This Man Has No Shame!
December 10, 2003 Note: Each week we will be bringing you a "New Oxford Note" straight from the venerable New Oxford Review. This week's originally appeared in the November 2003 issue.

After less than a year-and-a-half, Archbishop Rembert Weakland is pontificating again. Yes, really As we all know, it was revealed in May 2002 that Weakland had a homosexual affair with Paul Marcoux, a Marquette theology student and possible seminarian, and Weakland paid Marcoux $450,000 from Milwaukee Archdiocesan funds to cover it up.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported (June 2, 2002) that Peter Isely, who was molested by a priest in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, said that "dozens of people who had been molested by priests in Weakland’s diocese had not gotten as much as a penny."

Weakland was known for playing hardball with those who accused his priests of sexual violations. We won’t get into all that, save to mention this from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (May 26, 2002): "In 1988, Weakland drew a rebuke from one of Wisconsin’s highest courts for his defensive response in 1984 to three teachers who blew the whistle to Weakland about sexual abuses by Milwaukee priest, Father Dennis Pecore, then of Mother of Good Counsel Church, court records show. Weakland wrote to the teachers — who had reported their allegations in a letter to Weakland — that ‘any libelous material found in your letter will be scrutinized carefully by our lawyers.’ [The three teachers were fired.] The Wisconsin Court of Appeals later chastised Weakland’s response to the teachers as ‘abrupt’ and ‘insensitive.’" Moreover, the Journal Sentinel continues: "In a 1994 interview with a Milwaukee Journal reporter, Weakland discussed his belief that true pedophilia among priests was rare. Instead, most of the priests who had trouble were attracted to teenage boys, he said — relationships he referred to as ‘affairs.’ ‘What happens so often in those cases is that they go on for a few years and then the boy gets a little older and the perpetrator loses interest,’ Weakland told a reporter. ‘Then is when the squealing comes in….’" Squealing! That says enough about Weakland’s attitude.

As for that $450,000 hush money paid out, some have called it thievery. Was it? In his handwritten letter of August 25, 1980, to Marcoux, he said all he could give Marcoux was what he personally possessed, namely, $14,000. Weakland wrote to Marcoux: "I know you are pushing me for church money…. 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." So how do we go from $14,000 to $450,000 without dipping into the "sacred trust" of Church money? Well, we don’t.

Nonetheless, on May 23, 2002, Weakland issued a statement about that $450,000, saying, "I have handed over to the archdiocese money obtained by my lectures and writings together with other honoraria. Cumulatively, those monies far exceed" the $450,000. In other words, it wasn’t theft. But on May 31, 2002, Weakland had to admit that the cumulative amount of his honoraria and such did not total $450,000. In fact, it was only $196,723 (including interest). That is, it was more than $250,000 less than the $450,000 amount. Did he lie or was it an innocent mistake? Only Weakland knows for sure.

In the midst of this, the then-Editor of Commonweal, Peggy Steinfels, proclaimed that Weakland was a victim of a "sexual witch hunt" (Commonweal, June 14, 2002).

Well, lo and behold, in the July 8 Commonweal of this year, it was announced that a future issue of that magazine would feature an article by His Excellency Rembert Weakland on "reforming the hierarchy," and sure enough, the article appeared in the August 15 Commonweal. Well, the article is the same old song and dance — decentralization, collegiality, hang-loose liturgies, "inclusive" language, Rome doesn’t understand us gringos, Rome made me fell like an "outsider" (poor thing!). And, oh yes, "the role of cardinals…should be reduced." Well, of course! His Royal Excellency was never given the red hat. The entire article is an exercise in petulant narcissism, a typical affliction of homosexuals.

Many Catholics — even some liberal Catholics — think this man has no credibility. But he thinks he does, and so does Commonweal. In the first paragraph of his Commonweal article he says: "I have apologized to the local church of Milwaukee and to the larger church for my transgressions, and I have begged for forgiveness." But then he quickly moves on to a long-winded bashing of many of the good things that have happened during John Paul’s pontificate.

Now, if it’s one-strike-and-you’re-out for pedophile priests, why hasn’t His Royal Pooh-Bah been defrocked? His behavior is just as appalling — in different ways — as that of a pedophile priest. Curiously, there was a Rite for the Degradation of a Bishop promulgated by Pope Benedict XIV in 1862. According to it, a disgraced archbishop is successively stripped of his pallium, his ring, his crosier, etc., and the words are pronounced, "We put thee out of the episcopal order…" (the entire Rite can be found in The Catholic World Report, July 2002). After the degradation, we would assume that the goofball would go off to a monastery in some out-of-the-way place, and never be heard from again.

Yes, yes, we Catholics believe in repentance and forgiveness. The family of a girl who’s been raped and murdered may and probably should forgive the perpetrator at some point, but the criminal goes to jail for life nonetheless. We like what Archbishop Timothy Dolan (Weakland’s successor) said about forgiving pedophile priests. To the assertion that the Church should forgive the perpetrator, Archbishop Dolan replied: "The Church forgives the priest, as long as he’s asked for forgiveness…. Yet — and here’s the tough part — while we forgive him, love him and still want to help him, we believe we cannot permit him to minister any longer…. There is a big difference between forgiveness and permissiveness. What it means is that, tragically, sin has severe consequences." To the assertion that it will never happen again, Archbishop Dolan replied: "It should never have happened in the first place, and well could happen again."

So what "severe consequences" have there been for Weakland? None. Before the Weakland scandal erupted, he had already submitted his resignation, upon turning 75, to the Pope. There was never any doubt that the Pope would accept Weakland’s resignation, but resignations were put on hold while Rome was dealing with the massive sex scandals in the American Church. After the Weakland scandal, the resignation was promptly accepted.

Yes, Weakland "begged forgiveness." Fine. But, as Archbishop Dolan says, "there is a big difference between forgiveness and permissiveness." Commonweal is being shamelessly permissive. So how do the editors of Commonweal justify their printing Archbishop Narcissus’s article? "It is not easy to judge contrition," they say. But that Weakland is willing to spout off so soon might say something about the nature of his contrition. However that may be, the man is overly endowed with chutzpah. Weakland is the kind of guy who, after murdering his father and mother, throws himself at the mercy of the judge on the grounds that he’s an orphan.

Since Commonweal finds it so hard to "judge contrition," we look forward to reading the prison memoirs of Rudy Kos, Paul Shanley, and the late John Geoghan in its pages. No doubt they’d have bountiful wisdom to offer on how to reform the hierarchy.

When the Weakland scandal broke, Al Szews, a stalwart orthodox Catholic in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, was quoted in The Wanderer (May 30, 2002) as saying about Weakland’s 25-year tenure in Milwaukee: "Weakland was petulant, egotistic, juvenile, and abusive, and these characteristics are consistent with homosexual behavior." We do wonder if Weakland's characteristics have changed.

Any normal man with Weakland’s track record would want to go off to a desert island, never to show his face again, never to be heard from again. Pity this poor egotistical Weakland. Once a prima donna, always a prima donna?

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