The Clock Runs Out

.@NotreDame is finally compelled by the Vatican’s condemnation of #McCarrick to end its embarrassing delay and catch up with its peers by rescinding his honorary degree.  #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

With the imposition by the Vatican upon former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the most severe penalty that can be imposed on a cleric – dismissal from the clerical state — Notre Dame issued a terse statement announcing that McCarrick’s honorary degree has been rescinded:

The Vatican has announced the conclusion of the adjudicatory process against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, finding that he transgressed his vows, used his power to abuse both minors and adults and violated his sacred duty as a priest. In accord with University President Rev. John I. Jenkins’ statement of Aug. 2, 2018, the University of Notre Dame is rescinding the honorary degree conferred in 2008.

Thus, Notre Dame has finally fallen in line with Catholic University, Fordham, and its sister school the University of Portland.

McCarrick has inflicted inestimable harm on his victims and more damage to the Church and priests than anyone in recent history. Father Jenkins has declared Notre Dame “must act” in response to the sexual abuse crisis, but his refusal to do so at the first opportunity until there was no option, despite pleas from alumni (our petition has some 2,000 signatories), abuse survivors, and student government, has been a disservice to the University and all associated with it. The reasons he assigned were transparently infirm, and the solicitude shown McCarrick, the preeminent symbol of clerical sexual abuse, undermines Notre Dame’s credibility in dealing with this crisis.

Consider what happened — in particular Father Jenkins’s confounding explanations — and pray this episode may not augur continued passivity by Notre Dame’s leadership as this crisis moves to its next stages.

The Case Against McCarrick

We need not repeat our account in a prior bulletin of McCarrick’s misdeeds. The media has overflowed with reports of his predations. It is enough to note that the case against McCarrick began with the startling announcement that Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s archdiosesan review board had determined, with the Cardinal’s approval, that McCarrick had sexually abused an altar boy. That triggered an expanding list of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and seminarians and led Pope Francis to secure McCarrick’s resignation as Cardinal, to suspend him from public ministry, and to order him to a life of repentance and prayer.

Catholic University and Fordham promptly rescinded McCarrick’s honorary degrees. It was then up to Notre Dame.

Father Jenkins’s Decision

Father Jenkins declined to act. While the University acknowledged it  “had no reason to question the review board’s findings,” it said McCarrick “maintains his innocence” and “a final decision will come only after a canonical trial in Rome.” Accordingly, the University said it would follow the precedent of the Bill Cosby case, where Notre Dame rescinded an honorary degree for the first time. There, “[T]his action was taken only after … a guilty verdict.”  Here, “a final decision will come only after a canonical trial in Rome.”  Accordingly, Notre Dame would  “allow the [adjudicatory] process to reach a conclusion before taking action.”

The Cosby Misdirection

Father Jenkins’s reliance on the Cosby precedent is baffling. It called for rescission, not waiting on appellate review.  Cosby was professing his innocence and pledging an appeal even as Notre Dame was rescinding his honorary degree. Indeed, that appeal is still ongoing. If Cosby had been treated as McCarrick was, he could still brandish his Notre Dame honorary degree.

In McCarrick’s case there was the judgment Father Jenkins “sees no reason to question,” not of a randomly selected jury, but of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and his archdiocesan review board — a board, as Dolan explained, composed of “a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister.”

Nor was McCarrick appealing.  Rather, Cardinal Dolan reported, “while maintaining his innocence” “he has accepted the decision.” The Vatican trial, which surely McCarrick detested,  was  thrust upon him only recently and might never have occurred. Pope Francis had already imposed severe penalties on the basis of the New York proceeding.

In addition, as we reported earlier, there were new ever more appalling allegations and the unearthing of old ones, none of which McCarrick denied.

Father Jenkins’s “He’s not a Monster” Rationale

Father Jenkins offered a different, but equally weightless, explanation for his inaction in a Crux interview

We quote liberally in case you can see something here that we do not. After declaring that people shouldn’t think people like McCarrick “monsters,” he continued:

[The tendency is] just to imagine that they are thoroughly corrupt people, but the problem is that it’s not true. It’s a part of their lives that is deeply problematic, but another part that is not. And that’s why it’s so hard to identify the problem, and sometimes, that person doesn’t seem to see the problem.


There’s a certain rationalization that goes on that allows them to compartmentalize their lives and that’s part of the challenge, a failure to confront reality. . ..There’s a sort of moral blindness in what we do, and that’s sometimes the greatest moral tragedy.”


Jenkins defined the prelates’ dual nature as illustrating “the mystery of human freedom and human failure.”

What is one to make of all this? Did Father Jenkins really mean to say that he cut McCarrick a break because McCarrick’s  actions reflected “the mystery of human freedom and human failure” ? Or because he had been “morally blind”? Or hadn’t “confronted reality”?

No wonder his interview has been roundly criticized, to put it gently.

But later in a single sentence we may see at least part of what went on:

Jenkins also acknowledged that McCarrick did a lot of good for the Church and the university.

Indeed he did. As we observed in a prior bulletin, McCarrick’s relationship to Notre Dame was long and strong, beginning when, as a young president of the University of Puerto Rico, he participated in the Land O’Lakes conference led by Father Hesburgh and including his abstention from the denunciation by 83 cardinals, archbishops and bishops of  Father Jenkins’s decision to honor President Obama.


In all of this, it is Father Jenkins’s comparatively benign treatment of McCarrick that is perplexing and disquieting. He is certainly an outlier in this.

Compare what he’s said with, for example, the clear-eyed appraisal of the metastatic effects of McCarrick’s sins by Stephen White in the estimable The Catholic Thing. McCarrick’s victims, White writes,  “have suffered the most grievous, life-altering wounds”; his friends have been “betrayed” through “duplicity and lies”; his priests, for whom “ the fraternal and paternal bond that  should be wholesome and edifying becomes, instead, a tool of sin and betrayal”; and finally, “the rest of us.”

[H]ow many millions of souls have suffered frustration, anger, betrayal, or doubt because of the sins and betrayal of just this one man? Even setting aside – if one can – the thousands of other instances of abuse we know have occurred, it is still possible to grasp the appalling magnitude of even one man’s sin.

Perhaps we will yet see Father Jenkins assuming a leadership role in this still festering McCarrick matter by seconding calls for an investigation to identify and hold accountable all who covered for McCarrick  as he ascended the episcopal ranks. Perhaps. The conviction is widespread that such a cleansing  is necessary to put this execrable episode to rest.

Let us hope the last word from Notre Dame will not be this thin whisper.

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11 Responses to “The Clock Runs Out”

  1. Marshall W. Sprigg III March 20, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Father Jenkins is an embarrassment. Under his leadership, Notre Dame is well on its way toward becoming “catholic in name only.” He invokes ND’s catholic identity primarily as a marketing tool while repeatedly demonstrating his pursuit of worldly prestige. He would be wise to remember Matthew 23:27: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.”

  2. Fr. Jenkins allows three hundred students and various faculty to cover up the Columbus Murals. They were installed in the 1800’s. A quick reminder. “If you judge yesterday’s actions by today’s standards, you will ultimately destroy your history.”

  3. Dr. John H. Hasley March 19, 2019 at 11:16 am

    JACK H
    I note in the excerpted comments and “thinking” of Fr. Jenkins, the “rationalization”, “compartmentalization”, “moral blindness”, and “failure to confront reality” for which I think Fr. Jenkins criticizes McCarrick, is exactly what he himself is doing. Moral Blindness indeed!

  4. Land of Lakes was a positive for the Church?

  5. Thank You Ed Smith and Dennis Mackin. Identifying and framing the issues properly–these are vital threshold steps before ever approaching analysis and solutions. At the risk of slight digression, permit me to suggest that often decisions which initially seem benign or even laudatory, should later/regularly be re-visited to search for unanticipated malignant developments. I would point to Land of Lakes, and to Vat II, as two dramatic examples.

  6. Dennis Mackin Sr. March 19, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Having been appointed attorney by the Archdiocese of Atlanta regarding allegations of molestation and having reviewed the winter issue of the Notre Dame magazine I note that Fr. Jenkins et. al. lump offenders into pedophiles (sexually attract to pre-pubescent boys) when most offenders are Pederasts (attracted to pubescent/adolescent boys). Meanwhile the third rail “homosexuality” is not mentioned. You can’t address the problem if you won’t mention it.

  7. Just about every decision that the leadership of the University makes illustrates its subjective interpretation of Catholic teachings and its finger-in-the-wind leadership. Which way is the wind blowing? That was never more evident in the Columbus Murals fiasco. In December 2017 Notre Dame praised the Murals and stated it had no plans to remove them; in January 2019, sitting at his computer, Fr. Jenkins denounced them.

    Let’s review some of the history of the Jenkin’s tenure:

    Defying the local bishop on numerous occasions, many of them listed below.
    The Vagina Monologue’s.
    The Obama fiasco.
    The abortifacient duplicity.
    The Biden celebration of a Catholic abortion proponent.
    The McCarrick apology. (The “interview” was a shocking statement for a Catholic priest.)
    The Columbus Murals denunciation.
    The open door to pro-abortion speaker under the guise of “academic freedom.”
    The turn toward prestige and the adoration of dollars through “research” at the expense of undergraduate education in the liberal tradition, and the attendant decline of Arts and Letters at the University.

    I am sure I missed some. The list goes on and on.

    Let’s pray to Our Lady that she will intercede and grant the gift of University leaders who will turn back to what is true, what is good, what is beautiful.

  8. I commend and endorse the views of Thomistica on this matter.

  9. ND has ceased to be Catholic – by its deeds but not by official pronouncements. For instance ND has violated the Magisterium and Traditions of the Roman Catholic Church by a) supplying birth control means to its related persons at South Bend campus, b) demolished low cost family housing with plans to rent the former site to a developer of market priced apartment complexes with a ND relationship, and c) protecting transgressing honorees.
    Years ago, all The Catholic post high schools except Saint Johns University (NY) located in New York State gave up their Catholisity to qualify for state Bundy Money.Fordhan, my alma mater 1960, became a Metropolitan University in the Jesuit Tradition.
    Maybe ND can remarket itself as a Premier Research University in the Moreau Tradition (excluding real estate dealing with indigenous peoples). At least ND could then do what it wished without further tarnishing the RC Church!

  10. I think there is a chance of a backstory to ND’s handling of McCarrick.

    Worth exploring in this context is ND’s nexus to Cupich, alleged McCarrick protege and curiously soft-pedalling leader at the Vatican’s shameful conference about abuse. Recall the road show that Cupich was involved in with respect to the Amoris Laetitia event, held closed-doors at ND. (So much for an atmosphere of “transparency”, that favorite buzzword of the social liberals, so conveniently invoked when convenient, otherwise not invoked when not convenient. )

    Consider, too, that ND conferred a Doctorate in Law 2018 on Cupich in 2018, a figure whose view on conscience is effectively subjectivist.

    And just maybe ND didn’t want to tick off the current pontiff. After all, ND is now a bastion of the Francis-ite ideology. Recall Jenkin’s description of Pope Francis’s pontificate as “transformative”, whatever that was supposed to mean.

    Also, presumably ND’s ties to the Chicago Democratic machine and Chicago “Catholics” are very deep. As are, in intersecting fashion, presumably Cupich’s.

    Maybe Neumayr will find something. But more likely whatever backstory there is to ND’s decision-making about how to handle McCarrick will never see the light of day, like so much of the dissident baloney that goes on at ND.

    • P.S. Didn’t meant to wax political. But follow the money/presiige trail. A lot of the people in the Chicago political machine must be quite well-heeled and well into the worldy prestige game, i.e. the sort of folks who with a phone call can influence ND policies. (For the record, I’m an Independent who votes pro-life, should it even matter for the critique developed above.)

      This handling of McCarrick did not come out of the blue. It might have emanated from one or all of the factors mentioned above.

      As for worldy prestige: Hesburgh, now Jenkins. It imbues every ND decision. (Malloy was more a maintainer of Hesburgh’s status quo.)

      Message to ND administration: you’re not going to become Yale or Harvard and why would you want to. Work on creating a distinct countercultural presence in American culture. You, and ND, will then shine.

      Want the influence you so desire? That’s how to get it.

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