A summary judgment hearing scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed until April 8 in the civil lawsuit filed by a John Doe against a fugitive ex-priest, the now-deceased Fr. Virgil Elizondo, the archdiocese of San Antonio, and the current and former archbishop.
A summary judgment ruling is sought by the defendants when they believe there are no substantive issues remaining to be decided in a case or when the allegations are so one-sided and unsupported by any evidence that the case does not merit moving forward to trial.
The lawsuit, which was filed in May 2015, is in the 131st state district court of Judge John D. Gabriel. The unidentified plaintiff in the lawsuit claims he was repeatedly molested between 1980 and 1983 by Jesus Armando Dominguez, a seminarian attending the Assumption Seminary at the time the plaintiff was living at a local orphanage. Dominguez, who was ordained a priest in San Bernardino, CA, later fled to Mexico to evade criminal charges in California of molesting multiple boys in that diocese. Several civil cases filed against him there were settled out of court by the San Bernardino diocese. Dominguez was never apprehended.
The John Doe claims he told now-retired Archbishop Patrick Flores about Dominguez and the incidents of sexual abuse at the time they occurred, but that local Church leaders never followed through on a promise to investigate. The plaintiff also claims in the lawsuit that he told Elizondo about the molestations while the two were in a vehicle, and that Elizondo then kissed and fondled him, causing the plaintiff to flee. The plaintiff also claims in the lawsuit that he informed the San Bernardino Diocese of Dominguez’s alleged abuses, but that authorities there did nothing until a formal lawsuit was filed against Dominguez in 2004.
The filing of the Bexar County lawsuit 33 years after the alleged incidents, and the anonymity of the plaintiff, has raised questions about the validity of the complaint against Elizondo, who asserted his innocence at the time and pledged to fight the accusation. Despite that, a cloud settled over the high profile former rector of San Fernando Cathedral, a theologian and author of international reputation. No other charges ever arose against Elizondo in his 53 years as an ordained priest, but the effect of the allegation on him ultimately proved devastating.
Officials at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., where Elizondo was a member of the theology faculty, publicly stood by him, but privately asked him to stay away from campus until he could clear his name. Elizondo, a very public person, withdrew to his home on Woodlawn Lake. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last Monday, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiner. His funeral Mass was held at St. Rose of Lima Church on Saturday, with Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller presiding. More than 1,000 people and 100 priests attended the Mass.
A reporter left two messages for Thomas J. Henry, the high profile law firm that filed the lawsuit. Henry, a frequent subject of dramatic television commercials advertising his litigation services, and Travis Venable, the firm’s lead attorney in the case, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Jordan McMorrough, director of communications for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said Chuch leaders would not comment on a pending legal case.
“Consistent with Archdiocese of San Antonio policy, we do not comment on the status of ongoing litigation,” McMorrough said. “We believe that legal actions deserve a complete and objective review in a court of law.”
The plaintiff is seeking compensation for years of medical treatment and psychological counseling he has undergone since the alleged incidents, and the physical and mental suffering he has endured that his attorneys claim has hindered his ability to live independently or hold a stable job.
*Top Image: The Bexar County Courthouse. Image Courtesy of Bexar County
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