‘Sign of Our Repentance’: Weakland’s Name Expunged From Milwaukee Church Building


National Catholic Register, 2 April 2019

COMMENTARY: Personal corruption, more than bad governance, should have been the main reason for Archbishop Listecki to remove his predecessor’s name.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee has removed the names of two of his predecessors, William Cousins and Rembert Weakland, from church buildings because they were negligent in handling allegations of sexual abuse by priests of minors.

Archbishop Cousins was archbishop of Milwaukee from 1958 to 1977. Yet the case, in particular regarding Archbishop Weakland, who served in Milwaukee from 1977 to 2002, illustrates the scandal of clerical corruption is broader than just sexual abuse of minors.

Given his well-known homosexual affairs, and the archdiocesan money he used to cover it up, it is astonishing that Archbishop Weakland’s name was still on a church building in 2019. While dealing more forthrightly with the sexual abuse of minors is a good thing in itself, the rooting out of corruption in the priesthood cannot proceed as long as other scandalous behavior is downplayed or even ignored.

In a letter to his archdiocese, Archbishop Listecki reviews the history of handling sexual-abuse claims in Milwaukee and announces that, “as a sign of our repentance, and because of the pain caused to abuse survivors and their families with regard to the handling of sexual-abuse allegations, I will change the name of the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center and ask the parish of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to remove the name of Archbishop Rembert Weakland from its parish pastoral center. This is similar to decisions made by other bishops throughout the United States.”

In reviewing that history, Archbishop Listecki writes the following:

“In 2002, I think most Catholics were simply shocked to read the news reports of priests abusing minors. As I said, during my priesthood, never could I have imagined such a thing. But today, I think most Catholics react in anger, an anger which I share. News of cover-ups from years past, and information that some dioceses haven’t adhered to the demands of the [Dallas] Charter, has broken people’s trust in the Church and its leaders, namely bishops.”

All true certainly, but might there have been something else from 2002 that eroded trust between the people and the archbishop in Milwaukee?

Might it have been the allegation from Paul Marcoux, made on national television, that he had suffered a “date rape” at the hands of Archbishop Weakland, who later paid him $450,000 out of diocesan funds to hush it up?

Archbishop Weakland denied that it was sexual assault, but admitted to having a homosexual relationship with Marcoux. He said that the archdiocese paid the secret settlement, but that his own donations to the diocese more than made up for it. That was not true.

His resignation as archbishop of Milwaukee was accepted soon after the Marcoux affair was revealed. That was in May 2002. Later, in his 2009 memoir, Archbishop Weakland admitted to a series of homosexual affairs.

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