Time Is Up To Revoke Honorary Degrees Given To McCarrick And Wuerl

The Georgetown Voice

December 28, 2018

As a prominent Catholic institution, Georgetown has the capability and responsibility to take public, tangible action to address the clerical sex abuse crisis; yet the university has failed to use its power to do so. On Sept. 10, we published an editorial that called for Georgetown to revoke the honorary degrees of Cardinals Donald Wuerl and Theodore McCarrick, two former archbishops of Washington, D.C., who are closely implicated in the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis. Three months after this editorial and despite determined student activism, the university has neither stripped the men of their degrees nor communicated with students on any decision around this subject. With the recent report from the Maryland Province Society of Jesus revealing more connections between Georgetown and this crisis, the university has run out of time to take clear and visible action denouncing predator priests and those who cover them and must immediately revoke Wuerl and McCarrick’s honorary degrees.

In an email to the student body on Dec. 17, university President John DeGioia wrote that four Jesuits who had been accused of sexual abuse of minors in the aforementioned report spent time at Georgetown, although none of the incidents occurred on campus. In that email, DeGioia also wrote: “Our community will continue our work to respond to this moment through dialogue, reflection, and action.” With varying degrees of success, the university has engaged students in dialogue and reflection in its “Dahlgren Dialogue” series and “Liturgy of Music and Prayer for Repentance” events. Action, the most crucial part of the three steps DeGioia outlined, is sorely lacking.

Last summer, allegations became public that McCarrick, archbishop of D.C. in the early 2000s, had abused men and boys for decades. The Vatican removed him from public ministry and the pope accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals in July. Within two months of McCarrick’s resignation, six of Georgetown’s Catholic peer institutions, Fordham University, Catholic University, University of Portland, St. Bonaventure University, College of New Rochelle, and Siena College all revoked their honorary degrees they granted to McCarrick. Notre Dame did not rescind theirs, but their university president sent an email within one month of McCarrick’s resignation explaining that the university would wait for the Vatican’s trial to conclude to make their decision about the degree.

A report released by the Pennsylvania Attorney General a month later revealed that Cardinal Wuerl, then the bishop of Pittsburgh, had protected abusers by re-assigning them to new parishes and covering up allegations. Pope Francis accepted his resignation as D.C.’s archbishop on Oct. 12. The university has now had months to discuss and reflect on these revelations, but has shown no true action.

The GUSA senate passed a unanimous resolution urging for the revocation of the degrees on Oct. 28. Throughout the semester, student activists have met with university administrators to share concerns and receive updates about Georgetown’s discussions surrounding the degrees. Grace Laria (SFS ’19), one of these students, said the group has been informed that the university’s board of directors is actively debating the issue, but that it has not yet come to a conclusion. One of the reasons given was that Georgetown had never revoked a degree before. However, neither had our neighbor Catholic University until they rescinded the one given to McCarrick, who was a student and later chancellor of the university while he was archbishop of D.C.

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