Victims" Group Asks Notre Dame to Discipline Priest for Comments
By Margaret Fosmoe
South Bend Tribune
April 14, 2016
|South Bend Tribune|
A victims' group is asking University of Notre Dame officials to discipline the Rev. Daniel Groody, a theology professor, for comments he made last week during a memorial service on campus for the Rev. Virgilio Elizondo, a priest who committed suicide in Texas after being accused of child sexual abuse.
During the service, Groody said Elizondo was accused of abuse "not because he was a serial abuser, but because he was a highly visible, accomplished, respected cleric. …," according to a news report in the Observer, the student newspaper.
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is asking the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, to take disciplinary action against Groody for his comments.
"Survivors who read Father Groody’s words can only feel horribly discouraged: many abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them over a respected man of the cloth. As a result, they will be less likely to seek help, and they will continue to suffer alone and in silence, and their abuser will go on to hurt more children," SNAP officials David Clohessy and Barbara Dorris wrote in a letter to Jenkins.
Although Elizondo denied the abuse allegation when he was alive, SNAP members believe that a suicide note Elizondo left suggested that he was guilty.
"We think the discipline should come from the top down. It's more effective," Clohessy, SNAP's director, said in a phone interview Wednesday when asked why SNAP hasn't contacted Groody directly. SNAP also is considering contacting the priest's superior in the Congregation of Holy Cross.
The group isn't asking that Groody be fired from the faculty for his remarks, Clohessy said. But some sort of discipline, such as a demotion or suspension, would be appropriate, he said.
A Tribune phone message and email to Groody seeking comment weren't returned Wednesday.
Jenkins has no plans to respond to SNAP, university spokesman Paul Browne said Wednesday. It's not a university president's responsibility to criticize a faculty member for saying something that others disagree with, he said. "Certainly Father Jenkins is not going to condemn a priest and faculty member who was doing his pastoral duty after the death of a member of the (campus) community," Browne said.
Jenkins celebrated the Mass for Elizondo last Thursday in Sacred Heart Basilica, and Groody delivered the homily, according to the student paper.
SNAP wants Jenkins to reprimand Groody and order him to stop publicly supporting Elizondo. The group also asks Jenkins to use this as a teaching moment for other faculty. "Make sure that they know that it is not appropriate — and in fact very callous — for them to publicly defend credibly accused child molesters," the SNAP letter states.
Groody is director of immigration initiatives for the university's Institute for Latino Studies. He worked with Elizondo, who was a Notre Dame theology professor from 2000 until 2015 and was also an Institute for Latino Studies fellow.
Elizondo was accused of sexually abusing a boy in Texas in the 1980s, an accusation he denied.
Elizondo committed suicide with a gun March 14 in Texas. Without admitting guilt, he left behind a note describing his suicide as "a farewell gift" he hoped would "bring healing to anyone that (he) might have hurt," according to the San Antonio Express-News.
In life, Elizondo, 80, 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.
Dominguez later served as a priest in Los Angeles before being defrocked and charged with 58 criminal counts of sexual abuse. Dominguez disappeared, and police believed he fled to Mexico.
In 1997, Notre Dame awarded Elizondo the Laetare Medal, known as the oldest and most prestigious award for American Catholics.