Father John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, has decided to let stand the honorary degree it awarded Archbishop Theodore McCarrick pending a canonical trial..
Fr. Jenkins found “no reason to question” the New York Archdiocese’s determination that allegations of sexual abuse by Archbishop McCarrick were “credible and substantiated,” and he noted that Pope Francis had “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.”
Nevertheless, Father Jenkins said, in a public statement, “McCarrick maintains his innocence,” and so the University should “allow the adjudicatory process to reach a conclusion before taking action” as it did in the Bill Cosby case.
Sounds reasonable, does it not? Well, let’s see.
The Cosby Misdirection
Father Jenkins’s reliance on the Cosby precedent is mystifying, since in fact it undermines his decision.
As Father Jenkins said, the University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree “only after judicial proceedings in criminal court concluded with a guilty verdict.” Indeed, on the very day of that verdict,
What he did not say is that the “adjudicatory process” was, and is, far from “reaching a conclusion.” Cosby was professing his innocence and pledging an appeal even as Notre Dame was junking his honorary degree. “There’s still a long and arduous legal process ahead.”
In McCarrick’s case there is the judgment Father Jenkins “sees no reason to question,” not of an anonymous randomly selected jury, but of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and his archdiocesan review board — a board, as he explained, composed of “a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister.”
Nor is Archbishop McCarrick appealing. Rather, Cardinal Dolan reported, “while maintaining his innocence” – more on that later – “he has accepted the decision.”
Father Jenkins needs to explain why he is not following the Cosby precedent rather than pretending that he is.
Catholic, Fordham, and Portland Universities v. Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s CSC sister school, the University of Portland, has now joined Catholic University and Fordham Univerity in rescinding McCarrick’s honorary degree. Portland declared:
In taking this action, we uphold our UP community values and commitment to fostering a world that is free from sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other forms of violence.
It is worth noting that Catholic University’s board of trustees, which presumably concurred in the rescission, includes all six of the nation’s cardinals – Dolan, O’Malley, Cupich, Tobin, Wuerl, and DiNardo – and a clutch of other archbishops and bishops. And the University underscored the gravity of its decision by reciting McCarrick’s long and deep relationship with the school:
This is the first time The Catholic University of America has rescinded an honorary degree. Between 1958 and 1965, the now-Archbishop McCarrick was, successively, a student (M.A. ‘60; Ph.D. ‘63), assistant chaplain, Dean of Students, and Director of Development at Catholic University. He also served several terms as a member of the Board of Trustees, and served as Chancellor of the University, 2000-06, when he was Archbishop of Washington
Surely these universities are no less committed to fairness and canonical procedures than Notre Dame. Still, they acted. And with good reason. Consider:
Who is Archbishop McCarrick and What Did He Do?
While a number of bishops have gotten into trouble on account of homosexual liaisons and homosexual abuse allegations, up to now none have been toppled from the pinnacle of the episcopate.
The Washington Post and the New York Times have variously described then Cardinal McCarrick as “Vatican’s Man of the Hour,” a “Washington power broker,” “one of the most recognized American cardinals on the global stage,” and, with exquisite irony, “a staunch defender of celibacy” who “has not been tainted by scandal” and who supports “‘zero tolerance’ toward priests who molest minors.” McCarrick, the Post declared, “has given the scandal-battered Catholic Church what it so badly needs: an attractive public face.”
Now, in his spectacular fall from grace, McCarrick has become the public face of a Church again scarred by scandal over homosexual sexual abuse and episcopal cover-up and peopled by a stunned laity beset by doubts about the integrity and courage of its leaders — some, perhaps many, of whom evidently had heard accounts of McCarrick’s homosexual aggressions even as he rose step by step in the hierarchy. (See, e.g., “What Did the Cardinals Know?)
That’s Archbishop McCarrick’s legacy. How did he earn it?
The Charges, Proven, and Probable
The details of the proven and alleged sexual predations by Archbishop McCarrick are repellant. We provide below some, we hope sufficient, illustrative descriptions and sources for those who wish to learn more.
- In the New York case, the “credible and substantiated” allegations from a New York businessman related to two incidents in the early 1970’s when he was an altar boy. In the first, McCarrick “unzipped his pants, reached inside and fondled him while taking measurements for a cassock” and said, “Let’s not tell anybody about this.” Then, a year later, “McCarrick cornered the boy in a bathroom, grabbed him and shoved his hand into his pants.”
- As Professor John M. Breen (ND ’85) of Loyola University Law School relates: ” Since [the New York decision], a host of allegations have surfaced (some, apparently, having been known and shared among church-insiders for years) that McCarrick was not only a priestly figure who molested teenagers, but a man of power who led a life of dissipation, frequently inviting seminarians and young priests to parties at his beach house on the Jersey shore, where they were also invited to share his bed (see Washington Post; Rod Dreher’s reporting in The American Conservative has been especially good, see Uncle Ted’s ‘Special Boy’, Uncle Ted & The Grand Inquisitor and How Uncle Ted’s Tribe Thrives).
- For example, in 2005 and 2007, “two New Jersey dioceses secretly paid settlements of $80,000 and $100,000 to two men for allegations against the archbishop.” At least one, and probably both, were in exchange for silence.
- Settlement documents provide a “firsthand account” of two incidents involving Archbishop McCarrick and several young priests while on trips. In both, McCarrick is said to have climbed into bed with one of them clad in his underwear and engaged, or attempted to engage, them sexually, viz:
He was sitting on the crotch of Fr. R.C. and moving his hands all over Fr. R.C.’s body…occasionally placing his hands underneath Fr. C.’s underwear…. He smiled at me saying, “Don’t worry, you’re next.” …He put his arms around me and wrapped his legs around mine…. The Archbishop started to kiss me and move his hands and legs around me….
There is more, and worse, in these documents. And according to the Washington Post “Clinicians at a church-run treatment facility wrote in their evaluations that they believed [the person quoted] had been a victim of sexual misconduct by “the former bishop of his diocese.”
- The most recent charge has been leveled by a man claiming that McCarrick, a close friend of the family, abused him for some 20 years beginning when he was 11. His attorney has filed a police report. See the repellant details in Rod Dreher’s Uncle Ted’s ‘Special Boy.
What’s the truth of the matter? What Does McCarrick Have to Say?
There is certainly no reason to question the determination of Cardinal Dolan and his commission. Indeed, McCarrick does not really dispute it. He said:
While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through.
A (risible) claim that one cannot remember molesting an altar boy is not by any stretch a denial that it happened. Little wonder that McCarrick accepted Cardinal Dolan’s decision. Father Jenkins’s assertion that McCarrick “maintains his innocence” is true only technically, not substantively.
As to the plethora of other allegations, while one cannot be certain, it seems exceedingly unlikely a canonical tribunal would clear McCarrick. He has issued no denials; the settlements are highly suggestive; and there is the confirming judgment of church retained clinicians as to one set of charges.
McCarrick and Notre Dame
Archbishop McCarrick’s relationship to Notre Dame is long and strong.
- He did not join the 83 cardinals, archbishops and bishops who denounced Father Jenkins’s decision to honor President Obama.
- He was a participant in Father Hesburgh’s Land O’Lakes meeting and signatory to the Statement.
- He presided at the beatification Mass for Father Moreau.
- He was a prominent presence at Father Hesburgh’s memorial and funeral.
- His cringeworthy tribute to Father Hesburgh at a Capitol Hill celebration was that he was one of “four great Americans,” along with Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. (Take that, FDR!)
All the more reason for Father Jenkins not to appear to show favoritism now.
Homosexual Transgressions and Cover-ups by Other Notre Dame Honorees
There is yet another reason for Notre Dame to avoid appearing reluctant to act in this case of episcopal homosexual abuse and cover-up, namely, the homosexual transgressions and cover-ups by some of its past honorees:
- Cardinal Roger Mahoney, who was “stripped of his official duties in an unusual public rebuke by his successor” because “for years [he] conspired to cover up the sexual abuse of children by clergy.
- Archbishop Rembert Weakland, a headlining liberal who was disgraced by a homosexual affair and the payment of $450,000 hush money.
- Father Bruce Ritter, the founder of New York’s Covenant House who preyed sexually on the street boys he took in.
Archbishop McCarrick is a ruined man. He is 88 years old. One hopes he is at peace with God. He cannot want to face a battery of additional charges at a canonical trial. As has been observed, the Pope may spare him, by delay if not explicitly.
But Father Jenkins’s responsibility is to Notre Dame and its community. In the Cosby case, he scuttled a reasonable policy of never rescinding honorary degrees in order to show Notre Dame’s abhorrence of sexual abuse of women. He should surely be no less eager to show Notre Dame’s abhorrence of homosexual abuse of altar boys, and probably much more, by an erstwhile Prince of the Church. His refusal to do so is puzzling and disappointing, to put it as conservatively as we are able.
Let us pray for Archbishop McCarrick, Father Jenkins, Notre Dame, and the Church, trusting in Christ’s promise that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” — and praying that neither will they against Notre Dame.
Join Our Petition Opposing Father Jenkins’s “Contraceptive Culture.”
This is the fourth time Fr. Jenkins has publicly brushed off the objections of his and the University’s bishop. Recall The Vagina Monologues and Queer Film Festival and the honoring of President Obama and Vice President Biden. It is time for all alarmed by the growing breach between Notre Dame and the Church to speak up.
We invite all members of the Notre Dame community – alumni, students, family, faculty, staff – and all concerned Catholics to join the petition we have prepared urging the Fellows and the Trustees to maintain the existing exclusion of contraceptives from Notre Dame’s policies and to end promptly the provision and subsidy of abortifacients.
SIGN THE PETITION