A medical examiner’s report has determined that Notre Dame theology professor Father Virgilio Elizondo died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head Monday in his home in San Antonio, Texas.
The 80-year-old Elizondo, who was considered the founder of Latino Theology in the United States, was accused last May of sexually abusing an unidentified boy more than 30 years ago in a lawsuit filed against him, a charge that the priest vehemently denied.
The anonymous plaintiff said that as a child in 1983 he had been abused by the priest when the latter was rector of the Cathedral of San Fernando in San Antonio.
Elizondo’s longtime friend and administrative assistant, Janie Dillard, said that the accusation “could never be (true),” and added that Father Elizondo “died of a broken heart.”
In 1972, the priest founded the Mexican American Cultural Center, now the Mexican American Catholic College, a research and training center for pastoral leaders who come from all over the United States and Latin America to study.
During the early 1970s, Fr. Elizondo advocated for underpaid and exploited Mexican-American laborers in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He was also active in television work and video productions and his Sunday Spanish Mass was broadcast to more than 1 million households.
Elizondo began teaching pastoral and Hispanic theology at the University of Notre Dame in 2000 and was the author of several books, including The Future Is Mestizo, Galilean Journey and The Human Quest.
“I join the priests of the Archdiocese of San Antonio as we are deeply saddened and stunned by the news of the death of Father Virgilio Elizondo on March 14. This is an occasion for great sorrow, as his death was sudden and unexpected,” said San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller in a statement released by the archdiocese.
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