Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2019 / 09:56 am (CNA).- Georgetown University announced on Tuesday that it would rescind the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on disgraced former archbishop Theodore McCarrick in December 2004.
“With the concurrence of our Board of Directors, Georgetown University is rescinding the honorary degree granted to Theodore McCarrick fourteen years ago,” said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia in an email sent to the Georgetown University community Tuesday.
This is the first time the school has revoked an honorary degree.
“We are called to forge a new culture, to create a context in which the most vulnerable among us will be safe and protected, to create a context in which the abuse of power can be identified and eliminated. As a University, founded in the Jesuit tradition, we are uniquely positioned to respond to this call,” said DeGioia.
Similar to the University of Notre Dame, which rescinded an honorary degree from McCarrick on Saturday, Georgetown University had elected to wait until the conclusion of the canonical penal process against McCarrick before making a decision about his honorary degree. McCarrick was laicized and removed from the clerical state on Feb. 16.
DeGioia’s email, forwarded Feb. 20 to CNA, explained that a working group was created in the fall of 2018 to “examine a range of issues related to honorary degrees.”
“The Working Group has welcomed input from members of our community, and its work has helped to shape our response today,” said DeGioia.
A petition spearheaded by Georgetown undergraduates requesting that the school rescind honorary degrees from both McCarrick and Cardinal Donald Wuerl garnered over 1,300 signatures since it was launched in September. Georgetown has not revoked the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on Wuerl in 2014. Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation from the Archdiocese of Washington in October 2018.
Grace Laria, a senior at Georgetown who helped start the petition, met with the university’s working group, along with fellow Georgetown senior Julie Bevilacqua. The students urged the school to rescind the degrees.
In November, Laria and Bevilacqua spoke to CNA outside the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Fall General Assembly. The two were there with several other Georgetown students who are active in campus ministry. Laria told CNA that she had been inspired to travel to Baltimore to demand that the bishops demonstrate sort of initiative that indicates they “are willing to stand up for survivors and take action.”
Bevilacqua told CNA in November that she had been angered and hurt by the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis, and that she felt there was “a sense of urgency for some kind of action and for us to see some change.”