An honourary degree awarded to Cardinal Keith O’Brien by the University of St Andrews will not be revoked despite staff complaints, it has been announced.
The University’s senate business committee dismissed a request from a member of staff who had called publicly for the degree to be rescinded.
Cardinal O’Brien, the former head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, stepped down from his position two years ago after admitting sexual misconduct.
A statement by the committee said it recognised that, “universities awarded honorary degrees in good faith on the basis of evidence available to them at a point in time, that revocation cannot change or ameliorate the wrongs of the past and that, notwithstanding the very real hurt and loss caused by the actions of the honourand, it would be no more than an empty gesture”.
The committee also recorded its disapproval of the manner in which the request had been brought into the public domain, in what could be interpreted as an attempt to prejudice the committee’s decision.
Dr Manfredi La Manna, who led the bid to remove Keith O’Brien’s degree, told the BBC: ”I would have thought that as Cardinal O’Brien’s behaviour was considered disreputable enough for the Holy See to withdraw his rights as cardinal, the university would have been on safe grounds by rescinding his honorary degree.
“But what I consider a symbolic re-affirmation of the values of honour and dignity to be upheld by universities is apparently an ‘empty gesture.’ It would be interesting to know how low an honourand’s behaviour should sink before withdrawing the symbolic honour is deemed appropriate.”
The previous headline on this article and in print reads “Sex offender to keep degree despite complaints”. Cardinal O’Brien has never been formally charged or convicted with a crime and this headline was therefore inaccurate. We apologise for any offence caused.