Two Catholic universities rescind Archbishop McCarrick's honorary degrees

NCR updated this story with additional reporting Aug. 3 at 10:30 a.m. central time. 

The University of Notre Dame -- for now -- will not be rescinding the honorary degree it bestowed on Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington who renounced his position in the College of Cardinals last week over allegations of sexual abuse of minors, the university president said in a statement Aug. 2.

The university will not make a decision until after McCarrick’s canonical trial in Rome concludes, Holy Cross Fr. John Jenkins said.

“While the University finds the alleged actions reprehensible and has no reason to question the [New York archdiocese’s] review board’s findings, it recognizes that McCarrick maintains his innocence and that a final decision in the case will come only after a canonical trial in Rome,” Jenkins said.

The university is following the same course it took with an honorary degree it had given to the comedian and actor Bill Crosby. Only earlier this year, after a Pennsylvania jury found Cosby guilty of drugging and molesting a Temple University employee, did it rescinding his degree.

“While the allegations in this case are most grave, as they were in the case of Bill Cosby, we believe it respects not only the rights of those involved but also the adjudicatory process itself to allow that process to reach a conclusion before taking action,” Jenkins said.

McCarrick gave the commencement speech at Notre Dame in 2008 and received an honorary doctor of laws degree. Cosby received an honorary degeree from Notre Dame in 1990. 

The orginal story follows. 

Washington — The Catholic University of America announced July 30 that it was withdrawing the 2006 honorary degree awarded to then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, in light of recent sexual abuse allegations.

This was the first time the university has rescinded an honorary degree.

On July 5, the board of trustees at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York similarly rescinded an honorary degree the university has given to the retired archbishop of Washington.

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A message posted on the school's website from university's president, Fr. Joseph McShane, said the action was to "acknowledge the extraordinary and long-lasting harm done to children who were sexually abused by clergy members. While we can never fully repair the sins of the past, we must respect the experience of abuse survivors, and accord them all the love and compassion of which we are capable."

The Catholic University statement likewise said it "acknowledges the tragedy of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy, and the deep and lasting pain and suffering of survivors. We offer our prayers and pastoral support for the survivors, that they and their families encounter healing and peace."

McCarrick earned a master's degree and doctorate degree at Catholic University and served there as an assistant chaplain, dean of students and director of development. Later, he served several terms as a member of the university's board of trustees and served as chancellor of the university when he was archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006.

The statement from Catholic University encouraged any survivors of abuse to contact the Archdiocese of Washington and its Office of Child and Youth Protection, which offer resources and confidential support to any who have suffered from abuse and who seek help.

A statement from the Washington Archdiocese July 29 also encouraged survivors of sexual abuse to come forward, stressing that their abuse claims will be addressed quickly and they will be given assistance in the hope of finding healing.

The statement points out that when the first claim against McCarrick was filed in the Archdiocese of New York, the Archdiocese of Washington "reviewed its own files and found no complaints of any kind made against Archbishop McCarrick." It also said "the confidential settlements involving acts by Archbishop McCarrick in the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark (both in New Jersey) were not known previously" to Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl or to the Washington Archdiocese.

Additional claims of abuse by McCarrick that have been described to the media also were not previously known to the Washington Archdiocese. "These experiences shared by survivors are profoundly troubling and represent a breach of trust and wounding that no person should bear alone," the statement added.

Since the allegations against McCarrick were announced, the previously named McCarrick Family Center run by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington has been renamed the Catholic Charities Center.


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