The recent #FarewellFarrell petition circulating social media and email calls into question whether the University of Dallas should rename Cardinal Farrell Hall in light of allegations made against Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the former bishop of Dallas.
The anonymous petition has gathered more than 700 signatures, according to the petition’s online form.
But unanswered questions about the petition remain, including how the author will verify that the signatures are valid and how the signatures will be used.
The University News reached out to the petition’s author for comment. The author requested anonymity, but The University News denied that request.
The petition addresses Farrell’s association with scandals surrounding Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington.
Between 1978 and 1981, Farrell held a position of leadership in the Legionaries of Christ, according to a Nov. 19, 2016 article by The Irish Times. Maciel resigned in 2005 after fathering several children and sexually assaulting minors for decades.
In 2001, Farrell was consecrated bishop by McCarrick and served as his vicar general in Washington D.C. until 2006, according to a July 31, 2018 article by The Associated Press.
During this time, Farrell lived in the same residence as McCarrick and other clergy, according to the same article. Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s letter of resignation on July 28 in response to allegations that McCarrick sexually assaulted minors and adult seminarians.
Based on Farrell’s proximity to both of these scandals, the author of the petition states that Farrell was either complicit or foolish.
“[Farrell] was in the middle of two massive scandals, but somehow suspected nothing,” the anonymous author writes. “By his own testimony, he is either a lying prelate or a clueless one.”
But Thomas Zellers, chair of the Board of Trustees, reserves judgment.
“I personally believe [the petition] is a rush to judgment,” Zellers wrote in an email.
The Board of Trustees will wait to consider renaming Cardinal Farrell Hall until after the church investigates these accusations.
The board is “in contact with the Diocese of Dallas and [is] monitoring the situation,” Zellers wrote. “We should let the church inquiry proceed and establish the facts. Therefore, any public statements or actions from the university would be premature. When the need arises, the Board of Trustees will evaluate the facts and provide a more direct response.”
Dr. Ron Rombs, chair of the theology department, took issue with the petitioner’s claim that Farrell is not virtuous.
“Throughout his tenure as bishop of Dallas, Cardinal Farrell was never accused of being a man of virtue,” the petition said.
The petition gives no explanation for this claim, but Rombs suggested it could refer to Farrell’s progressivism.
“I certainly have my perspectives on progressiveness and conservatism … within the church,” Rombs said. “But it would be wrong of me to presume that someone on the other side … lacks virtue.”
“There is something very self-righteous in that and very naive and inappropriate,” Rombs added.
But Rombs affirmed the gravity of the allegations concerning the sex scandals.
He drew an analogy between living in a college dormitory and Farrell’s residence in the same building as McCarrick.
“One knows the reputations of people in your dormitory hall — people talk,” Rombs said.
Rombs said that guilty bishops should be held accountable.
“The legacy and memory of bishops who have committed crimes should not be honored,” Rombs said.
But Rombs also warned against condemning Farrell without evidence.
“There is always the possibility … of a response being rash, being too quick and becoming, in a certain sense, hysterical,” Rombs said.
2017 alumnus Benjamin Bravo is one of the petition’s supporters.
“How can UD assure parents that it wants to teach and mentor their children safely … when our front gate reminds them of two of the worst serial abusers in the history of the American Catholic Church?” Bravo wrote in a Facebook direct message.
Bravo suggested “Lynch Hall” or “Donald and Louise Cowan Administrative Building” as alternative names.
Rombs encouraged the UD administration to make an official statement that it would be willing to rename Cardinal Farrell Hall if a fair investigation were to prove the allegations true.
“The students are walking around wondering, ‘Should I sign this petition? Where are our leaders in all of this?’ They’re looking for guidance,” Rombs said.
This type of statement would relieve tension between the student body and administration, according to Rombs.
“Petitions are a way of fighting, and there’s no reason to be fighting,” Rombs said.
Link to the petition: https://farewellfarrell.org/