Honorary Degree Recipients

Jonathan Roumie

Actor in The Chosen

“The particular vocation of individual artists,” wrote St. John Paul II, “decides the arena in which they serve and points as well to the tasks they must assume, the hard work they must endure and the responsibility they must accept.” There is no popular artist with a weightier responsibility than actor Jonathan Roumie, whose particular vocation is to portray Jesus Christ Himself.

This year’s commencement speaker has played the lead role in the dramatic series The Chosen since 2019. The streaming series about the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the most successful crowd-funded television or film projects ever. Roumie has taken on the role with grace, humility, and deep reverence.

A recipient of a Bachelor of Fine Arts in filmmaking from The School of Visual Arts in New York City, Roumie speaks both English and French. He has appeared on daytime and primetime network television throughout his career and is a prolific voiceover actor for animated programs and video games.

He now uses his considerable social media following to pray with and for his fans, and to share messages of faith and hope. Catholic media have recognized him as a leader of the faith, with Our Sunday Visitor naming Roumie to a list of Catholics of the Year in 2022. In 2023, he was the keynote speaker at the annual March for Life. 

Earlier this year, he was featured alongside actor Mark Wahlberg in a Super Bowl ad for the prayer app Hallow. 

“Millions of people have had their lives changed for the better by Jonathan Roumie through his portrayal of Jesus Christ, his voice on the Hallow app, and in his many appearances where he advocates for the Catholic faith and the teachings of the Church,” said President Peter Kilpatrick. “Jonathan’s work is a testament to how lay Catholics can use their God-given talents to deliver messages of hope and belief, and bring people closer to God.”

For his dedication to evangelizing and communicating the faith to millions of people globally, and steadfastly living his faith with kindness and joy, The Catholic University of America is proud to bestow upon Jonathan Roumie the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad

Interfaith Leader

Rabbi Jack Bemporad was five years old when he was expelled from his school in Italy for being Jewish. Shortly thereafter, his family fled to America to escape the fascist anti-Semitism that had taken over on the brink of World War II. That experience put Bemporad on a path to international leadership in interfaith dialogue and religious understanding. 

“I had seen and suffered from what happened to my family as a result of hatreds that had roots in centuries of religious teaching,” Bemporad told The Jewish Standard. “I decided to devote my efforts to try to prevent what happened to me from happening to others. I saw the possibilities in interfaith dialogue.”

Bemporad was ordained a Rabbi in 1959, after earning his B.A. in philosophy from Tulane University and his M.A. in philosophy at Hebrew Union College. He was the first rabbi ever to receive a Fulbright Scholarship. 

Rabbi Bemporad is the director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU), which he founded in 1992. The CIU’s mission is to foster genuine understanding and to fight religious intolerance by promoting dialogue, mutual respect, and theological understanding of the common foundations shared by the world’s religions. While also serving as rabbi of Congregation Micah of New Jersey, Bemporad has been at the forefront of major interfaith events, such as the CIU-sponsored Sharia/Halakha Conference, a discussion on interpretation of Muslim and Jewish scriptures believed to be the first of its kind in modern times. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Our Age: The Historic New Era of Christian-Jewish Understanding

Rabbi Bemporad has had a long, close relationship with the Catholic Church. He began teaching at Vatican universities in 1998 and has been director of the John Paul II Center and Professor of Interreligious Studies in Rome since 2009. Bemporad is one of the few rabbis to have met privately with four Popes: John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and, most recently, Pope Francis at the CIU-sponsored Refugees and Migrants Conference. He was one of three rabbis to have blessed Pope John Paul II shortly before his death.

Decades after he left his home country, Rabbi Bemporad remained committed to bringing all faiths into a dialogue to overcome hatred. As he told The Jewish Standard, “It’s only if the religions get together — which is my task — and become the conscience of society and the voice for humanity that will do it. Who is it who has a truly universal perspective that recognizes the intrinsic dignity of everyone? That is something that is religious.”

For building interfaith dialogue to end hate and intolerance and for demonstrating how human dignity is safeguarded by working toward mutual understanding, The Catholic University of America is proud to bestow upon Rabbi Jack Bemporad the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

John Finnis

Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford and 
University of Notre Dame Law School

While a law student in his home country of Australia in 1960, John Finnis converted to Catholicism. He has since become one of the most important Catholic legal and political thinkers of the last half-century.

A scholar of jurisprudence, Finnis has been instrumental in restoring to legal and political thinking the principles of natural law – the belief that right and wrong are written into human nature, and are not determined by popular opinion or the courts.

Finnis’s vocational path has given him a global perspective. He earned his undergraduate law degree from Adelaide University in 1961, and then set off to England as a Rhodes Scholar, where he earned his doctorate from Oxford University in 1965. Over the next 40 years, he was Professor of Law at Oxford, while arguing cases in the High Court and Court of Appeals. His teaching also took him to the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Malawi in Africa, and Boston College as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law. In 1995, Finnis joined the faculty at the Notre Dame Law School, where he taught until 2020. Former students include Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and legal scholar Robert George. 

His book Human Rights and Common Good is considered essential reading for anyone interested in natural law. The seminal work explores important current issues, including political community and justice; national territory and non-citizens’ rights; and public policy regarding euthanasia, abortion, and marriage. According to a review of his essays in Natural Law and Natural Rights, Finnis “single-handedly returned the notion of natural law to the world of legal philosophy.” 

Finnis has served the universal Church as a member of the International Theological Commission of the Holy See, the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, and the Pontifical Academy Pro Vita. 

In 2019, Finnis was appointed a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia, the country's highest civilian honor, for “his eminent service as a jurist and legal scholar.” In 2023, King Charles III appointed him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to legal scholarship.

For probing the profound questions that are essential to the law, for passing on his knowledge to students and future leaders, and for keeping morality at the forefront of law, The Catholic University of America is proud to bestow upon John Finnis the degree Doctor of Jurisprudence, honoris causa.

Teresa Pitt Green

Advocate, Speaker, and Writer

In the workings of grace, a victim can become a healer; someone who has suffered alone can become someone who suffers with. As a survivor of clergy abuse, Teresa Pitt Green knows the darkness, but from it she also discovered her calling. “No one can love and offer kindness and compassion like the person who has suffered,” she once said in an interview. “And there’s nobody who’s suffered like someone who was wounded as a child.” 

Today, Pitt Green is internationally recognized for her work promoting healing to all who have been wounded by abuse in the Church – survivors, family members, clergy, leadership, and laity. At the heart of her efforts is the integration of faith into recovery from abuse. “There’s great hope – enormous hope – in healing, It’s what our whole faith is about,” she has said. “Engaging in a constructive dialogue with the church can help bring more pastoral care to survivors who need it.” 

In 2013, Pitt Green co-founded Spirit Fire, a restorative justice initiative dedicated to helping all Catholics find healing and reconciliation. Spirit Fire promotes trauma-informed pastoral care and awareness within the Church and in other settings, such as health care.

After receiving her B.A. from Nazareth University and graduate studies at Oxford University, Pitt Green had a successful career in publishing and digital media. She has written several books and numerous articles on recovery, and, in 2014, was a founder of The Healing Voices magazine. Her work inspired her to include creative writing and art in abuse victims’ recovery and spiritual development.

As chair of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force from 2016 to 2021, Pitt Green worked to promote awareness and prevention of the trafficking of children and adults.

Pitt Green has presented to diocesan and lay groups, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men. In 2018, she was invited to deliver opening remarks at the first Vatican summit dedicated to clergy sexual abuse.

Pitt Green has consistently affirmed the importance of faith in her mission: “For each survivor, there is a process of psychological desensitizing. That process is quite full of grace, so full of God and the Spirit.”

For her dedication to helping victims recover from abuse, inviting the whole Church into the healing process, and for guiding others on the road to recovery with faith, hope, and charity, The Catholic University of America is proud to bestow upon Teresa Pitt Green the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Father Piotr Nawrot

Roman Catholic Priest of the Divine Word Ministries

When Father Piotr Nawrot, a native of Poland, was a doctoral student in musicology at The Catholic University of America in 1990, he needed a topic for his dissertation. On an earlier missionary assignment to Paraguay, he had heard how Jesuit missionaries brought baroque music to indigenous people of South America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Nawrot, who had earned his Master’s in Liturgical Music from Catholic University in 1988, wanted to know more. What he discovered was so powerful an affirmation of how music unites people with God and each other that he made it his life’s mission to research, restore, and share the music with the world. 

In 1991, Nawrot headed off to a remote Bolivian village, where Jesuits had established a mission centuries earlier. They had brought European music to use as the first steps in conversion. The Jesuits sang in the local language. Indigenous people learned to respond in the Latin Mass, even in an opera cantata. The Jesuits brought in choir directors and musicians who played local, handmade instruments and encouraged the people to write their music. That musical connection was threatened when Spain expelled the Jesuit missionaries, and, again in 1900, when the indigenous people were forced out of their villages to work in factories.

When Nawrot arrived in the Bolivian village after three days of traveling through the jungle, tribal leaders grilled him about who he was and what he wanted. Finally convinced they could trust Father Nawrot, they brought out hundreds of old, worn, baroque music manuscripts with text in the indigenous language. It turned out that when people fled the village in 1900, the only thing they took with them was their musical tradition. In an interview with the Royal College of Music, Nawrot said the villagers told him, “We are so happy you came, because if this is forgotten, if it disappears, we all as Indians will disappear.”

With that music and more he discovered in subsequent visits, Nawrot eventually collected 13,000 pages of manuscripts. Over the next 25 years, he and expert volunteers painstakingly reconstructed the centuries-old documents, and he has published 36 volumes of the music. He is the organizer and artistic director of the Misiones de Chiquitos International Festival of American Renaissance and Baroque Music in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, which brings together artists and musicians from more than 24 countries. The music, Father Nawrot said in a reflection, “has a power to convert the people, to praise God, to build Christian community, to make us feel good and at peace.”

Father Nawrot was ordained a priest of the Divine Word Missionaries in 1981. In 1988, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his musicological work. He is a member of the Anthropos Institute and the Bolivian Academy of Ecclesiastical History and of the theology faculty of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. In 2023, he received the Star of Internationalism Award in Public Diplomacy, for outstanding achievements in internationalism of Polish higher education institutions. 

For sharing his scholarly love of music with the world, for following his young priest’s curiosity to unearth a treasure of our history, and for making it his mission to keep alive the music that unites us in faith, The Catholic University of America is proud to bestow upon Father Piotr Nawrot the degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.