Catholic universities withdraw honorary degrees from McCarrick

CUA Campus Credit Michael Sauers via Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA CUA Campus. | Michael Sauers via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Two Catholic universities have withdrawn honorary degrees from Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, amid numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. and Fordham University in New York both announced in recent weeks that they were rescinding the honorary degrees.

Pope Francis accepted McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals on Saturday. The pope directed McCarrick, the 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington, to observe "a life of prayer and penance in seclusion" until the end of the canonical process against him.

A substantial and credible allegation of child sexual abuse against McCarrick was made public in June.

In recent weeks, McCarrick has faced several additional allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. These include charges that he pressured seminarians and priests into sexual relationships, and another reported allegation that he had a serially sexually abusive relationship with a child.

The Catholic University of America said July 30 that its board had voted unanimously to revoke McCarrick's 2006 honorary degree, the first time the university has done so in its history.

McCarrick had been a student at The Catholic University of America, where he earned his Master's degree and Ph.D. in the 1960s. He later served in various roles at the university, including assistant chaplain, dean of students, development director, chancellor, and a member of the Board of Trustees.

"The entire Catholic University community acknowledges the tragedy of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy, and the deep and lasting pain and suffering of survivors," the university said in a statement. "We offer our prayers and pastoral support for the survivors, that they and their families encounter healing and peace."

The university encouraged abuse victims to contact the archdiocese's Office of Child and Youth Protection for support and resources.

The move follows a similar decision by Fordham University earlier this month.

University president Fr. Joseph M. McShane released a July 5 statement announcing the removal of "McCarrick's honorary degree and other honors the University has conferred upon him."

"In taking these steps, we acknowledge the extraordinary and long-lasting harm done to children who were sexually abused by clergy members," the statement said. "While we can never fully repair the sins of the past, we must respect the experience of abuse survivors, and accord them all the love and compassion of which we are capable."

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