A Message from President DeGioia

February 19, 2019

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

I write today regarding the honorary degree conferred on Theodore McCarrick, then-Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, by the University in 2004.

This past weekend, the Roman Catholic Church took an unprecedented step. Following the conclusion of an investigation and penal process, the Vatican announced the dismissal of Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood, the first time such an action has been taken against a U.S. Cardinal.

After troubling allegations about his conduct became public in the summer of 2018, I shared a message with our community, reflecting on the responsibilities of our University in this moment and our role, as a Catholic and Jesuit institution, in promoting “a culture of safeguarding vulnerable people.”[1]  

As our University community continues to reflect on the aspects of our own response, now and into the future, there is an important step for us to take at this moment. With the concurrence of our Board of Directors, Georgetown University is rescinding the honorary degree granted to Theodore McCarrick fourteen years ago. This is the first time an honorary degree conferred by the University has been revoked. 

Last fall, our Board of Directors formed a Working Group to examine a range of issues related to honorary degrees. This group has focused on the purpose and practice of granting such degrees, the selection of recipients, and the process around reviewing and rescinding these degrees. The Working Group has welcomed input from members of our community, and its work has helped to shape our response today.

There is more that is required of us in this moment. 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. As Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, shared last summer at a gathering of Jesuit colleges and universities:

“Universities bring about cultural change. The call to build a culture that protects the vulnerable is an opportunity for us to engage in practical, long-term work in this important aspect of fostering reconciliation and justice, and providing the conditions for integral human flourishing.”[2]

These words constitute a challenge issued to all Jesuit institutions, a challenge that demands our very best and one that we will seek to meet and uphold in the important work ahead.


John J. DeGioia

[1] Sosa, Arturo, S.J. “The University as a Source of Reconciled Life.” International Association of Jesuit Universities Conference. Sanctuary of Loyola, Azpeitia, Spain. 11 July, 2018

[2] Ibid.