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“They were attentive,” he said of his March meeting. “But the basic response is that this is a local matter and it should be taken up by the bishops of the United States for this region and it did not require the Holy See’s intervention.”

There is a USCCB task force devoted to Catholic identity and higher education, he added, but “where those deliberations have gone and what state they are in, I do not know.”

The university president, who will be honored Thursday at a 4 p.m. reception for administrators, staff and faculty at the college’s Pryzbyla Center, is widely credited with instilling new life into Catholic University during his tenure. CUA, when Monsignor O’Connell took over in 1998, “was falling apart at the seams,” Catholic commentator Michael Sean Winters said in a May 13 blog for the Catholic magazine America.

“Administratively, financially, and institutionally, it was in a bad way,” Mr. Winters said. “The bishops, who own it after all, had lost confidence in the place. The only pontifical university in the country appeared to have lost its Catholic identity.”

The campus was still divided over the tenure of dissident theologian Charles Curran, who in 1968 led 600 theologians in opposition to “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI’s encyclical reiteration of the church’s teaching against artificial birth control. Father Curran was dismissed in the late 1980s.

Ten years later, Monsignor O’Connell, then 42 and the second-youngest man to assume the post, was selected from more than 100 candidates as CUA’s 14th president and given a mandate to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae. As a pontifical university, CUA has the Vatican’s authority to issue academic degrees in canon law, theology, Scripture and philosophy that carry the church’s official approval.