Students share insight on Notre Dame prof. accused of sexually abusing boy

By Annie Chang
May 27, 2015

[with video]


Former students of Fr. Virgilio Elizondo, the Notre Dame professor and Texas priest accused of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s, spoke to WSBT 22 about their teacher Wednesday.

Elizondo is named in a lawsuit filed last week in San Antonio. Court documents filed on behalf of the plaintiff, an unnamed man, accuse two priests of sexually molesting the man when he was a child.

The plaintiff, an orphan, claims he was regularly abused by a local priest named Fr. Jesse Dominguez, over a period of two years, until Dominguez moved away.

The plaintiff also claims he tried to confide in Elizondo about those experiences in 1983. The two were in the car together. That's when, according to court documents, Elizondo allegedly reached over, kissed the minor, and began to "fondle the Plaintiff's genitals."

The suit names the Archdiocese of San Antonio, accusing officials of trying to cover up the plaintiff's story, as well as the two priests.

Notre Dame officials confirm Elizondo has been a member of their faculty since 2002. He's currently an endowed professor, the highest academic award a school can bestow on a faculty member.

But students say Elizondo's involvement on campus was limited. He flew to South Bend only to teach his course, then promptly going back to San Antonio.

"We all knew it was pretty crazy that he flew up on Tuesdays and Thursday from San Antonio and then went back home," a former student of Elizondo's tells WSBT 22. "So we knew he wasn't there very often."

WSBT 22 spoke to several of Elizondo's former students both online and on the phone. They asked to keep their identities hidden.

One of them, who took Elizondo's Intro to Latino Spirituality class, says the professor was somewhat of a symbol for Hispanic Notre Dame students.

"His work resonated with us because we were all going through a culture shock to some degree on campus," she says, referring to Elizondo's book Galilean Journey, which was a favorite work among the Hispanic student body.

The professor is hailed as the "Father of U.S. Latino Religious Thought," and TIME Magazine named him one of the most innovative spiritual leaders of our time in 2000. Notre Dame awarded him the prestigious Laetare Medal in 1997.

While allegations that Elizondo fondled a minor while serving as a priest in the 80s disappointed one former student, she says they don't change how she feels about his academic work.

"Those things aren't invalidated or made any weaker by this situation or anything that comes of it, really," she tells WSBT 22.

Notre Dame officials tell WSBT 22 they have nothing to add Wednesday.
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend had no comment Wednesday.


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