Boston College is investigating a sexual assault case against the chairman of its theology department after a former classmate claimed the professor sexually assaulted her on two separate occasions.
Theologian Laura Grimes has claimed that Richard Gaillardetz, a professor of Catholic systematic theology, assaulted her twice — on Halloween and in December 1987 — while the two were doctoral candidates at the University of Notre Dame.
In two YouTube videos, one released on January 24 and the other last Thursday, Grimes alleged she was part of the “ecclesiastical rape culture” during her college years. Grimes, an independent Catholic bishop in the Old Catholic Church, went on to describe her views through the lens of her personal experiences as an undergraduate at Santa Clara University and a doctoral student at Notre Dame.
Grimes explained she was in a consensual relationship with Gaillardetz during their time as graduate students at Notre Dame when the latter sexually assaulted her on two occasions. Grimes believes Gaillardetz to be guilty of both spiritual and sexual abuse.
In the video, Grimes says she believes her statement will cast light on the numerous cases of abuse at the hands of church and higher education institutions, many of which still go unreported. She believes Gaillardetz is an example of one of the problems she sees in the Catholic Church.
Although the alleged incidents took place over 30 years ago, Grimes said she was determined to speak about her experiences after hearing Gaillardetz speak about reconciling with faith amid the clergy sexual abuse scandal in recent years.
Grimes says she was shocked to hear the professor’s views, alleging that he was “everything he was pointing the finger at.”
Professor Gaillardetz’ Reaction
Professor Gaillardetz, who is an eminent author and former National Catholic Reporter contributor, has denied the allegations.
In an interview with the college’s student-run newspaper, The Heights, Gaillardetz said he first learned of Grimes’ accusations after the first video surfaced in January. To disprove the allegations, he has now hired an independent law firm to investigate these claims.
“I am eager to set the record straight with respect to Dr. Grimes’ wreckless allegations but I have been advised not to respond to the allegations until the investigation is concluded,” Gaillardetz informed.
Until the allegations against Gaillardetz are resolved, the college has appointed an acting chair of the department in the professor’s absence.