Miguel H. Díaz

Unwanted Advances

After an investigation found he likely engaged in inappropriate conduct, a Catholic theologian and former ambassador to the Vatican moves from one Catholic university to another.

May 5, 2014

A theology professor who is a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican is moving from one Roman Catholic university to another after an investigation found it likely that he sexually harassed a married couple where he now works.

Miguel H. Díaz, who was President Obama’s representative to the Holy See from 2009 to 2012, was found to have likely engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” toward a married couple who were his colleagues at the University of Dayton, according to a confidential letter written by Dayton’s provost.

The married couple – husband and wife professors who teach in the humanities – accused Diaz of making various sexual requests and references to sexually explicit feelings. The suggestion that a Catholic theologian suggested an adulterous encounter involving both another man and another woman and that he made unwelcome requests of fellow academics could be problematic for Diaz, a Catholic theologian, who is a married father of four.

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Diaz served as ambassador during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI and maintains a high profile.

Díaz and his wife, a fellow academic, are both expected to soon leave Dayton for Loyola University Chicago,  also a Catholic institution.

A spokeswoman for Dayton said that, “To our knowledge, the University of Dayton was not contacted by anyone from Loyola about Dr. Díaz’s new position.”

“The University of Dayton complies with Title IX, promptly and thoroughly investigates all complaints and takes effective remedial action,” the university said in a statement. "We're committed to ensuring a safe, non-discriminatory environment for our students, faculty and staff.”

Díaz declined to comment through his attorney, Gabriel Fuentes.

Loyola said he is expected to start work this summer but declined to comment.

The accusations against Díaz were made on an evening in the middle of June last year, according to a letter from the Dayton provost to the alleged victims, which was obtained by Inside Higher Ed from a source other than the victims.

The university brought in an outside attorney to investigate the matter and resolved it within six weeks. The investigation included interviews with Díaz, the alleged victims and Díaz’s wife. The university also had an outside medical expert who specializes in sexual abuse and harassment review the case.

A “preponderance of evidence” led the outside attorney to conclude there was “reasonable cause to believe that some of [Díaz’s] conduct constituted sexual harassment that created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment,” according to a letter sent to the alleged victims by Dayton’s general counsel.

A summary of the outcome of the investigation said it was violation of university policy to “change a professional or educational relationship to a personal one” or to make “unwelcome and repeated flirtations and sexual advances” or “graphic commentary about an individual’s body, sexual prowess, sexual deficiencies, or sexual preference.”

Dayton appeared to be mindful of the contradiction between Díaz's behavior and the church's values.

“We are very mindful of our obligations under federal law, but above and beyond what the law requires, we are very concerned about any behavior that appears to be inconsistent with our Marianist values," the letter from the provost said, referring to the Catholic order with which Dayton is affiliated.

The husband of the victimized couple declined to comment. The couple is not being named in order to protect their privacy.

Dayton Provost Joseph Saliba told the couple in his letter that the university was taking steps to “remedy this violation” by Díaz. Namely, Saliba said Díaz was not permitted to contact the couple or have any say in their careers. Further, “As a condition of his continued employment,  Dr. Díaz is to refrain from discussing – in any personal, one-on-one, private or otherwise intimate way – matters of a sexual nature with any university student, anyone employed by the university who has a position of less influence or stature than Dr. Díaz, or any other invitee to the university (other than his immediate family).” The letter from the university's general counsel said other unspecified actions were being taken that she could not reveal because of privacy laws.

The provost said Díaz would be terminated if there was another complaint about his behavior.

The documents surfaced amid a dispute at Dayton between faculty and the provost.

It is not clear whether Díaz’s departure from Dayton has anything to do with the incident. At Loyola, he is set to become the John Courtney Murray University Chair in Public Service and will be a theology professor. His wife, Marian, will become an assistant theology professor. At Dayton, he is a professor of faith and culture and she is a lecturer. 

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