Bishop Accountability
  1980 letter from Weakland to Marcoux

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The following is a transcription of a hand-written letter from Archbishop Rembert Weakland to Paul Marcoux, dated Aug. 25, 1980.

A handwriting analyst who reviewed the letter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel concluded it is done in Weakland's handwriting.

It was sent inside a card with the following quote:

Friendship is the
inexpressible comfort
of feeling safe with
a person having neither
to weigh thoughts
nor measure words.

- George Eliot


August 25, 1980

Dear Paul,

The epigram on the cover is more to stir me on than an expression of where - pro dolor - I am at. If I have great hesitancy in saying how I feel inside, I have even greater fear about writing about them. It all seems so permanent and irreversible that way. One of my traumatic memories during high school days was getting caught writing in my diary during study-hall rather than working and having the diary confiscated and read - I felt sure - by all the prefects. My mother's sage advice when I lamented about the injustice of it all was to warn me that I should not put down on paper what I would not want the whole world to read. - But here goes anyway. It will make our walk less heavy - or at least it will give you a jump on how I feel and a chance to reflect.

First of all, all this is far too heavy for me but I suppose that is the pain of deep love. The whole experience of the last weeks - and especially this week - has been a purifying one but an exhausting one with wounds that will heal only with more trust and time.

Where to start? After our last visit at my place before you left for Athens, I knew our Nantucket dream was in trouble. Your two calls made that doubly clear. You had made me promise earlier not to withdraw and I did want to make the trip and I did need the rest and the atmosphere I felt sure it would provide. But how to open up to you? I was frightened to do so. I just hated to confront the whole confusing situation as I saw it from my limited emotional angle. I am going to try now but I can't help but wonder - will he read it to the end? Will he understand that regardless of what the words say, I am still always reiterating how deep my affection for him is? Will I just muddle the whole affair, make matters worse and regret ever trying? Love is better than valor, so here goes.

After that visit I knew how much you needed money to bring off that Christodrama project and how much you counted on me for it. Your anger was evident that I couldn't play the great patron. I guess that was interpreted as rejection of you. Once before you had placed it in those terms. "If you don't have faith in the project, at least in me." Paul, I really have given you all that I personally possess. The $14,000 is really my personal limit: it was the money I got from my community when I became a bishop and I simply do not have private funds. What I can now do personally to help you will be minimal. I know you are pushing me for Church money, for some sort of Church support for the Midwest Institute of Christodrama. I feel you are putting me in an impossible situation here. I consider all that Church money as a sacred trust; it represents the offerings of 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. Hardly a day goes past I don't have to turn down such projects. I simply do not see how I can authorize money for your project. It is not because I don't love you but just because I am not (illegible) of a project. In all truth I do not see how you could possibly earn the kind of money you foresee, enough to live on in the style you are accustomed to, and still put any aside. I really felt that you were in for a sad awakening sooner or later down the road and it would best come now before you are too deeply involved. I know that others less gifted and less qualified than you demand high prices but usually they are people with another (illegible) - teaching, writing - who made a name for themselves first. You seem to want to start at the end (that's because you are so perceptive and have such a unique general background) and seem to get bored with the necessary stages that cannot be avoided. I am sorry if I gave you the wrong impression I would able financially to carry the project. If I lead you on to that conclusion, I do deeply regret it. I also find it hard to believe - and I refuse to do so but I wouldn't write this if a doubt did not gnaw within me - that this money aspect was so vital to our friendship. Was our friendship to proceed or fall on my ability to provide? I don't want to think so. There is a hurt there that needs reassuring.

I know also there was some hurt or disappointment on your part that I could not become as enthusiastic and as involved in psychodrama as you were. I do have ambivalent feelings about psychodrama. I can see the value of it as a technic but I do have my hesitations. The only results I have seen and that are measurable to me are you. I dreaded to see you go on any of those workshops because you always seemed worse to me, not better, because of them. They seemed to take you psychologically and emotionally apart and leave you strewn all over the yard and no time, no structure, no help to put it all back together to face life again. They did not seem to bring out and develop those dominant, excellent, beautiful qualities that make you loving Paul and left you self-centered or self concentrated. Should I not have reason to be skeptical? And I do not understand Christodrama. Since it is your invention you naturally are hypersensitive and take personally any criticism. I do think you are on to something. Whether it is a life project I do not know. I would doubt it. I judge it would have to be but one aspect of Christian conversion that should not stand alone. I know that term bothers some people. Probably to some it says too much - as if a secret neopelagianism were underneath and grace would be found, or as if all other aspects of sacramental life or of religious experience is not also Christodrama. (Perhaps Institute of Psychodrama and Christian Conversion would be a better title.) I also believe, Paul, that Christodrama would require a degree of spiritual development, both biblical and liturgical in orientation, if it were to be successful. You are capable of it, but are you there?

If only, Paul, you would weigh well your assets, those beautiful qualities we all love in you and accept your limitations. It is hard to talk straight to you because you close off discussion with signs of anger if one doesn't show signs of support. I suppose I became extremely cautious, perhaps overly supportive, almost to the point of dishonesty because of your depression and talk of suicide. It puts me in a kind of vicious circle I don't know how to get out of. I want to be honest and sincere with you - but I fear to be so since you need so much affirmation. I guess I just feel caught on that one. For example, I am baffled by your handling of money. But to say that perhaps administration is not your thing and you should always work as a team where that aspect will be taken care of by others is not say less of Paul but just to accept who you are. We all have lots of these limitations and will die happily with them as they are. You see this so well in Vicki and Don but not in Paul. Perhaps you will always have to do your best work as part of - and not always the dominant part of a team.

Now more about me - a dull subject, but so be it. During the last months I have come to know how strained I was, tense, pensive, without much joy. I couldn't pray at all. I just did not seem to be honest with God. I felt I was fleeing from Him, from facing Him. I know what the trouble was: I was letting your conscience take over for me and I couldn't live with it. I felt like the world's worst hypocrite. So gradually I came back to the importance of celibacy in my life - not just a physical celibacy but the freedom the celibate commitment gives. I knew I would have to face up to it and take seriously that commitment I first made thirty-four years ago. I found my task as priest-archbishop almost unbearable these months and I came to realize that I was at a crossroads - and I knew I had to get the courage to decide. There is no other way for me to live, Paul. Ridicule me if you must - I am expecting it. Say I am seeking escapes, but I must be me. I know now that I can never be to you a Don or anybody else. The amount of time at my disposal is so very limited. My function as bishop is all absorbing. There is no other way. I have to be free and unencumbered, if I want to give total service to His Church. There is no other way for me. I have neglected - not just prayer - these months but so many people as well because my life was so caught up in yours. The strain and tension in being bishop today, Paul, is greater than one would ever imagine - at least for me. I cannot give to you for this reason the kind of friendship you seem to need.

I cry as I write this: they are personally the greatest renunciations the Lord has asked me to make for His Kingdom. I don't ask you to understand - but I do ask you not to ridicule.

Then, Paul, there are a few angers I will have to get over. I felt you were never totally honest with me in relating your involvement with Don. The intensity of it only became evident when it broke apart. No wonder I failed to respond adequately. I still am a bit angry and perplexed at the whole money question and how you seemed to quit work too soon and waste money on Don, Vicki, etc. I guess I began to wonder what I was helping. And then I will need time to get over this past week. I felt humiliated, manipulated - a total complete failure on all counts. I failed you, I failed myself. I failed as a friend, I failed as priest. I just psychologically collapsed and froze. I did nothing but cry and try to pray in Boston. I only asked for some light of the Lord - the cruel punishment you gave me I deserved. I asked only that it help you in your moment of distress. Helplessness can be a paralyzing feeling. I prayed that somehow it would all be purifying and bring me - mostly you - to a new level of existence. I begged for forgiveness for having failed you and for the grace of standing up again and trying to be - not a bishop - just a Christian.

Paul, God is good.

I love you.


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