McCarrick Redux


Why does Fr. Jenkins stand with Georgetown and not Catholic University, Fordham, Portland, St. Bonaventure, Sienna, and New Rochelle in rescinding the honorary degree bestowed on Theodore McCarrick? #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

[Editor’s note: After Fr. Miscamble’s  article was published, Fr. Jenkins issued a second statement on the sexual abuse issue that we will discuss in a coming bulletin and that Fr. Miscamble would have noted, but since Fr. Jenkins did not mention the McCarrick matter, Fr. Miscamble’s analysis of that and related issues is unaffected. In anticipation of our coming bulletin, let us say simply  that the appointment of exploratory committees is no substitute for the rescission of McCarrick’s honorary degree and related action called for by Fr. Miscamble. We hope it does not sound presumptuous of us to say that, in light of what Fr. Miscamble has written, we expect Fr. Miscamble would concur.]

Notre Dame, Its Favored Bishops, And The Current Crisis In The Church

By Fr. Bill Miscamble C.S.C. :: September 26, 2018

Notre Dame’s response to the current crisis in the Catholic Church has been tepid. The Church has been seriously damaged first by the revelations of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s predatory behavior against boys and young men over decades and of the episcopal cover-up of it. Soon after we read of the sickening findings of the Pennsylvania grand jury investigations into priestly sexual abuse of children and young people. Finally, the former apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, leveled explosive accusations that senior church officials were complicit in the cover-up of McCarrick’s sexual abuse and that Pope Francis even repealed sanctions previously imposed upon him. Lay people are rightly angered and deeply hurt by the episcopal malfeasance and incompetence revealed over the past two months. There is an obvious need for cleansing and reform in our Church. One might hope that the leading Catholic university in the United States, and one so publicly dedicated to the pursuit of truth, could make a valuable contribution to that effort. So far the leadership of the university, however, has been a study in avoidance and has refused to take even modest actions that might contribute to the work of reform.

Of course statements of regret and remorse have been uttered and prayers extended for the victims of sexual abuse. Fr. Pete McCormick, with his usual pastoral zeal, has played an important role on campus in seeking to address the concerns and anxieties of undergraduate students in a variety of fora. Most priests on campus have preached at least once on the crisis. But little action has been taken that might address the real source of the problems that beset the Church at this time. Fr. John Jenkins has even declined to rescind the honorary degree granted to McCarrick in 2008 claiming that the university must “allow the adjudicatory process to reach a conclusion before taking action.” He has maintained this stance despite the fact that Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Review Board determined that McCarrick had molested an altar boy, and that two New Jersey dioceses paid secret settlements to buy the silence of two adult male victims of McCarrick’s sexual molestation. McCarrick’s perfidy is hardly in dispute as confirmed by Pope Francis’s dismissal of him from the College of Cardinals. Other universities like Fordham, CUA and the University of Portland already have dissociated themselves from him.

Part of the difficulty for Notre Dame may be that McCarrick has been so closely associated with the university over the past decades. At the time he was awarded his honorary degree and served as commencement speaker in 2008, Fr. Jenkins praised and thanked McCarrick for all his advice and assistance to Notre Dame. McCarrick had played a prominent role in the beatification ceremonies for Blessed Basil Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the previous year. And, of course, he continued to surface at Notre Dame events over the subsequent decade. It is somewhat embarrassing to the memory of Father Ted Hesburgh to note that McCarrick was one of the two cardinals to attend his funeral – the other being Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who covered up cases of clergy sexual abuse and whose successor tried to restrict his public activities. McCarrick also gave a tribute to Fr. Ted at the memorial service at the Joyce Center held on the evening of the funeral.

Notre Dame’s difficulty in dissociating itself from McCarrick is complicated by the extent to which the university’s leadership embraced members of the former cardinal’s network and their agenda. Three cardinals have been honored at the university’s most recent commencements, all of them closely linked with the former cardinal. McCarrick’s successor as Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Donald Wuerl graced the campus in 2016, although he adroitly avoided appearing on the same stage with Laetare Medal winner Joe Biden. Wuerl is under heavy criticism and likely to resign over cover-up charges by the Pennsylvania grand jury. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who visited Notre Dame in 2017, was a protégé of McCarrick’s, lived in the same residence with him for six years and now serves as prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life at the Vatican. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, whose appointment was allegedly orchestrated by McCarrick and Honduran Cardinal Maradiaga, received his honorary degree in 2018. Another frequent visitor to campus has been Cardinal Joseph Tobin, a successor to McCarrick as Archbishop of Newark, whose surprising appointment apparently owed to McCarrick’s intervention.

These prelates have sought to use Notre Dame to bolster their own campaigns within the Church such as when Cupich and Tobin spoke at the so-called “New Momentum” conference back in February 2018 to further their agenda regarding Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Of course, the relationship is a two-way street. These men give Notre Dame improved access to important figures in Rome and even facilitate audiences with Pope Francis as Wuerl did for the Notre Dame trustees some years back. Furthermore, they provide cover for Notre Dame. Why should the university take seriously the criticisms of our own local ordinary, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, on such matters as providing health insurance for contraception when the university’s leadership has the implicit protection of such leading figures in the hierarchy as Blase Cupich and Joseph Tobin?

Whatever its past dealing with McCarrick’s circle, one must ask what exactly Notre Dame should do in this present circumstance. Rescinding McCarrick’s honorary degree is but an initial step. If it turns out that Cardinals Wuerl and Farrell were aware of McCarrick’s abhorrent behavior and did nothing to stop it, then their degrees too should be rescinded. These are but minor actions in the greater scheme of the crisis that the Catholic Church confronts at the present moment. Notre Dame might also put some distance between itself and those members of the hierarchy closely associated with McCarrick until matters regarding him and them have been fully investigated. And bishops such as Roger Mahony should be discouraged from further visits to the campus or associations with Notre Dame.

Beyond these initial moves, Notre Dame should commit itself to the pursuit of the truth without fear or favor. The university must add its voice to those of the many others who want answers to the central questions of who knew what and when regarding McCarrick and others who have abused their power and so damaged others. Getting clarity on the extent of McCarrick’s influence on recent appointments and the rationale behind them is also of crucial importance. The credibility of the bishops and their capacity to oversee needed reforms is at stake. This is not an issue that should have liberal or conservative political overtones. It is a matter of truth-telling and essential renewal in our Church.

Perhaps Notre Dame could use some of its vast resources to fund (but not to oversee) the necessary lay-led investigation to get to the bottom of McCarrick’s abuse of power and his disproportionate influence in Francis’s papacy. Generous support for a high-powered forensic team to examine all the relevant documentation and financial records would go some way to indicating Notre Dame’s willingness to overcome the taint that the university’s close association with the former cardinal has left. It would show that this Catholic university wants to contribute to the essential work of reform that is so needed today.

Fr. Bill Miscamble outside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre DameRev. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., is the former Chair of the History Department at the University of Notre Dame and Rector and Superior of Moreau Seminary, the principal formation site for the Congregation of Holy Cross in North America. He is an award-winning historian and has been for many years in the forefront of the struggle to maintain the university’s Catholic identity. His book “For Notre Dame: Battling for the Heart and Soul of a Catholic University,” testifies to those efforts.


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13 Responses to “McCarrick Redux”

  1. Jack Gallagher '86 October 12, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Pardon me for this reality check (and I write this having just been made aware that the Pope has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Wuerl). In late August, when the Vigano letter raised the ante of the McCarrick scandal, Cardinal DiNardo (president of the USCCB) did the commendable thing and put out a public statement pledging to get to the bottom of the allegations, specifically (1) requesting an audience with Pope Francis, (2) requesting an Apostolic Visitation, with the aforementioned predominantly lay council appointed to carry out a full investigation to obtain the necessary “hard evidence” needed to prove/disprove Vigano’s testimony (testimony affirmatively given, by the way “with God as his witness”) and (3) pledging to make an investigation into McCarrick front-and-center in the November meeting of the USCCB.

    Almost everyone has nodded their heads in agreement with Cardinal DiNardo’s approach. But not Pope Francis. Observe what has occurred since late August. The audience with Pope Francis took place and concluded on or about September 20, 2018 and it failed to achieve the intended results. That is, not only did the Pope refuse the idea of an Apostolic Visitation, he also requested that DiNardo cease and desist from any USCCB-led investigation into McCarrick at its November meeting. To his credit DiNardo appears to be moving ahead anyway without help from Rome or the Nunciature.

    The most important aspect of the refusal of an Apostolic Visitation is that, without it, the Vatican will not be providing ANY documents on McCarrick maintained in Rome or maintained in the office of the Nunciature in Washington, D.C. Read that again. There will be NO episcopal transparency from Rome. According to Phil Lawler ( it also means that DiNardo is technically prevented from releasing the USCCB’s own documents on McCarrick. That puts DiNardo in quite a pickle. One might even argue that the DiNardo-led investigation is doomed from the start. Is this one reason, perchance, why Fr. Jenkins is stalling on all things McCarrick?

    Consider as well the much ballyhooed canonical trial of McCarrick. How will we know when such a trial has begun? Answer: we won’t. How will we know if the trial has ended? Answer: if there is a verdict of not guilty or not proven, we won’t. All we will get is silence. Nice. The only way we will know that a trial has even occurred is if there is a guilty verdict, which apparently is required to be published. But let’s face it, that could be years from now.

    My local bishop, Thomas Olmsted in Phoenix, to his credit, has requested feedback from us parishioners about all of this. This is mine: demand that Cardinal DiNardo break protocol and publish immediately (don’t wait for a November meeting) all documents maintained by the USCCB on McCarrick. The end of the cover-up (i.e., the end to “clericalism” as decried by the Pope) has to begin somewhere, and DiNardo would do well to engage in an act of formal disobedience to Rome, which in this case is the morally courageous thing to do, to achieve at least some level of transparency. DiNardo should do this even if it means losing his office as a Cardinal or Bishop or even Priest. It is time to rip the band aid off of this festering wound so that actual surgery might be done in a way to promote real healing. The Pope is fond of using the metaphor of the Church as a “field hospital,” but I say, “surgeon heal thy self.”

    If we ever do get a release of USCCB documents on McCarrick, all of us alumni can print off the pdf files in a large stack of papers and snail mail them to Fr. Jenkins, so that he can literally weigh them against the single sheet of sheepskin that is McCarrick’s honorary degree.

  2. I remember standing in my granddad’s kitchen many years ago. I was used to visiting him. He was a man of faith. He said the Confiteor was the greatest prayer of all, because in it we recognize our faults and sins, especially what we have failed to do. He emphasized that as being critical. I will never forget that. But, the prayer is led by the celebrant, the priest.

    I think failure to act calls into question the authenticity of those who purport to lead. Let’s pray that we, and those who lead the flock, can stand up for truth.

  3. Thank you, Fr. Miscamble, for your courage!

  4. To Mike Boyle and to all,
    Yes, I did see this same ad and I was shocked by the outright bias and false statement by Professor Weninger that the UK election and the U.S. 2016 presidential election was influenced by Russian meddling. The timing of this ad, I am sure, was designed to undermine both President Trump and Brett Kavanaugh.
    I have the same questions such as who is funding his Data Science group and if and what are their connections to disgraced cardinals and bitter politicians? Do you know Professor Weninger is currently being featured as a guest lecturer through the Hesburgh series and is currently scheduled to speak at a Catholic high school in Cincinnati? His topic is, “Fact, Fiction and the Newsfeed: Artificial Promotion and the Attention Economy”. He should analyze his own commercial. Propaganda through a supposed commercial to attract potential students during a ND football game. Hmmm. What was he saying about artificial promotion?

    • Carol and Mike, after Carol alerted me to this feature in the “What Would You Fight For” promo during the Stanford game I got in touch with Prof. Wenninger. I put two questions to him in respect to his statement that “misinformation has swayed elections from the U.K. to America”: (1) which elections were in fact swayed, and (2) did he include Trump’s.

      After several exchanges, his answers were (1) none that could be proved and (2) yes by virtue of his refusal to respond. Here is what I said in my last email: “’I’m glad to see that we are in accord on this point, Professor, and unless I hear from you to the contrary I will assume therefore that you do not disagree with my view that your statement that misinformation “has swayed elections from the U.K. to America” was incorrect. And since you again don’t address my question whether one of the elections you had in mind was the presidential election of 2018, I will assume you did unless, again, I hear to the contrary.”

      This is a sorry business, to employ “fake news” in bragging about exposing fake news.


      • Bill, nice work! So glad you followed up on Carol’s concerns. It’d be nice to keep it going somehow…maybe the Rover would pick up the story? With possible impeachment proceedings ahead, it’s sickening to think ND’s image was trolled by the University to pave the way of public opinion.

  5. I really appreciate Fr. Miscamble speaking out on this. I have another concern that may be related, or may not be, but I wonder what other readers think about it. There was a promotional advertisement about the University aired during the half-time of the Stanford football game that highlighted an ND professor named Whittaker who is apparently researching possible US election hacking and foreign interference and propaganda…during this segment pictures of Trump appeared on screen…and the implication was that Russians did significantly interfere with the 2016 election and that Trump’s election was illegitimate. Did anybody else catch this? In my mind this amounts to propaganda in and of itself and is disturbing in how the University’s reputation can be usurped to affect public opinion on contemporaneous issues. This and other events have long led me to conclude that ND governance is captive to other entities. In this case, it would be revealing to know who wrote the copy for the ad and who approved it. This chain of command might also be revealing in understanding the handling of the McCarrick episode. Thanks for any thoughts. Keep up the good work, Sycamore.

  6. jack mcgowan '66 October 11, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Thanks Father Miscamble.
    Your as tough an Aussie as we could get.
    God Bless.
    Jack McGowan ’66

  7. Notre Dame can only defer dealing with the crisis so long. Whether many want to admit it, Notre Dame is looked at by many non Catholics as the voice of Catholicism in the United States. Hopefully, Notre Dame will speak out forcefully on Cardinal McCarrick’s behavoir. When I was at mass this past Sunday, a friend remarked about the drop in attendance nationally at Sunday mass.

  8. STEVEN MARTINEK October 11, 2018 at 8:06 am

    Father Miscamble is assuredly correct–and he sees the big picture for ND and much of the bigger picture for our Church. Father Jenkins recent formal essay about the scandal is woefully inadequate. Permit me to cite two specifics. Jenkins refuses to use the word “homosexual” which is required to fully and fairly characterize the scandal. Beyond that Jenkins cavalierly asserts that predatory sexual abuse of minors was “prevalent” in decades earlier than 2000. This is not true or fair or defensible. It slanders the many devout non-miscreant priests and bishops==as well as the faithful in the pews, especially the parents. The abuse was tragic, and much was concealed–but it was never prevalent in the Church.

    • “Every time a man knocks on a brothel door, he is really knocking for God”
      – G.K. Chesterton

      Love, which is always rightly ordered to the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the persons existing in a relationship of Love, is devoid of lust. While every act of Love will serve to complement and thus enhance the fullness of Love, every act of lust necessarily, denies the inherent Dignity of the human person as a beloved son or daughter.

      With all due respect to G.K. Chesterton, “Every time a man knocks on a brothel door”, this much we know is true, he has let his heart be hardened, like a “pillar of salt”, and at the end of the Day, a hardened heart can become so hardened that, at the hour of our death, it can become capable of denying Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

      The sin against The Holy Ghost, is The Eternal Sin.

      If it were true that it is Loving and Merciful, that we remain in our sins, and not desire to overcome our disordered inclinations toward sin, we would not need Our Savior, Jesus The Christ, Who, Through His Life, His Passion, and His Death On The Cross, Has Revealed, No Greater Love Is There Than This, To Desire Salvation For One’s Beloved.

      Therein lies The Crux of the matter. Pray that Our Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Heart will be Triumphant soon!

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