Ex-Notre Dame Priest Admits Sex Harassment

Associated Press, carried in Chicago Tribune
December 12, 1991

A priest and theologian forced into retirement by the University of Notre Dame admitted sexually harassing students, calling his actions "a default in my responsibilities as a priest."

Rev. James T. Burtchaell said he resigned for "other unrelated reasons of my own," even though the university asked him to leave.

"I have been making amends by offering apology to people I had offended and receiving their forgiveness, and I have been trying to submit to whatever transformation the Lord affords me," he wrote in a statement to the National Catholic Reporter.

The independent Catholic weekly published in Kansas City, Mo., reported in its Dec. 6 issue that Burtchaell resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Burtchaell remained silent until his letter of apology appeared in the Dec. 13 issue.

The priest said he "saw what I had done as a default in my responsibilities as a priest, a member of a religious brotherhood and a mentor."

John Michael Vore of South Bend, a Notre Dame graduate student, said Burtchaell propositioned him as an undergraduate in 1987, three years after the two men first met.

"I called him for help, and I got the distinct impression that to get his help I would have to be physically intimate with him," Vore said.

Vore, a co-chairman of Gays and Lesbians of Notre Dame and St. Mary's College, said he decided to identify himself to pressure Notre Dame to admit the incident and take steps to protect students from recurrences.

Student complaints prompted a university investigation that resulted in Notre Dame's request for his resignation in 1990. He was placed on a one-year sabbatical with his tenure to expire at the close of the 1991-92 academic year.

Burtchaell, 57, was a former chairman of the Notre Dame theology department and a provost.


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