The University of Notre Dame has decided not to rescind the honorary degree that it granted in 2008 to the disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, Notre Dame’s president, Father John Jenkins, wrote in a statement that the Indiana Catholic university would await the results of McCarrick’s canonical trial in Rome before coming to a final decision regarding his honorary doctorate.
Pope Francis recently accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals after a flood of allegations that he sexually abused both adults and children.
The allegations against the former cardinal are many, spanning decades, and have now gained the credence of the Holy Father and of McCarrick’s brother bishops. Francis not only accepted McCarrick’s resignation, but also suspended him a divinis (from public ministry) and commanded him to live in penitent seclusion pending his canonical trial. And an investigation by the Archdiocese of New York, where McCarrick is accused of child sex abuse 47 years ago as a parish priest, determined that the allegations against him are “credible and substantiated.”
In stark contrast with Notre Dame, the Catholic University of America and the Jesuit Fordham University have rescinded the honorary degrees they had awarded to McCarrick.
The Catholic Church is in crisis. She has been in dramatic decline for the past half-century as weak prelates have neglected their duty to teach and shepherd the faithful, presenting instead a watered-down, distorted, anthropocentric counterfeit of the true Faith.
A disturbing number of clergy have further betrayed the sacred trust of the the faithful, sexually exploiting them or covering for those who have. Others have downplayed the breadth and depth of the damage done.
In 2003, in the wake of the clerical child abuse scandal first reported by the Boston Globe, McCarrick himself was a central figure in the crafting of the Dallas Charter, which protected bishops from the same scrutiny it applied to priests and deacons. A wolf in shepherd’s clothing if ever there was one!
Now especially, the Church cannot afford weak leadership. The shepherds of souls need to be unmistakably clear in their reactions to this new scandal. Moreover, they need to do their jobs as shepherds of souls: protectors, defenders, guardians, not standers-by while the faithful are preyed upon and taken for fools.
It is true, yes, that Father Jenkins left open the possibility of rescinding McCarrick’s honorary degree at a later date. But actions speak louder than words, and so far the university’s response to the revelation that one of the most influential cardinals in the United States was a serial sexual predator has consisted solely of words.
This is hardly the first disappointment to come from Notre Dame.
The school has given awards to the likes of the Catholic-in-name-only, pro-abortion, pro-LGBT politician Joe Biden. It has forced a campus priest to dissociate himself from an initiative to recommend orthodox instructors to students. It hosted a pro-LGBT “retreat” for its students, wherein homosexuality was described as a divine “grace” that is “their unique mode of loving” and “how God wants them to love.”
After the Trump administration ended the Obamacare contraception mandate, Notre Dame initially announced that it would end such coverage. A week later, the university gave in to activist pressure and decided to continue allowing its employees free access to abortifacients and contraceptives, in open and outrageous violation of the moral teachings of the Church, and now without even the excuse of governmental coercion behind which to hide. Despite outcry from alumni, the condemnation of the local bishop, and an online petition with over 1,400 signatures, the coverage remains in place.
Father Jenkins is surely not the only one involved in making the decision not to rescind McCarrick’s honorary degree. But he is the chief officer of the university, and he is a priest. His duty to the Church and to the faithful demands a strength and determination that he has repeatedly and conspicuously failed to display.
Father, show your students, your staff, and the whole onlooking Catholic world a sign of hope, that somewhere there is a shepherd defending his flock. Take a definitive, tangible stand against the predators among the hierarchy, McCarrick in particular, and make the University of Notre Dame an institution worthy of the name of Our Lady.