Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
Last week, the Catholic University of America withdrew the honorary degree it had awarded to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick over a decade earlier. Fordham University had done the same earlier.
In light of the very serious allegations that he abused an underage altar boy and the fact that the charges were found “credible and substantiated” by the Archdiocese of New York and Pope Francis had asked for his resignation, it is clear that this is the correct move. But it was announced yesterday that the University of Notre Dame will NOT revoke the honorary degree it awarded him -at least not yet. Why?
The pope has taken action, very serious action. So why is this not enough to inspire the university to take a similarly serious action and revoke the honor it bestowed on McCarrick in 2008?
Fr. John Jenkins, the university's president, explained his thinking in a statement:
“The only honorary degree that the University of Notre Dame has rescinded was that of Bill Cosby, and this action was taken only after judicial proceedings in criminal court concluded with a guilty verdict. Recently, serious allegations of sexual abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a 2008 honorary degree recipient, were found ‘credible and substantiated’ by a review board of the New York Archdiocese. Pope Francis subsequently asked for McCarrick’s resignation from the cardinalate, suspended him from public ministry and ordered him to live a life of prayer and penance until a canonical trial, at which McCarrick has a right to be heard, is concluded.
“While the University finds the alleged actions reprehensible and has no reason to question the 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. As in the case of Bill Cosby, we will wait until that trial is concluded to take action regarding McCarrick’s honorary degree. We strongly urge those involved in this trial to reach a conclusion as expeditiously as possible. “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.”
There was enough credibility to the allegations for Pope Francis to ask for his resignation but Notre Dame still waits. I suppose this isn't the first time that the university has not agreed with the pope. Probably won't be the last either.
The President of The Sycamore Trust, an organization that is committed to strengthening the University of Notre Dame's Catholic identity, wrote a letter to Father Jenkins urging him and the other fellows of the university to revoke the honor. “There is no time to waste,” wrote Bill Dempsey. “Other Catholic schools will surely soon follow Fordham University and The Catholic University of America in revoking their honorary degrees.”
Dempsey said, “Notre Dame should be seen as a leader, not a laggard, in this important matter.”
One would hope.