Reverend responds to Notre Dame law student’s letter on McCarrick honorary degree

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A Saint Mary’s College official has responded to a Letter to the Editor published by The Observer criticizing Notre Dame’s decision not to remove ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s honorary degree following allegations of child abuse.

The Observer published Notre Dame Law ’20 student Deion Kathawa’s Letter to the Editor on Monday regarding Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins’ decision not to remove McCarrick’s honorary doctor of laws degree and Jenkins' "tone deaf, shamefully risk-averse remarks" about the situation.

Rev. Stephen P. Newton, Campus Minister at Saint Mary’s College, penned a letter on Wednesday in response.

In his letter, Rev. Newton defends Fr. Jenkins’ decision to wait on any conclusive action against McCarrick’s degree until after a full church trial.

Rev. Newton suggests “that [Kathawa’s] understanding of Catholic teaching is very limited.”

Kathawa’s letter, titled, “Father Jenkins is a disgrace to Notre Dame and the Catholic Faith,” challenges Fr. Jenkins’ decision. The Catholic University of America and Fordham University have both stripped McCarrick of his honorary degrees.

In April, Fr. Jenkins revoked Bill Cosby’s 1990 degree after a jury found him guilty on three felony charges of sexual assault saying “the University elected to wait until due process had been afford the accused, and a verdict delivered, before rescinding the honor.”

“I did not say McCarrick is intrinsically demonic but the fact that he has not acknowledged any wrongdoing is evil,” Kathawa said in a phone interview with ABC57.

Kathawa was motivated to speak up after reading Fr. Jenkins recent interview with Crux. Fr. Jenkins told the Catholic news outlet, “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.”

“I believe that the Church’s job is to be clear about evil. I think using the term ‘monstrous’ to describe McCarrick would be a clear objection to his actions. Fr. Jenkins is using language that is too ‘HR’ to express his discontent with McCarrick.” said Kathawa.

The Macomb, Michigan native hopes that Fr. Jenkins will release a new statement that clearly condemns McCarrick’s alleged actions.

The two opinion pieces sandwich the public naming of one of McCarrick’s two accusers, 60-year-old James Grein of Virginia, at a rally outside of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore on Tuesday. Grein alleges McCarrick abused him for nearly two decades, beginning when he was a child.

The U.S. bishops are expected to wrap up their meeting Wednesday and will reconvene in February after a request from the Vatican delayed votes on matters of clergy sex abuse.

We reached out to Rev. Newton and he responded, "I was bothered by the misinformation about Catholicism presented in Mr. Kathawa's letter. It was very militant in both tone and content, and I felt a need to point out that there is much more to Catholicism that he seemed to think. There is the expression: "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." Mr. Kathawa seemed to completely miss Jesus' Good News of God's mercy and the possibility of redemption. Sin is evil. Sinners are human, and no matter how egregious the sin, repentance, conversion, and forgiveness are very Catholic concepts and offered to all. Condemnation is reserved for God."

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