he abused man archdiocese paid $450,000
Archbishop asks Vatican to hasten retirement
By Marie Rohde
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff
May 24, 2002
Archbishop Rembert Weakland asked the Vatican to speed up his retirement Thursday after a former Marquette University theology student revealed that he was paid $450,000 in hush money to silence his allegations that Weakland sexually assaulted him.
Paul Marcoux, 54, received the money in 1998 - nearly two decades after the alleged encounter with Weakland.
Weakland, the highest ranking Catholic prelate to be accused of sexual misconduct in this year's priest sex scandal, denied that he abused Marcoux. But in a statement issued just hours after the news broke on ABC News' "Good Morning America," he asked Rome to move swiftly to replace him. "I do not want to be an obstacle" to the church regaining its credibility, he said.
District Attorney E. Michael McCann, meantime, said he would decide over the next few days whether to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether the settlement had been improperly obtained, raising the specter that one of the nation's best-known Catholic leaders could be charged criminally.
The accusations against Weakland are the latest tremor in a sex scandal that has shaken the foundations of the American church. In the eyes of some victims Thursday, Weakland's payment to a man for his silence about an alleged sexual affair called into question the archbishop's handling of other sex abuse cases under his watch as well as his handling of the church finances.
"He's been speaking out as of late, and meanwhile he's had his own inner struggle going on, and I'm very, very angry he hasn't been authentic with us," said Patricia Marchant, a Milwaukee psychotherapist who has treated victims of priests.
Left unanswered: Where did the money came from? It is that question that may most rile Catholics here, already outraged by other allegations of priest misconduct and coverup.
At "listening sessions" held at six parishes last week, a common theme was that Catholics didn't want their money used to pay for abuse settlements.
In his statement, the archbishop said he had contributed money of his own to the archdiocese from speaking honoria and payments for writing projects over the years, and "cumulatively, those monies far exceed any settlement amounts" reached with Marcoux.
Weakland reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 on April 2, but Pope John Paul II said he was delaying accepting retirements because of the scandal that up to now has largely involved priests who abused minors and bishops who covered up the misconduct.
Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, said it is likely that the Vatican will grant Weakland's request to speed up acceptance of his resignation.
"Finding a new archbishop for Milwaukee probably had been displaced in the order of priorities by these other pressing needs of the last few months," he said.
Marcoux said he was coming forward now to aid his own healing and because the many American Catholic bishops - including Weakland - had urged victims of priest sex abuse to come forward. He also said he was considering writing a book about his experiences.
"This has messed up my life," Marcoux said. "I suppose he could come after me for breaking the confidentiality agreement, but the bishops have urged victims to come forward."
He said his lawyers have said it's unlikely that Weakland would sue him for breaking the confidentiality agreement and that if he did judges "are reluctant to deprive people of their settlements" in such cases.
Brent Tyler, a Montreal lawyer who represented Marcoux, said he would not comment on the settlement because of the confidentiality agreement. "I haven't been relieved of those obligations," he said.
Another of his lawyers, Stephen Rabino of New Jersey, could not be reached.
Marcoux said he came to Milwaukee in 1975 to study at Marquette University. He lived with Father Ken Metz on the east side of Milwaukee, worked at a chemical plant and volunteered at Gesu Catholic Church next to Marquette's campus.
Metz invited Weakland to dinner in September 1979, and Marcoux said he and Weakland hit it off immediately. They had a lot in common: Weakland, a pianist, had studied at the famed Juilliard School while Marcoux said he had studied voice at Boston University and at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Both men also admired Bernard Longergan, the Jesuit priest philosopher and theologian, considered by many to be one of the finest thinkers of the 20th century.
A few weeks after the dinner, Marcoux - who had been contemplating entering the priesthood - called Weakland and inquired about entering the seminary. Weakland asked him to dinner.
Marcoux said the two men shared two bottles of wine and several aperitifs during dinner. Then Marcoux drove Weakland home and Weakland asked him in for a nightcap.
Inside the rectory, Weakland made advances, Marcoux said, adding that the combination of the alcohol and awe for priests that had been a part of his traditionally Catholic culture caused him to freeze. He said he rebuffed Weakland when the archbishop attempted intercourse.
Marcoux, who said he is bisexual, acknowledged that he ended an affair with a male University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor a short time before meeting Weakland but said he did not want a sexual relationship with the archbishop.
"I was considering entering the priesthood," Marcoux said. "I had hoped that I would be able to get into his seminary."
After the alleged attack, Marcoux said he continued to see Weakland and that there were "three or four other sexualized" encounters.
Susan Mitchell said she and her husband, Robin, were close to Marcoux and knew that he saw Weakland frequently during this period, going out to dinner or cultural events a couple of times a week.
"Paul was considering the priesthood and I do believe he had a vocation," said Mitchell, a founder of a conservative Catholic elementary school not recognized by the archdiocese.
In July 1980, Marcoux said he went to Nantucket, Mass., to meet Weakland for a vacation and that the archbishop made sexual overtures. Marcoux said he left Nantucket abruptly because he did not want a sexual relationship with Weakland.
The archbishop speaks of his love for Marcoux and the need to renew his commitment to celibacy, that he was weeping as he penned the letter and of the pressures of his office.
"During the last months I have come to know how strained I was, tense, pensive, without much joy," Weakland wrote. "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."
He wrote that he had given Marcoux $14,000 to fund a church program Marcoux had designed. Weakland said it was all the money he had and he refused to give Marcoux archdiocesan funds.
The letter did not end their relationship, Marcoux said, adding that the two went to Chicago in October, visited an art museum and had dinner before returning home. Marcoux claimed that Weakland again made overtures. It was soon after this that Marcoux said he left Milwaukee.
It was only much later, Marcoux said, that he realized he had been sexually abused by Weakland and decided to confront the archbishop.
Once that process began in 1997, lawyers negotiating the Marcoux settlement played hardball, documents obtained by the Journal Sentinel show.
Matt Flynn, a lawyer who represented Weakland and the archdiocese, made several threats that criminal charges of extortion could be brought against Marcoux or his lawyers if they filed a lawsuit claiming sexual abuse.
Tyler, the Montreal lawyer, asked that Flynn have the prosecutor put the threat in writing, saying that in Canada such a threat constituted extortion. In time, the two parties reached an agreement, which was signed in October 1998.
Living in San Francisco
In his August 1980 letter, Weakland gently expressed doubts about Christodrama but tried to reassure Marcoux that he had faith in his friend's talents. Weakland also expressed concern that Marcoux was wasting money with friends identified only as Vicki and Don. Marcoux said Don was a former lover and that Vicki was a friend.
Weakland said he was angry because he had not realized the depth of Marcoux's relationship with Don.
After leaving Milwaukee in 1980, Marcoux said he lived in several cities, never for very long. He said he continues to promote Christodrama full time.
While Christodrama never gained widespread popularity, the tapes were used in a class at Emory University, the archdiocese of Seattle and in Canada. A spokesman for ACTA, a religious publications firm in Chicago, said the video was no longer available.
Jessica McBride and Tom Heinen of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
Rembert G. Weakland
Original material copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.