Weakland's deposition is part of sex case against Milwaukee archdioceseRetired Archbishop Rembert Weakland, [former Abbott Primate of the Order of Saint Benedict, Archbishop of Milwaukee 1977-2002, caught in flagrante delicto with his boyfriend], admitted in a video deposition released Wednesday that he transferred priests with a history of sexual misconduct back into churches without alerting parishioners.
The former archbishop acknowledged that he did so because "no parish would have accepted a priest unless you could say that he has gone through the kind of psychological examination and that he's not a risk to the parish."
While similar allegations have been made for years as the scandal rocked the Catholic Church across the country, Weakland's statements give a rare glimpse of how a top church leader dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct by priests.
"I have never heard a bishop discuss openly the inner workings of this essentially secret handling of sex abuse cases," said Peter Isely, a spokesman for SNAP, a national support group for victims of clergy sex abuse. "I haven't seen anything like this anywhere in the country."
A church spokesman said Weakland's comments should not be broadly applied.
"Archbishop Weakland is able to comment on what he knew, but many if not all of those involved in these cases are dead," Jerry Topczewski, speaking for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. "We'll never know fully what happened or the intent of these people and their actions that date back 20, 30 and 40 years."
The release of the heavily edited portion of Weakland's deposition, which was taken in June, came in response to a contention last month by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that the deaths of key people involved in the church's coverup of sexual abuse allegations had thrown into question the fairness of a pending trial, and that if the archdiocese lost the pending cases, it could face bankruptcy.
Jeffrey Anderson, a lawyer representing those suing the church, said Weakland's comments vividly show that the trial would be fair because Weakland's testimony showed that a coverup existed.
David Muth, a lawyer representing the archdiocese, said Weakland's statements do not change what is at the heart of the case: Is it appropriate to bring a case to court after decades have passed and many of those involved have died?
"Memories fade," Muth said. "That's why we have a statute of limitations."
Weakland, who has largely been out of the public eye since he retired in 2002 in the midst of another scandal [Very interesting that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is afraid to say publicly that Weakland is a homosexual, one of hundreds of homosexuals, many of them predators of teen age boys, that nearly destroyed the Church: spiritually, demographically and financially], was questioned under oath for more than a day by Anderson. Portions of that deposition were released - a common practice in court cases - in which Weakland acknowledged that he never reported any suspected abuse while he headed the local church. He also testified that he never directly asked accused priests whether allegations were true and that he never discussed what he knew about instances of sexual abuse with his successor, Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
The war of words is a side skirmish in a lawsuit, being fought in the courtroom of Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jean DiMotto, in which seven men and women contend they were assaulted by clergy decades ago.
The cases are expected to go to a jury trial in June or July 2009.
The cases are going to trial because the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled last year that the church could be sued by victims on fraud charges if they could show that the church knew about the misconduct and deliberately attempted to cover it up. In a ruling on the cases in her court, DiMotto dismissed actions against the church's insurance carrier, saying coverage did not apply to intentional acts.
That means that if the church loses in DiMotto's court, it will bear the full brunt of any financial award. John Marek, chief financial officer of the archdiocese, said in a Web page article last month that such a decision could "push the archdiocese toward bankruptcy."
Anderson said he was releasing the video that was taken as a part of the court case to rebut arguments that the deaths of witnesses would affect the outcome. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Weakland’s Exit [2002 article]
A liberal bishop and his downfall
Today, Milwaukee Catholics are without an archbishop.
Many orthodox Catholics have wondered for weeks why the sex-abuse scandal has hit America's more conservative bishops — Law of Boston and Egan of New York — hardest. Not any longer: Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, the most liberal bishop in America, has been disgraced by the revelation that he paid $450,000 in hush money to buy the silence of an apparent former male lover.The Vatican accepted Weakland's resignation Friday morning. He had offered it in April, upon reaching his 75th birthday, as canon law mandates. Weakland recently told his advisers, however, that Rome intended to delay action on these canonically required resignations during the scandal. However, the Vatican's swift action on the Weakland case indicates that Rome judged maintaining him in office was hopeless.
The alleged ex-lover, Paul Macoux, is calling his decades-old encounter with Weakland "sexual abuse," but from what we know now, that's not the case. Macoux, 54, was at least in his late 20s when he began a relationship with Weakland, and from an 11-page, handwritten 1980 "Dear Paul" letter Weakland wrote to Macoux, it appears that the archbishop and his paramour had a consensual relationship, one that Weakland ended when he decided to begin honoring his vow of celibacy.
The letter reveals Weakland, archbishop of Milwaukee since 1977, to have been in "deep love" with Marcoux, who comes off as a manipulative grifter who looked to the archbishop, 21 years his senior, as a sugar daddy. Responding to Marcoux's apparent request for more money to fund a personal project, Weakland tells him that the $14,000 he had already given Marcoux "is really my personal limit."
"I feel you are putting me in an impossible situation here," the archbishop wrote. "I consider all that Church money as a sacred trust; it represents the offerings of the faithful and I must be accountable to them for how it is all spent. There are hundreds of requests on my desk for funds for worthy causes, for inner-city projects, to the elderly, to the handicapped, etc."
Yet 18 years later, facing the threat of a civil suit by Marcoux, Weakland directed his archdiocese to fork over $450,000 to buy Marcoux's silence. On Thursday, Milwaukee County Attorney Michael McCann told reporters Weakland had confessed to him that he had had a "troubling" relationship with an adult male, and was afraid he was going to be extorted because of it. McCann now says he will consider appointing a special prosecutor to find out where the hush money came from.
Marcoux, who exploited his relationship with Weakland to rob the Catholic people of Milwaukee of nearly half a million dollars, doesn't deserve pity. Neither does the archbishop, who was willing to throw Marcoux nearly half a million dollars of money that didn't belong to him — all in an effort to maintain his reputation.
What would $450,000 have bought? How about raises for underpaid Catholic-school teachers in Milwaukee? Or coats for the homeless to keep them warm in the icy Wisconsin winter? Or hot meals for the hungry at soup kitchens, or medical treatment for the poor, or scholarships for underprivileged kids, or retirement care for priests and nuns who served the Catholic people of that archdiocese faithfully and without complaint? Instead, the Archbishop of Milwaukee invested it in a cover-up.
It is especially galling when you consider the case of Fr. William Effinger, who died in prison several years ago, where he was sent for sexually assaulting a child. Weakland knew Effinger was a serial pederast, yet reassigned him from parish to parish. After Effinger went to jail in 1993, the boy he molested sued the archdiocese, but the suit was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired. Weakland directed his lawyers to countersue the boy's family, and the archdiocese thereby recovered $4,000 in court costs from the victim.
(Then again, Weakland never has had much sympathy for sex-abuse victims. In 1988, in remarks that brought him rebuke from a Milwaukee law-enforcement official, the gadfly archbishop said, "Not all adolescent victims are so innocent. Some can be sexually very active and aggressive and often quite streetwise.")
Many orthodox American Catholics have long considered it a scandal that Rome allowed a man like Weakland to remain as Milwaukee's archbishop, considering his bold and uncompromising record of dissent from Catholic teaching. Weakland wears his dissent as a badge of honor.
"Members of the Roman Curia often referred to me as a 'maverick,'" the archbishop wrote in his archdiocesan newspaper column last May.
"The best compliment I received, then, came from a religious superior in Rome who said: 'Rome does not know what to do with Weakland. He is a free man.' I feel I have been able to maintain my own dignity and identity through it all."
Here's a tiny portion of what the Free Man of Milwaukee has meant for the Church in his city: He directed Catholic schools there to teach kids how to use condoms as part of AIDS education, and approved a graphic sex-education program for parochial-school kids that taught "there is no right and wrong" on the issues of abortion, contraception and premarital sex. He has advocated for gay rights and women's ordination, bitterly criticized Pope John Paul II, denounced pro-lifers as "fundamentalist," and declared that one could be both pro-choice and a Catholic in good standing.
In the last few months, Weakland defied an order from the Vatican to halt his $4.5 million dollar extremely modernistic renovation of Milwaukee's historic cathedral, which was left ravaged by the procedure. One puzzled Catholic described the new stripped-down space as akin to "a fancy Baptist church with a very large communion table."
As despised as he was by orthodox Catholics, Weakland was a darling of the Catholic Left. Two influential old friends in the liberal Catholic press, Peggy Steinfels and Fr. Thomas Reese, editors, respectively, of Commonweal and the Jesuit journal America, rushed to his defense when the news broke Thursday morning, describing Weakland as a victim of a "sexual witch hunt." (Oddly, the Catholic League's William Donohue, never a fan of Catholic dissenters, issued a similar statement, calling Weakland a victim of "sexual McCarthyism," a Clintonite phrase.)
It is possible that Steinfels, Reese, and Donohue didn't have the full story of the $450,000 payoff or the "Dear Paul" letter when they issued their statements. They must realize now that there is simply no defending Weakland in this matter. His is a perfect example of what happens when a bishop puts his sexual gratification and own reputation over holiness, humility and the good of the Church. And this debacle is yet another instance of the susceptibility sexually active bishops have to blackmail.
Neither Weakland nor the money-grubbing Marcoux are victims. The Catholics of Milwaukee are. Their archbishop's arrogance and selfishness in the seedy Marcoux matter has cost them nearly half a million dollars. But in truth, the intangible cost is much higher. Consider these words from a Wisconsin priest, reported in Friday's New York Times:
"Can you believe this is happening?" asked the Rev. Jeff Thielen, 53, the pastor of St. Lucy Catholic Church in Racine. "I think all the bishops should quit. They should all quit and be replaced. The hurting has to stop. Someone's got to do better by all of the victims. I've been a priest since 1974. I almost wish I wasn't a priest. How can people stay Catholic in the face of this? It's unending."
That, from a priest.
A local church riven with heresy and anti-Roman dissent, a bare, ruined cathedral, demoralized priests, and a scandalized flock: This, tragically, is the legacy of Rembert Weakland. Rod Dreher, National Review Online May 24, 2002