NEW YORK — For the first time in its history, the Catholic University of America has voted to rescind an honorary degree, announcing on Monday that the executive committee of the University’s Board of Trustees had voted unanimously to strip Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of his 2006 honor.
The decision comes just two days after Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals following devastating allegations of sexual abuse against the retired archbishop of Washington.
In June, the archdiocese of New York announced that an archdiocesan review board had investigated allegations against McCarrick dating back to his time as a priest of the archdiocese. The allegations, which were deemed credible, were brought forth by an altar boy who claimed that McCarrick molested him on two occasions at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the 1970’s.
Despite maintaining his innocence, further reports of abuse were brought to light over the past month, including that of an 11-year old family friend and young seminarians over the period of nearly five decades — ultimately leading to the loss of his red hat and further action, including a likely canonical trial at the Vatican.
After being ordained a priest in New York, McCarrick completed his doctorate work in sociology at the Catholic University of America, and then later worked as its Dean of Students and Director of Development. He also served as the chancellor of the University during his time as archbishop of Washington.
In announcing its decision to revoke McCarrick of his honors, the university used the occasion to join the chorus of voices that have called for greater transparency and accountability following revelations related to his case.
“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. We offer our prayers and pastoral support for the survivors, that they and their families encounter healing and peace,” they said in a statement.
“At the same time, we encourage any survivors of abuse to contact the Archdiocese of Washington and its Office of Child and Youth Protection, which offer resources and confidential support to any who have suffered from abuse and who seek help.”
Earlier this month, Fordham University in New York City became the first institution to rescind an honorary degree to McCarrick.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) does not have policy guidelines or recommendations for revoking honorary degree or awards and leaves the decision up to individual institutions.