UPDATED – WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic University of America announced July 30 that it was withdrawing the 2006 honorary degree awarded to then-Cardinal Theodore E. 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This was the first time the university has rescinded an honorary degree.
On July 5, the board of trustees at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York similarly rescinded an honorary degree the university had given the retired archbishop of Washington.
A message posted on the school’s website from university’s president, Jesuit Father 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.”
Archbishop 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 University of Notre Dame announced Aug. 2 that it would not rescind the 2008 honorary degree it gave to Archbishop McCarrick until his canonical trial has concluded.
An Aug. 2 statement by Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, president of the university, said: “The only honorary degree that the University of Notre Dame has rescinded was that of Bill Cosby, and this action was taken only after judicial proceedings in criminal court concluded with a guilty verdict.”
He said the university “finds the alleged actions reprehensible and has no reason to question the review board’s findings” but it recognizes that Archbishop McCarrick has maintained his innocence. “As in the case of Bill Cosby, we will wait until that trial is concluded to take action.”
Father Jenkins said he believes the university’s action “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.”
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 Archbishop 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 W. Wuerl or to the Washington Archdiocese.
Additional claims of abuse by Archbishop 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 Archbishop 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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