Names of accused bishops scrubbed from Pennsylvania schools

shutterstock 314434586 Pennsylvania capitol building | Zack Frank/Shutterstock

The names of accused clerics are being removed from the buildings of several colleges and high schools in Pennsylvania in the wake of the grand jury report detailing sex abuse cases in six dioceses in the state.

The University of Scranton, a Jesuit school, announced last month that "with sympathy for and in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse," the honorary degrees and names of campus buildings recognizing Bishops Jerome Hannan, J. Carroll McCormick, and James Timlin would be rescinded.

"As documented in the report, these Bishops covered up the crimes and misdeeds of men who were under their jurisdiction and placed children in harm's way," President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., said in a statement announcing the changes.

King's College, a Catholic college in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. also announced that the name of Bishop McCormick would be removed from one of its buildings and an honorary degree would be rescinded from Bishop Timlin.

North Catholic High School in Cranberry Township, Pa. removed "Cardinal Wuerl" from its name at the request of Cardinal Donald Wuerl himself, after signs at the school bearing his name were vandalized.

According to a diocesan statement, Wuerl wrote to Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh requesting the removal of his name "lest we in any way detract from the purpose of Catholic education."  

His name is also being removed from the parish hall at St. Rosalia Church in Pittsburgh, according to the Tribune-Review.

Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington  and successor of former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, came under increasing scrutiny in August because of his role in sex abuse cases listed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report and because he has been accused of negligent oversight of McCarrick.
Students and staff at the University of Scranton who spoke with NPR said they supported the removal of the names from the school.

"I don't think it's being disrespectful to the church," Adam Pratt, an assistant history professor at the University of Scranton, told NPR in August. "What these men have done is beyond the pale. And it's not the values that we teach here at the University of Scranton."

In his statement, Pilarz announced that McCormick Hall will be renamed MacKillop Hall in honor of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian nun "who publicly exposed the sexual abuse of children by a priest. In her life, she faced persecution and excommunication, during which she was assisted by the Jesuits until later being absolved."

Another plaza named after Timlin will be renamed after Bl. Oscar Romero, who was killed while celebrating Mass in San Salvador, and is to be canonized Oct. 14.

A hall named after Hannan will be renamed to honor two former Scranton students who have died - Brendan J. Giblin, who was killed while on spring break his senior year, and William H. Kelly Jr., who died Sept. 11, 2001 in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

"In choosing to honor St. MacKillop, Archbishop Romero, Brendan and Bill, we hold up the example of their lives as a reminder always to be a voice against abuse and violence no matter the cost, to champion the poor and oppressed, and to treasure the bonds of friendship and community that are at the heart of The University of Scranton," Pilarz said.

DeSales University and Misericordia University, both in Pennsylvania, have said they are considering taking similar action in removing the names of accused bishops from campus facilities.

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