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Investigation Finds Allegations Against Theology Chair False and Not Credible

An independent investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against Boston College theology department chair Richard Gaillardetz has concluded that the allegations “are not only not credible but are also false,” according to a University release.

“Dr. Grimes’ allegations have imposed a deeply unjust burden of suffering on my wife, my family, and me,” Gaillardetz wrote in an email to The Heights. “Yet we must remember that baseless accusations also harm the cause of true victims everywhere. They undermine the privileged concern that victims rightly deserve and expect.” 

The Heights was not able to immediately reach theologian Laura Grimes, who came forward with the allegations in January, for comment. 

In two YouTube videos released on Jan. 23 and Feb. 24, Grimes alleges that Gaillardetz sexually assaulted her twice—on Halloween and in early December of 1987—while the two were students in a theology doctoral program at the University of Notre Dame.

BC hired DeMoura Smith LLP to conduct an independent investigation on the credibility of the allegations and provide its professional opinion and judgement, the release said.

“The firm considered the totality of the evidence gathered, assessed the credibility of witnesses, and applied a preponderance of the evidence standard to its work,” the release reads. “… We confirm that our investigation was independent and free from any external influence or interference by the college or anyone acting on its behalf.”

Theologian Laura Grimes, who came forward with the allegations in January, said in an email to The Heights that she disagreed with the findings of the investigation.

“The claim of non credibility was a foregone conclusion given misogynist misunderstandings of sexual assault and actual consent in both church and society as well as my cursory and hostile questioning by the law firm,” Grimes wrote. 

DeMoura Smith said in a statement to The Heights that it stands by its report.

“The questions submitted to Dr. Grimes were neither cursory nor hostile,” said Robert B. Smith, director of DeMoura Smith’s investigation team and its higher education practice, in the statement. “Our independent investigation was thorough and fair. Our conclusions are fully supported by the evidence, including public statements by Dr. Grimes and her written responses to our questions. We will have no further comment about our work on this matter.”

Following the conclusion of the investigation, Gaillardetz will be returning to his position as chair of BC’s theology department on April 28. Kenneth Himes, a professor in the theology department, served as acting chair of the department in Gaillardetz’s absence.

“In light of the firm’s opinion that the weight of the evidence supports a conclusion that the allegations are without credibility, Boston College will take no further action in this matter,” the release reads. 

Grimes said in an interview with The Heights on Feb. 28 that she came forward with the allegations because she had heard Gaillardetz, a professor of Catholic systematic theology, speak about the sexual abuse scandal in the clergy.

“I think I Googled him or something looking for his website, and what came up was that in the last couple years, he is speaking on literally the clergy sexual abuse crisis,” Grimes said. “And it was like, ‘Oh my god, utter blasphemy,’ and then reading what he said or watching what he said, it was so totally flawed and clueless … he’s everything he’s pointing the finger at.”

Grimes said in the February interview that she hoped to receive some recognition from Gaillardetz about the assault and see BC reprimand him.

“But, yeah, that I hope to force him to some kind of acknowledgement, some kind of consequences,” Grimes said. “And to force BC, you know, to act to protect their students and for it to become very public so hopefully other victims … choose to come forward.”

Gaillardetz wrote in the email to The Heights that though he acknowledges that Grimes has had a difficult life, he is not responsible for her troubles.

“I am sorry for her suffering, but I am not its cause,” he wrote. “I recognize that a person who has been grievously wronged has a right to tell their own story and to be heard with empathy and care. At the same time, a person who is accused of serious wrongdoing also has a basic right to fairness.”

Grimes said in an email to The Heights that she thinks the firm cannot truly conclude that the allegations were false.

“The further claim of falsity is obviously unprovable as well as vindictive,” she wrote. “It is dangerously misleading given the implication that the sexual incidents never occurred—which I doubt Dr Gaillardetz alleged—rather than a more probable defense of supposed consensuality.”

Gaillardetz also reiterated the findings of the investigation and emphasized his innocence.

“… Let me say now as unambiguously as possible, I have never sexually assaulted or harassed anyone, nor have I engaged in a sexual encounter with a partner that was in any way non-consensual,” he wrote. “In my three decades of work as an educator, no one has ever made any allegation of sexual misconduct against me. The reason no one has answered Dr. Grimes’s social media entreaties for ‘other victims’ to step forward is that there have been no victims, period.”

4/7/2021 1:50 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect a statement from Grimes and a response by DeMoura Smith LLP.

Featured Graphic by Olivia Charbonneau / Heights Editor

April 5, 2021
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