Early this morning I learned from The Rivard Report that Fr. Virgilio Elizondo had taken his own life via a self-inflicted gunshot. I was instantly filled with a sense of profound loss and sadness. The "Father Virgil" I knew was the kindest, most generous man I’ve ever met.
I’m not going to beat around the bush and ignore the big question mark that last year’s allegations of sexual abuse put in my mind or the mind of countless others. But I also believe people are innocent until proven guilty, and given what I know about Virgilio as a human I will pass the courtesy along to him as well. To assume that because he was a Catholic priest he is automatically guilty is neither fair, nor appropriate.
Back to the Father Virgil I knew. He was brilliant, kind and truly loved by all who knew him. My dad, stepmom and siblings got to know him as a friend, frequently going to dinner with him where he’d share stories and knowledge with us freely and humbly. He didn’t judge anyone, and his personal and social views were surprisingly liberal for a Catholic man, let alone one of his stature in the church. Victor and I were honored to have him marry us nearly 12 years ago. He was a true gem of a human.
I am not a religious person, though I did get married in a Catholic church. While I don't follow any organized religion, I do believe that people deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity. Father Virgil deserves no less.
I hurt for the man who was abused and who claimed that Virgil abused him as well. I hurt for all the children who have been abused by priests, family members, and strangers alike. My heart is filled with anguish at the thought that it could be possible that Virgil either participated in molestation or did not report an allegation of abuse if and when a suffering young man chose to confide in him – or both.
Either way, I refuse to throw Virgilio into the fire or presume him guilty. He denied any wrongdoing, and his word is just as valid as the word of a victim. Sadly, we may never know the truth about what happened.
To me, Father Virgil will always be a kind, thoughtful human being who was loved by many. May he rest in peace.
*Top image: Fr. Virgilio Elizondo officiates the marriage of Victor and Cristina Sosa Noriega. Courtesy photo.