IN--Victims want priest disciplined for defending accused molester
For immediate release: Monday, April 11, 2016
Notre Dame prof publicly discounts abuse allegations
Survivors urge his superior to denounce “this hurtful move”
University head should discipline the cleric, support group says
SNAP: “President should also use this opportunity to educate the rest of his staff”
A Notre Dame professor who is also a priest recently defended a fellow faculty member and a cleric who has been accused of child sexual abuse in Texas. A victims’ group wants the university’s president to discipline the professor for his “hurtful” public remarks.
Father Daniel Groody (574-631-3233, [email protected]) is an Associate Professor of Theology at Notre Dame, as well as the Director of Immigration Initiatives at the Institute for Latino Studies. The priest spoke at the funeral of Father Virgilio Elizondo.
In a pending San Antonio lawsuit, Fr. Elizondo is of groping an orphan who confined in the priest that he had suffered long term abuse at the hands of another clergyman. However, Fr. Elizondo took his own life before he could give testimony in the case.
During a service last week, Fr. Groody claimed that Fr. Elizondo was accused of abuse “not because he was a serial abuser, but because he was a highly visible, accomplished, respected cleric. …” However, although Elizondo denied the allegations when he was alive, members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, believe that the suicide note Elizondo left suggested that he was indeed guilty.
Two SNAP leaders are writing to Father John I. Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame (574-631-3903 [email protected]), urging him to discipline Groody for his remarks, saying that they were not only extremely hurtful but could also deter other survivors from coming forward. The text of the letter, sent earlier today by email, is below.
“Many abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them over a respected man of the cloth,” said David Clohessy, SNAP's director. “When clergy members dismiss out of hand allegations against other priests, it sends a very chilling message to those who have been abused and are considering coming forward.”
“While we understand that Fr. Groody and Fr. Elizondo were colleagues and may even have been friends, it is not appropriate for a clergyman to express public support for a credibly accused molester," said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. "Not only does this discourage other victims from coming forward, it also rubs salt into the wounds of already damaged survivors. Ultimately, by discouraging other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers, it makes the church and schools less safe.”
Clohessy also said “Universities pride themselves on open-mindedness, yet here we have a university official trying to pass on his personal opinion as fact, in the absence of any evidence.”
Following Fr. Elizondo’s death SNAP had urged his supporters to show restraint and sensitivity, saying, “It will be tempting to publicly profess his innocence. … We as adults face a simple choice. We can either make it easier for child sex abuse victims to come forward, or harder. Publicly rallying around Fr. Elizondo makes it harder. It makes the church more dangerous.”
The group is discouraged by that President Jenkins was present at the funeral and has yet to speak out against the remarks.
“Perhaps Fr. Jenkins was reluctant to say something during the funeral service itself, but we hope he will severely reprimand Fr. Groody now,” said Clohessy.
“Fr. Groody has misused his position,” concluded Dorris. “It’s up to Fr. Jenkins to use his power to correct the situation.”
Finally, SNAP encourages Fr. Jenkins to use this situation as “a teaching moment.” The group suggests that he educate his faculty about the effect that public support for an accused abuser can have on other victims struggling to find the courage to come forward.
Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC
Office of the President
University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
SENT BY EMAIL: [email protected]
Re: Father Daniel Groody’s Support for Accused Child Molester Father Virgilio Elizondo
Dear Father Jenkins:
We are members of a victims’ group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. We are writing to you today because we are concerned over the actions of one of your faculty members, Father Daniel Groody, and we would like you to use your authority to discipline him.
As you know since you were also in attendance, Father Groody spoke publicly at Father Vigilio Elizondo’s funeral, saying that he was accused of abuse “because he was a highly visible, accomplished, respected cleric. …”
While we understand that Father Groody and Father Elizondo were colleagues, perhaps even friends, no clergyman should use the power of his position to praise an accused pedophile, particularly one who appears to have acknowledged his guilt in his suicide note.
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.
As Father Groody’s superior we ask you to use your authority to help remedy this deplorable situation. We would like you to do two things.
First, we beg you to severely reprimand Father Groody for his hurtful actions. We also ask that you order him to cease supporting Father Elizondo publicly.
Second, use this hurtful move as a teaching moment for your faculty, particularly those who are also clergymen. Make sure that they know that it is not appropriate – and in fact very callous - for them to publicly defend accused credibly accused child molesters.
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
Outreach Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
St. Louis MO 63130