Student Leaders to Father Jenkins

.@NotreDame students are called to lead and ask president Jenkins to do the same by rescinding ex-cardinal #McCarrick's honorary degree. #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

With permission of The Observer, we republish below a forceful entreaty by the student body president and vice president and the student government chief of staff to Father Jenkins to rescind former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s honorary degree before he is compelled to act by a Vatican decision. They deplore Father Jenkins’s “refusal to take a stand on this deeply serious issue affecting our Catholic community. “As Notre Dame students,” they declare,  “we are called to lead. We ask the administration to do the same.”

In several bulletins and a petition, we have pressed the same action upon Father Jenkins for the same compelling reasons. And now we have the striking irony of Father Jenkins refusing to take down Notre Dame’s award to the man who has done more damage to the Church and its priests in this country than anyone in living memory while covering the mural memorializing the man who brought the Church to the New World.

There will be no honor in taking action only when and if a Vatican decision leaves no choice.


Fr. Jenkins: It is time to lead.

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, February 6, 2019

In June of 2018, news broke that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had been accused of sexual abuse of a minor 48 years ago and that the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York found the allegation to be “credible and substantiated.” McCarrick has since been accused of also abusing an 11-year-old boy for a continuous 20-year period. The Vatican is now investigating a third instance of abuse of a minor by McCarrick. It has also been revealed that McCarrick was accused of sexually abusing seminarians, abusing his power by preying on vulnerable adults under his control. Pope Francis has removed McCarrick from the College of Cardinals — an unprecedented decision — and sentenced him to “observe a life of prayer and penance in seclusion.” It is now evident that McCarrick will not receive a canonical trial and will instead be subject to an administrative penal process. This signifies that the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that McCarrick is guilty and the University should rescind McCarrick’s honorary degree without delay.

In 2008, Cardinal McCarrick delivered the commencement speech at Notre Dame and received an honorary doctor of laws degree. Yet, despite the response from Pope Francis, the Archdiocese of New York and Catholic groups around the globe, Notre Dame has refused to rescind McCarrick’s degree. In a letter to the University community, Fr. Jenkins stated that although Notre Dame finds the actions of McCarrick to be “reprehensible” it will not make any decisions regarding his degree until a final decision in a case, after a canonical trial in Rome, is made.

Notre Dame should be at the forefront of combatting the clerical abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. As both an iconic institution and a leader in Catholic education, Notre Dame is responsible for setting a precedent of Catholic morality to which the world should look. Though Fr. Jenkins’s comments calling for a conclusion to the judicial process before rescinding McCarrick’s honorary degree are founded in the precedent of his approach to Bill Cosby’s honorary degree, this is a vastly different situation. The actions of Bill Cosby and Cardinal McCarrick mirror each other, but there is a fundamental difference — McCarrick’s status as a prominent member of our Catholic community, and a long history of association with our University, compels us to strongly condemn his actions.

Fr. Jenkins issued a statement earlier this school year saying that Catholic institutions that do not protect those who cannot protect themselves were guilty of “perversely exploiting the vulnerable and corrupting the young.” He continued to say that some bishops have done more to protect the wolves than the sheep. It is imperative that Fr. Jenkins act decisively and without delay so that his actions match his rhetoric as regards this crisis. Notre Dame should, as Fr. Jenkins stated, be a place that protects the vulnerable and nurtures the young. Just as we have stood tall to protect our DACA students and have remained steadfast on protecting all life, so too must we make it clear that Notre Dame will stand with survivors of sexual abuse, and specifically survivors of the clerical abuse crisis. As students have said before, refusing to stand against a perpetrator of sexual assault sends the message that we are embarrassed to be associated with sexual assault survivors, and we are not willing to break the silence surrounding sexual assault.

Fordham University, Catholic University of America and the University of Portland have all rescinded honorary degrees from McCarrick. The University of Portland, another Holy Cross institution, cited its “commitment to fostering a world that is free from sexual assault, sexual harassment or other forms of violence” in its revocation. So too should Notre Dame be committed to a world free from all forms of violence, especially sexual assault. Honorary degrees are supposed to be given as a marker of a contribution that someone has made for the betterment of society. McCarrick’s heinous transgressions render his possession of such a degree absurd, a truth well-realized by our fellow Catholic institutions. It is disquieting — disturbing, even — to see our institution, refusing to take a stand on this deeply serious issue affecting our Catholic community.

As Notre Dame students, we are called to lead. We ask the administration to do the same.

Gates McGavick
senior, student body president

Corey Gayheart
senior, student body vice president

Briana Tucker
senior, student government chief of staff

Student Government Department of Gender Relations

Student Government Department of Faith & Service

Feb. 5

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Join Our Petition

Join our petition to Father Jenkins asking that he take a stand for the protection of children and vulnerable adults from priestly predation by rescinding ex-cardinal McCarrick’s honorary degree. Add your name below or click on the following link to read the petition.

Leave a Reply

 Let us know what you think about the issues we’ve raised in this bulletin in the comments below. And help to spread the word by sharing this bulletin with others who care about Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. 

Every Penny Helps!

If you are like us and want to see an authentic Catholic renewal at Notre Dame, please consider lending a hand by making a donation to Sycamore Trust.


8 Responses to “Student Leaders to Father Jenkins”

  1. In reading past Sycamore newsletters regarding the question of “How Catholic is Notre Dame really?” and situations involving scandalous action and inaction at Notre Dame, I am reminded of what the president of Catholic University of America wrote regarding his belief that it will be up to the laity, faithful Catholics who aren’t ordained, to clean up the Church. I see a group like Sycamore Trust trying to clean up Notre Dame and restore a more Catholic and less secular atmosphere to ND, and I am becoming more familiar with sources of information like Life Site News and Church Militant. Today, I heard about a group based out of Illinois called Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc,, that describes itself as “a network of faithful laity, investigators and attorneys whose goal is to rid the Catholic Church of clerical corruption. ” I do not know very much about the group, but like Life Site and Church Militant, this may be a helpful organization to share and receive information with. I think that if Sycamore Trust works cooperatively with other Catholic organizations it trusts, it can make Sycamore stronger and more successful in spreading it’s message and accomplishing desired change at Notre Dame. One only has to read the responses below to the students’ letter to Fr. Jenkins to get the sense where change at Notre Dame ought to begin. Good Luck!

  2. Michael Voris ’83, a former Fox news reporter runs a Catholic Church news website called Church Militant, named after a partial quote from Pope Benedict. He recorded a recent report on Father Jenkins on Youtube called “The Vortex: Burning at the Stake”, which addresses Fr. Jenkins’ odd position on holding out against revoking sex abuser Theodore McCarick’s honorary Notre Dame degree. His tone may be strong for some, but his info is always clean and interesting and it looks like he’s been reading some Sycamore Trust newsletters. Michael Voris reports/alleges that McCarrick wrote most of the Land “O Lakes statement, and that Fr. Hesburgh took money from the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1960’s to allow Planned Parenthood meetings to occur on Notre Dame’s campus. He also reports/alleges that Planned Parenthood is working with a Notre Dame student group to provide dorm room delivery of condoms at Notre Dame, and cites an article from the student newspaper, The Observer. The Church Militant and The Vortex are very interesting sources of Catholic news you won’t read in your diocesan newspaper, and it’s not anti- Catholic, it is vigorously pro-Catholic and anti- corruption in the Catholic Church.
    If Father Jenkins won’t revoke McCarick’s honorary degree from Notre Dame because of something like the fact that McCarrick wrote most of the Land ‘O Lakes document and Fr. Hesburgh allowed Planned parenthood to meet on ND’s campus, instead of something significantly more scandalous and threatening to ND, you really do have to question Fr. Jenkins’ sense of judgment and very weak, if not non-existent, sense of outrage at sexual abuse.

  3. John McNamara '86 February 12, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    This letter says so much about the ugly state of the Roman Catholic Church in America, if not around the world, and a complete state of disorganization and lack of leadership. Congrats to the student leaders for showing actual leadership towards the man who should be your leader, but disgracefully is not. Talk about role reversal.
    Ex-Cardinal McCarrick is never going to see a trial in the Vatican or in the states of NY and NJ. He’s a very old man now and most prosecutors are hoping that he’ll just die, rather than trying to prosecute him, when US statutes of limitation may have run. Fr. Jenkins knows the Vatican doesn’t want to try McCarrick, because Pope Benedict had privately punished and sanctioned McCarrick and Pope Francis lifted those restrictions and let McCarrick play a large role in selecting future US cardinals and bishops like Cardinal Cupich in Chicago. If you’re the Pope, do you want McCarrick spilling those beans in public at a Vatican trial?
    The reason the University of Notre Dame is not doing something about rescinding McCarrick’s honorary degree is that McCarrick must have some dirt on Notre Dame that could be used by McCarrick, a man with nothing to lose, to embarrass and retaliate against Notre Dame. Theodore McCarrick, as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, and Theodore Hesburgh, as president of the University of Notre Dame, worked closely on the “Land ‘O Lakes statement on Catholic higher education”, which some Catholic publications have labeled as “disastrous” to Catholic education. One can only wonder, when it is so clear that Ex-Cardinal McCarrick was so evil, why Notre Dame is so scared to condemn him, and that relationship, whether occupational or otherwise, between Hesburgh and McCarrick, is probably the reason. Notre Dame and Fr. Jenkins are scared to death about what might come out from Ex-Cardinal McCarrick, if Notre Dame rightly insults him before his death.
    A Catholic leader, would do the honest thing and the right thing, as the Catholic University of America, the University of Portland and Fordham have done. Sometimes the honest thing and the right thing are extremely painful and embarrassing, but having the character to do the right thing, in spite of harsh consequences, restores respect towards you. The truth will set you free to move forward in a positive way. Father Hesburgh’s leadership is over and he can’t be hurt by earthly criticism. Fr. Jenkins and the University are alive and should approach each new day resolved to do the morally right and honest thing, no matter how God awfully embarrassing yesterday or 30 years ago were. See Penn State University.
    Instead, in todays world, many of our leaders are gravely flawed and no one seems to care or condemns them, which encourages more bad behavior. The Catholic governor of NY celebrates legislation allowing viable, unborn babies to be killed at the mother’s request, right up until birth. The Catholic church sighs, but does not push any action to punish the governor or repeal this abhorrent legislation Notre Dame is officially silent. The governor and attorney general of Virginia are admittedly caught in pictures with black face and/or Klan hoods, some politicians sigh, but the governor and the attorney general refuse to resign and decide to play the silent waiting game, hoping the story will fade off the headlines and they can keep their jobs, counting on citizens and journalists to be too lazy to push getting rid of these bums. This is what Father Jenkins is doing, playing the silent waiting game, just like the Virginia racist politician bums, hoping his critics get too tired to push any action on McCarrick, or on Fr. Jenkins paying for birth control with University health insurance money. Congrats Fr. Jenkins, you have the same silent, cowardly, wait-it-out leadership style as Virginia’s blackface governor Northam, who said it was ok to perform an abortion after the baby is born.
    Notre Dame is woefully in need of new leadership. Glad to see it coming from the Students, not only on McCarrick, but also on pornography too. How woeful are you as a priest and university president, when your own students have to tell you to act in a moral, grown-up way? By the way Fr. Jenkins, congrats on being the first ND president to have the NCAA sanction our football team.

  4. As much as we try to come up for some slim defense of Jenkins’ obstinacy, we cannot. Or are we trying too hard? All of Jenkins’ pretexts have been blown up, no one believes him.

  5. The Church is losing its moral authority amongst a majority of Catholics and Christians. Fr. Hesburgh would have taken decisive action.

  6. Well said – very well stated.
    Jack McGowan ’66

  7. Marion Gingras '92 February 11, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    I stand with these student leaders, and sincerely thank them for taking the time to write such a thorough letter to Fr. Jenkins. They deserve the courtesy of a prompt response, and I certainly hope they receive one.

  8. Just another reason to have Fr/ Jenkins resign.

Comments & Questions