and way of giving life to others. This is not a suicide but a farewell gift. I pray that the gift of my life may bring healing to anyone that I might have hurt.”
The note continued, “To anyone whom I have ever offended, I beg your forgiveness and mercy. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. My greatest pain is that I have hurt others, especially those I love the most. I am a sinner in need of forgiveness and mercy.”
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The note quoted John 15:13, which reads, “Greater love no one has, then to lay down his life for his friends.”
Attorney Thomas Henry filed suit last May against Elizondo and the Archdiocese of San Antonio, accusing the 52-year priest and leading theologian of kissing and fondling a boy who told Elizondo he had been sexually abused by another priest in 1983.
“He’s not denying his conduct and yet he’s offering himself as a gift to those he might have hurt,” Henry told the Express-News. “That is a twisted, demented way of taking responsibility.”
Yet a funeral for Elizondo, the longtime pastor of San Fernando Cathedral and an award-winning University of Notre Dame scholar, drew over 1,000 people last month. His Notre Dame obituary recalled broadcasts of Elizondo’s Sunday Spanish Mass that reached over 1 million people after he gained prominence in the early ‘70s as a defender of exploited Mexican-American workers.
“Having known the goodness of the man, I will always believe he is innocent,” advertising executive Lionel Sosa told the Express-News. “He didn’t have a reason for living. His life on earth was over, and he knew it. He was completely sure that God would receive him in heaven, and he decided it was time.”
The archdiocese declined to discuss the suicide note in a statement released Monday.
“Out of respect for the privacy of the Elizondo family, the Archdiocese of San Antonio feels that it would be inappropriate for us to try to interpret or comment on the meaning of the message left by Father Virgilio Elizondo,” archdiocese officials said.