The crisis in the Catholic Church regarding clergy sexual abuse of minors has been devastating to many of us, including our St. Mary’s University community. These acts, committed by those who were entrusted with the pastoral care of our children and young adults, betrayed us all.
As members of St. Mary’s community, we are called to be healers for those who have been wounded by these evil acts and to be defenders always of the dignity and protection of every person. As members of this Catholic university, we also accept responsibility to help the Catholic community address its need for institutional reform. Today’s release of names by the Archdiocese of San Antonio of all priests and deacons, living or deceased, who served in its ministries and who have been the subject of one or more credible allegations of abuse of a minor is an important step forward. The public disclosure of this information, as well as the report and recommendations by the Lay Commission, are necessary to establish transparency and promote justice and compassion for the survivors and their families.
Lay Commission Report
I hope you join me in acknowledging the bold step taken by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S., to appoint a Lay Commission – made up entirely of lay Catholics and non-Catholics – whose independent audit and review will hopefully contribute to restoring the trust of men, women and children in the leadership of bishops of the United States. I have been honored to serve on the Commission as President of St. Mary’s University and chairman of the board of the national Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and as a lifelong Catholic devoted to my faith.
Today also, the Lay Commission released its report to the public and to the Archdiocese of San Antonio. The report contains a complete audit of the cases provided by the Archdiocese to the Commission, as well as a critical assessment of the Archdiocese’s practices and policies – past and present – on clergy abuse of minors in the Archdiocese. Five of the seven members of the Commission are graduates of St. Mary’s University, including the chair, the Honorable Catherine Stone, retired chief justice of the Fourth Court of Appeals. I commend my fellow Commission members’ courage and dedication to exposing some horrid, uncomfortable truths, which I believe is necessary to safeguard the authentic good of this community.
Marianists – Miller, Pistone and McNulty
In recent weeks, I also have been in close communications with the Marianist Province of the United States as they work to identify any credibly accused Marianist priests and brothers, including anyone who has ever served at St. Mary’s University.
The Province identified one Marianist who was employed at St. Mary’s University more than a decade ago. The incident of misconduct by the Rev. Charles Miller, S.M. (B.A. ’55), occurred in 1980, as previously reported in the media. Miller taught summer programs at St. Mary’s from 1970 to 1978. He was a full-time member of the faculty and dean during his time at the University from fall 1979 to spring 2007.
The Marianist Province has reported to us that in 2007 it asked an independent lay review board to examine the allegations. This board found the allegations to be credible. At that time, Miller resigned from St. Mary’s. He lives under supervision in a Marianist community outside of the United States and is no longer involved in active ministry.
Along with the Province, we are reporting one other Marianist, who was credibly accused of sexual abuse to a minor and who spent time at St. Mary’s. Brother Anthony Pistone, S.M. (B.A.’56, M.A. ’66), who is deceased and whose name was previously released by the Diocese of Fort Worth, was an instructor at the Marianist scholasticate at St. Mary’s from 1965 to 1967. In the 1960s, future Marianist brothers studied at the scholasticate, which was in Treadaway Hall on campus. The reported incident of sexual misconduct occurred nearly 20 years later at Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth.
In 2002, a survivor alleged sexual abuse by the Rev. Patrick McNulty, S.M., was committed in the 1970s. From 1966 to 1983, McNulty had three assignments in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, including Holy Rosary Catholic Church, next to the St. Mary’s campus. We have no evidence that McNulty had any appointment with the University while he was assigned to Holy Rosary Parish. McNulty died in 1984.
The Rev. Oscar Vasquez, S.M., Marianist Provincial, has assured me that no priests or brothers credibly accused of sexual abuse will be allowed to live in any of the Marianist residences near or on our campus or visit the University, including Miller. I will continue to work closely with the Province to ensure a safe environment at St. Mary’s.
Diocesan Priest – Elizondo
A Diocesan priest named in the Archdiocese release and previously reported in the media for sexually abusing a minor in the 1980s is the Rev. Virgil Elizondo (B.S. ’57). Elizondo served on the St. Mary’s Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2006. He died in 2016.
Marianist Province – Sound Measures and Reporting
In recent years, the Marianist Province has undertaken sound measures to ensure a safe environment for students. They have in place policies and procedures for protecting minors, which have been validated by Praesidium, a third-party organization that helps youth-serving organizations protect those in their care. All Marianists receive ongoing training on ensuring the safety of the young and vulnerable adults.
The provincial administration has assured us they are committed to cooperating with law enforcement for any reports of sexual abuse. They encourage anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse by a Marianist to report it to their Pastoral Assistance Coordinator at email@example.com or 314-285-2322 or to civil authorities. You may read the letter from the Provincial here.
St. Mary’s – Commitment to Reporting Sexual Abuse
It is incumbent on all of us who are leaders in Catholic organizations, parishes and educational institutions to support the survivors and to acknowledge the inalterable harm that has been inflicted on survivors and their families. At St. Mary’s University, these survivors are our primary concern. The sexual abuse of a minor or any vulnerable person by another, especially by someone within his or her trust is an unspeakable violation of human decency. St. Mary’s will report any credible accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by any member of our community to law enforcement, regardless of its date of occurrence, and immediately remove the offender from his or her position, pending an investigation. If the allegations are credible, the individual will be removed from the University and banned forever from our campus.
There are resources at St. Mary’s and in the San Antonio community designed to support survivors of sexual abuse or misconduct. The University’s website provides procedures for reporting sexual misconduct, assaults or other acts of violence, including the option to report confidentially.
St. Mary’s University Sexual Assault Resources can be found at www.stmarytx.edu/campuslife/student-services/sexual-assault-resources/.
As we continue our prayers of healing, I also ask that you join me in praying that today’s actions bring us a brighter future.
Thomas M. Mengler
President, St. Mary’s University