Although investigators with the Archdiocese of New York found accusations of child sexual abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick both "credible and substantiated," the University of Notre Dame says it will not rescind an honorary degree it awarded to McCarrick in 2008. Further, Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins says it is not helpful to view child sex abusers as "monsters."
In a Nov. 5 interview in Crux, Rome Bureau Chief Ines San Martin reported, "Yet befitting an Oxford-educated philosopher, [President] Jenkins also sees complexity in the abuse crisis, including something few people want to say out loud right now: 'There’s a tendency, and I don’t think it’s a helpful tendency in this kind of situation, to turn the perpetrators into monsters.'"
"Jenkins was speaking specifically about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick," reported San Martin, "who was forced to resign from the College of Cardinals in June following credible accusations of abuse."
McCarrick was investigated by lay and religious officials with the Archdiocese of New York who confirmed that he had abused an 11-year-old boy (for several years) when he was a priest with the archdiocese.
"The review board found the allegations credible and substantiated," said N.Y. Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a statement. "The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise publicly his priestly ministry. Cardinal McCarrick, while maintaining his innocence, has accepted the decision."
The Pope also demoted McCarrick, taking away his title of cardinal but retaining his archbishop title.
Since that July 2018 finding, there have been numerous reports alleging that McCarrick also preyed on young seminarians over the last 50-plus years. The Archdioce of Newark, N.J., disclosed in June that there had been three allegations of McCarrick engaging in homosexual behavior with adults; two of those cases resulted in financial settlements.
McCarrick is now 88. He has been assigned to a friary in Kansas, where he is to live out a life of penance and prayer as the Vatican completes a canonical trial against him.
A Notre Dame alumni group, the Sycamore Trust, along with many other alumni have called on President Jenkins to remove the honorary Doctor of Laws degree Notre Dame awarded to McCarrick in 2008.
In an open letter to Rev. Jenkins, the Sycamore Trust said, "There is no time to waste. Other Catholic schools will surely soon follow Fordham University and The Catholic University of America in revoking their honorary degrees. The NDNation.com headline two days ago was 'It’s 9 am, Is McCarrick still a Doctor of Laws at ND?' Notre Dame should be seen as a leader, not a laggard, in this important matter."
In response, President Jenkins released a statement, saying, "While the University finds the alleged actions reprehensible and has no reason to question the review board’s findings, it recognizes that McCarrick maintains his innocence and that a final decision in the case will come only after a canonical trial in Rome.
"As in the case of Bill Cosby, we will wait until that trial is concluded to take action regarding McCarrick’s honorary degree," said the Notre Dame president. "We strongly urge those involved in this trial to reach a conclusion as expeditiously as possible."
Explaining why homosexual predators and child sex abusers should not be viewed as "monsters," President Jenkins told Crux, “[The tendency is] just to imagine that they are thoroughly corrupt people, but the problem is that it’s not true. It’s a part of their lives that is deeply problematic, but another part that is not. And that’s why it’s so hard to identify the problem, and sometimes, that person doesn’t seem to see the problem.”
Crux's San Martin further reported, "Jenkins also acknowledged that McCarrick did a lot of good for the Church and the university and defined the prelate’s dual nature as illustrating 'the mystery of human freedom and human failure.'"
“Our deepest failures are those we don’t see as failures," said Jenkins. "There’s a sort of moral blindness in what we do, and that’s sometimes the greatest moral tragedy."
In a Nov. 12 letter to the The Observer, a student-run paper at Notre Dame University, law student Deion Kathawa wrote, "Fr. Jenkins implores us to resist the '[un]helpful tendency' to cast as 'monsters' the perpetrators of systematic child rape and serial sexual abuse, such as those exposed by the August 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report. He is speaking specifically of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, once a prince of the Church and successor to the Apostles, who for years repeatedly sexually abused the seminarians left in his care. Such abuse was an 'open secret.'"
"Ines San Martín, the reporter conducting the interview, writes that it is 'befitting' of Fr. Jenkins to find 'complexity' in the wickedness perpetrated by his fellow clerics because he is an 'Oxford-educated philosopher.' Is this a joke?" wrote Kathawa.
"There is nothing 'complex' about what has happened here at all," said the law student. "Priests, who are commanded to tend to their parishioners as a shepherd to his flock -- caring for them, accompanying them in their joys and sorrows, witnessing as Christ to them as they journey to their eternal home and protecting them -- sexually abused the most vulnerable in their charge, children, and men like McCarrick, when they weren’t debasing themselves by abusing others, systematically covered it up."
"Frankly, only an 'Oxford-educated philosopher' could possibly see anything in this heinous mess other than a thick coating of demonic filth, a filth that now covers the Body of Christ and obscures her God-given mission," wrote Kathawa.