University says stripping disgraced cardinal of degree would be ‘empty gesture’

Cardinal Keith O'Brien receives his honorary degree at University of St Andrews, June 2004
Cardinal Keith O'Brien receives his honorary degree at University of St Andrews, June 2004

The University of St Andrews has confirmed it will not revoke an honorary degree it awarded to Scotland’s disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien in 2004.

The University’s Senate Business Committee (SBC) yesterday (Thursday) dismissed a request from a member of staff who had called publicly for the degree to be rescinded.

After discussion, committee members agreed there was no case to recommend to Senate that the degree be revoked, and that it considered the matter closed.

A spokesperson said: “SBC recognises that universities award 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 honorand, it would be no more than an empty gesture.

“The committee also formally recorded its disapproval of the inappropriate manner in which the request had been brought into the public domain before any decision had been reached by SBC in what could be interpreted as an attempt to prejudice the decision-making processes of the committee.”

The university had been asked to discuss stripping the cardinal of his honour by economics lecturer Manfredi La Manna who urged the senate to uphold its 600-year-old values of “honour, trust and human dignity”.