Former bishop of Dallas, member of the University of Dallas’ Board of Trustees, and namesake of UD’s “front door,” Cardinal Kevin Farrell was promoted to camerlengo, a high administrative position in the Vatican, by Pope Francis on Valentine’s Day.
The role of camerlengo in the Vatican has been vacant since the death of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran in July of 2018. According to a Feb. 14 article by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), the role of camerlengo includes overseeing preparations for papal conclaves. Further, the camerlengo manages the administration of the Holy See between death or renunciation of a pope and the election of the next.
Farrell has been a controversial figure on the UD campus since the #FarewellFarrell petition was circulated at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester. The anonymous petition circulated via social media and emails, gathering hundreds of signatures. It argued for renaming Cardinal Farrell Hall based on accusations that included that Farrell may have known and kept silent about Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse.
McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 in response to allegations that he sexually abused minors and seminarians throughout his public ministry. On Feb. 16, 2019, the Vatican published a statement that McCarrick was dismissed from his “clerical state” after he was found guilty of several abuses including sexual assault of minors and adults.
McCarrick, cardinal at the time, consecrated Farrell as bishop of Washington, D.C., in 2002. Farrell and McCarrick lived in a renovated parish building for six years while serving in the Archdiocese of Washington, according to an article from CNA. In 2007, Farrell became bishop of Dallas, where he served until 2016.
As bishop of Dallas, Farrell was a long-time friend and chancellor of UD. He awarded diplomas at over a dozen graduations. According to former president Thomas Keefe in a UD press release on the dedication of Cardinal Farrell Hall, Farrell’s “vision for the university should be what people know and embrace when they come here and consider attending the University of Dallas.”
“It is a blessing working under Cardinal Farrell,” said Bishop of Dallas and Farrell’s successor, Edward Burns. “He was an excellent administrator.”
Farrell was summoned to the Vatican in 2016 to serve the Holy Father as Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.
Dr. Thomas Zellers, Chair of the Board of Trustees, wrote in an email on Sept. 3 of last fall, that he believed the #FarewellFarrell petition was a “rush to judgment.”
“[The board is] in contact with the Diocese of Dallas and [is] monitoring the situation,” Zellers wrote at the time. “At the moment we concur with the diocese that 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.”
Annette Taylor, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Dallas, said that the Diocese of Dallas has nothing to do with any investigation on Farrell.
“The Diocese of Dallas is not aware of any facts regarding Cardinal Farrell that would warrant taking any action and does not promote or deal in rumor and innuendo,” Taylor wrote in an email.
Bishop Burns agreed with Taylor that no facts were presented to warrant an investigation.
“These days, you can say anything anonymously,” Burns said of the petition’s author.
Burns commented on Farrell’s time as bishop. He said Farrell specifically implemented sexual abuse prevention within the diocese.
“He put safeguards into place that we’re really proud of,” said Burns. “Everyone has to go through the safe environment protocols.”
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, in a letter published on Aug. 22, 2018, suggested Farrell knew about the allegations made against McCarrick and failed to report them.
“Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who was recently interviewed by the media, also said that he didn’t have the slightest idea about the abuses committed by McCarrick,” Vigano wrote. “Given his tenure in Washington, Dallas and now Rome, I think no one can honestly believe him.”
Farrell denied knowledge of allegations made against McCarrick in a July 24, 2018 interview with Catholic News Service.
“I was shocked, overwhelmed; I never heard any of this before in the six years I was there with him,” Farrell said in the interview.
In addition to Farrell’s proximity to the McCarrick scandal, he has also been linked to a scandal involving Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who Farrell served under early in his priesthood.
“I don’t know if he was ever asked if he knew about Maciel’s crimes,” Vigano wrote in the same letter. “If he were to deny this, would anybody believe him given that he occupied positions of responsibility as a member of the Legionaries of Christ?”
In an Irish Times article published on Nov. 19, 2016, Farrell denied knowledge of Maciel’s offenses.
“I never knew anything back then,” Farrell said to the Irish Times. “I worked in Monterrey, and maybe I would have met Maciel once or twice, but I never suspected anything … I left the Legionaries because I had intellectual differences with them.”
Zellers did not respond after The University News sent him multiple emails and phone calls via Director of Communications, Cliff Smith. According to an email from Smith, the current presidential “process along with negotiating the contract and public announcements will be taking Zellers’, and the board’s, full time and attention.”