Cu Regents Revoke Priest’s Honorary Degree
By Katie Langford
Boulder Daily Camera
December 16, 2020
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that accounts from survivors were gathered through the archdiocese’s independent reparations program.
University of Colorado’s Board of Regents on Wednesday revoked an honorary degree bestowed on the late Rev. Charles Woodrich, a Denver priest named in a Colorado Attorney General’s Office report this month for sexually abusing children in the 1970s and ’80s.
Woodrich, known as Father Woody, was one of 52 priests in Colorado’s three Catholic dioceses who sexually abused children between 1951 and 1999, according to independent investigator and former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer.
Survivors continued to come forward after Troyer’s initial report was published in October 2019, according to the Denver Post. The attorney general’s office released the Dec. 1 report as a result.
|The Rev. Charles Woodrich pictured in the Holy Ghost Parish in downtown Denver in the late 1980s. The late Woodrich, a beloved and longtime advocate for the poor known as Father Woody, was one of nine additional Catholic priests identified as sexual abusers in a new report released by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office on Dec. 1. (The Denver Post)|
The report described accounts from three survivors that Woodrich groomed and assaulted them, including while he was a pastor at Holy Ghost Parish in Denver, according to the Post. The accounts were gathered through the archdiocese’s independent reparations program.
Woodrich died in 1991.
Woodrich was given an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by the University of Colorado Denver in 1986 to recognize his work with the poor and homeless, according to a 1991 article in the Denver Catholic Register and the Board of Regents motion.
The Board of Regents voted unanimously to revoke Woodrich’s degree.
Regent Sue Sharkey was the only regent to speak during the vote.
“As far as I know, this is the first time the University of Colorado has revoked an honorary degree,” she said. “We’re doing it for the right reasons, and I hope this can be at least a little solace to the victims of Father Woody.”
A statement released by spokesperson Ken McConnellogue cited the state’s report.
“The state’s investigation into sexual abuse among Catholic priests that named the late Rev. Charles Woodrich as one of the abusers compels the University of Colorado Board of Regents to take the serious step of revoking the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the university presented to him in 1986,” the statement said. “We hope this action brings a small measure of comfort to the victims of this terrible abuse.”
When asked for comment, the Archdiocese of Denver provided the same statement it provided to news outlets on Dec. 1 when the report was published.
“One of the primary reasons the Archdiocese voluntarily participated in an independent review and independent reparations program was so that any survivor who had not previously come forward would be encouraged to do so in a safe and protected process,” the statement said.
“We are grateful for everyone who bravely shared their stories, and we pray this process provided survivors with a measure of justice and healing.”