Matt C. Abbott
May 20, 2009
Weakland's demons
By Matt C. Abbott

Disgraced Archbishop Rembert Weakland is in the news again. Actually, his autobiography is what's making headlines.

In A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop, due out next month, and in a recent New York Times interview, the archbishop officially comes out of the closet and whines about Church teaching on homosexuality, among other things (click here for the story).

Seeing that he's now seeking publicity, I thought it would be fitting to reprint from Randy Engel's book The Rite of Sodomy (published in 2006) a lengthy excerpt about the archbishop and the damage he inflicted on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in particular and the Church in general. Thanks to Mrs. Engel for granting me permission to reprint the excerpt.

Excerpt from The Rite of Sodomy, by Randy Engel (endnotes are not included):

    George Weakland was born on April 2, 1927 and grew up in the coal-mining town of Patton in the Allegheny Mountains near Altoona, Pa. He was one of six children born to Basil and Mary Kane Weakland. His father owned a hotel, but it burned down when George was a little tyke, leaving the family in difficult straits.

    Like many adult homosexual men, George suffered the loss of his father at a very early age. He was only four when his father died. His courageous mother raised all her children, ages six months to nine years, by herself. George became the proverbial "good little boy" in the family.

    George Weakland's parish priest, Father McFadyen, recognized that the young boy had a remarkable aptitude for music and instructed a nun at the parish school to give him piano lessons.

    George was thinking about a career as a concert pianist and church organist, but decided to become a monk instead.

    Following a visit to the Benedictine Archabbey of St. Vincent's in Latrobe, Pa., and with the encouragement of Father McFadyen, George enrolled at St. Vincent's Preparatory School at the age of 13. In 1945, he pronounced his first vows as a Benedictine brother and took the name Rembert.

    His early years at St. Vincent's Seminary were relatively uneventful. He continued his piano and organ playing along with his academic studies. Except for his fellow songbirds in the Music Department, he had few friends and was described by one of his classmates as basically a loner — certainly never one of the boys. His health was said to be delicate and his demeanor effete.

    In 1948, at the age of 21, he went to Rome for theological studies at the International Benedictine College of Sant'Anselmo. He was ordained a priest of the Order of St. Benedict on June 24, 1951 at Subiaco, Italy by Bishop Lorenzo S. Salvi, OSB, Abbot Nullius of Subiaco Abbey. At this time he was given permission to continue his musical studies in Europe at the famous Julliard School of Music in New York. Weakland hoped to complete his doctoral thesis on Ambrosian chant at Columbia University before returning to St. Vincent, but that dream was 50 years away.

    One of the turning points in Weakland's clerical career came in 1956 when he met Giovanni Battista Montini, the Archbishop of Milan. Cut from the same temperamental cloth, Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, took a shine to the young Benedictine monk who spoke fluent Italian. Montini mentally earmarked Weakland for advancement when and if he (Montini) became pope.

    In June 1963, after serving in the Department of Music at St. Vincent's College for six years, Weakland was elected Coadjutor Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey.

    The timetable is such that Weakland would have crossed paths with the infamous pederast David Holley, who was accepted as a seminarian at St. Vincent's Archabbey in the mid-1950s and ordained a Benedictine priest in 1958. Holley is currently serving a 275-year prison sentence for the molestation of adolescent boys.

    On May 8, 1964, Montini, now Pope Paul VI, appointed Weakland as Consultant to the Commission for Implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. Weakland was a major architect of the final council document on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963).

    Following the close of the council, Weakland became a major player in international ecclesiastic politics in Rome at the Synods of Bishops in 1969, 1971, 1973, 1987 and 1997 and an important figure in the Liturgical Revolution in the United States and the Vatican.

    Pope Paul VI played an important role in the election of Weakland as Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order, worldwide, on September 29, 1967. Weakland was reelected to a second term as Abbot Primate in September 1973.

    On September 20, 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed Weakland to head the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The consecration took place side by side with Weakland's installation as Milwaukee's ninth archbishop by Archbishop Jean Jadot, Apostolic Delegate to the United States on November 8, 1977, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. Without any particularly notable spiritual qualities to recommend him, and despite the fact that he never served a day as pastor or assistant pastor in a parish, Weakland had made it almost to the top of the ecclesiastical ladder.

    Liberal Politics and Liberal Sexuality

    Rembert Weakland quickly became one of the darlings of the liberal hierarchy of the United States.

    His most important contributions to AmChurch during his tenure as Archbishop of Milwaukee were in the area of liturgical "reform" as a member of the NCCB Committee on the Liturgy, and ecumenical affairs as Chairman of the NCCB Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He also served at the Executive Level as a member of the NCCB and USCC Administrative Committees. Weakland was also a member of the controversial Ad Hoc Committee of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative intended to reach a middle ground position on the question — "To Kill or Not to Kill."

    Weakland had an acid tongue, especially when it came to condemning Catholic pro-life activists for their lack of "compassion" for mothers with problem pregnancies ignoring the fact that it was pro-lifers, not pro-abortionists, who built a world-wide network of supportive pregnancy centers to help mothers bring their babies to term.

    Archbishop Weakland was one of the first supporters of the forays of the Homosexual Collective into the Catholic Church in America. In [Father Enrique] Rueda's The Homosexual Network, published in 1982, Weakland's role in assisting the Collective to advance its agenda in AmChurch is well documented.

    As reported by Rueda, Weakland's pro-homosexual position including active support for pro-homosexual legislation is a matter of public record and his contribution to the Homosexual Movement has been acknowledged by all major national homosexual groups including the National Gay Task Force, Dignity and New Ways Ministry.

    Weakland's notorious homosexual apologia from his Herald of Hope column, "The Archbishop Shares: Who is Our Neighbor?" that appeared in the Catholic Herald Citizen, the diocesan weekly for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on July 19, 1980, is filled with vintage pro-homosexual Newspeak. Weakland employs pro-homosexualist linguistics throughout the text and defends every tenet of the Homosexual Collective from "homosexuality is inborn and irreversible" to "gay is good."

    The archbishop consistently uses the term "gay people" when referring to homosexuals. His essay undermines the Bible's condemnation of sodomy and debunks the idea that homosexuals prey on young boys. The pro-homosexual article appeared the same year that Archbishop Weakland himself engaged in a homosexual affair with a layman.

    Archbishop Weakland helped to found and fund the Milwaukee AIDS Project, a 1986 initiative that included condom distribution for "safe" homosex and "alternatives" to sodomy including mutual masturbation, consensual sadomasochist sex play and the use of "sex toys."

    Weakland permitted Dignity Masses at St. Pius X Catholic Church, with the rainbow flag draped on the floor for an altar, for more than ten years. He also permitted pro-homosexual religious orders such as the Salvatorians to reside in the diocese.

    Cradle-to-grave sex instruction had been implemented in the archdiocese with Weakland's enthusiastic backing. Young children have been sexualized and desacralized by systematic sex indoctrination through such programs as Wm. Brown's New Creation Series and so-called AIDS education that introduces children to the most perverse of all vices seductively packaged and wrapped in a blanket of compassion and tolerance. The pornographic films Father Untener used to desensitize seminarians at St. John's Seminary in Saginaw were used in the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 1978 to 1988 as part of the Sexual Attitudinal Restructuring Program for Catholic adults.

    Weakland is known in AmChurch and in Rome as a prelate who speaks his mind.

    Unfortunately, it is not a Catholic mind.

    He beat the drums for finding a "common ground" for baby-killing and for a homosexual priesthood. He defended the use of the condom as a prophylactic against AIDS. At the same time he opposed legitimate means of national defense, a primary function of government.

    However, it is in his handling of clerical sex abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that Archbishop Weakland reveals his true character.

    Playing Hardball in Milwaukee

    It can be said of Archbishop Weakland that he never met a clerical sex abuser he didn't like.

    In April, 2002, when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel began an extended series on clerical sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, District Attorney E. Michael McCann said his office was flooded with calls from victims, many of whom were molested by priests who were still being recycled from parish to parish.

    According to writer-researcher Robert A. Sungenis, "Out of 36 priests who were named as child molesters in the archdiocese, 21 of them are still in the Milwaukee area and 6 of those have active assignments. Not one of the 36 has ever been so much as questioned, and no parishioners, except the victims, knew the names of these priests."

    While the archdiocesan public relations department touted Weakland's model program for handling clerical sex offenders, the archbishop was shuffling offenders from parish to parish.

    A well-documented case in point was that of Father William Effinger, whose victims number over 150, mainly boys, but also some young girls. In 1993, a judge ordered the opening of hereto-sealed court records of the case and Weakland was deposed in connection with a lawsuit brought by nine of Effinger's victims.

    In April 1979, Effinger told Archbishop Weakland that he abused a 13-year-old altar boy named Joseph Cernigilia during the past Easter Week. The priest had asked Joseph to stay overnight at the parish rectory because of early Mass the next day. That evening, Effinger gave the boy a beer, got him into the only available bed and molested him. Cernigilia told his parents about the molestation. The following morning, after the Easter Sunday Mass, they confronted the criminal priest and shortly thereafter informed Weakland of the abuse. Weakland said the matter should be kept quiet for the child's sake and promised that the priest would never be put in a position where he could harm another boy. At about the same time, Weakland was privy to a second allegation concerning Father Effinger.

    Weakland sent the wayward priest away for evaluation and treatment.

    That same fall, Weakland reassigned Effinger to Holy Name Parish in Sheboygan where the priest had daily access to parochial school children.

    For the next 13 years, Weakland moved Effinger around the archdiocese from parish to parish until 1992 when one of the priest's teenage victims, now grown, confronted the priest, recorded their conversation and took the taped confession to the archdiocese and a television station. Only Weakland's fear of adverse publicity prompted him to act.

    Effinger was convicted in 1993 of the sexual assault of a 14-year-old-boy. Effinger died in prison in 1996 of cancer.

    The real kicker in the Effinger case was that after the priest went to jail, one of the boys he molested sued the archdiocese, but the suit was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired. Weakland turned around and directed the diocesan lawyers to file a countersuit against the boy's family. The archbishop recovered $4,000 in court costs from the victim. This vicious and vindictive act is typical of the homosexual personality. It also served to warn other victims of sexual abuse against filing lawsuits against the archdiocese.

    Then there is the twice-arrested, twice-convicted boy molester Father Dennis Pecore. "The Pecore Affair" is reported by Margaret Joughin in a two-part online series, "The Weakland File."

    In January 1987, Pecore was charged with the sexual abuse of 14-year-old Gregory Bernau, who attended Mother of Good Council School. Pecore performed acts of oral copulation and sodomy on the boy. The molestation began in January 1984 and continued through December 1985. In 1986, Bernau reported Father Pecore to the police for sexual abuse. On July 24, 1987, Pecore pleaded guilty to pedophilia and received a one-year jail sentence. Seven years later, he molested another boy and was given a 12-year sentence.

    The saga of Father Pecore began in 1983 when Weakland moved a new three-member "pastoral team" into Good Council Parish in Milwaukee. The "team" consisted of Father Fred Rosing, pastor, and Fathers Dennis Pecore and Peter Schuesler. Parishioners and teachers were put off by the arbitrary actions and financial mismanagement of "the team," but what drew the greatest concern was the fact that Pecore was bringing young boys into his bedroom one at a time. Father Bruce Brentrup, the school principle was aware of the moral turpitude that marked the behavior of the new pastor and his assistants. In 1984, one year after the arrival of Rosing & Company, poor Father Brentrup was history.

    Young Greg Bernau became one of Pecore's sex toys.

    On at least two occasions, Pastor Rosing entered Pecore's bedroom while the priest was abusing Bernau. Rosing said hello to the boy and left the bedroom — no questions were asked because no answers were needed.

    On one occasion, when Greg's mother, distressed by Pecore's unnatural attentions toward her son, called the rectory and was told that her son was not there. Mrs. Bernau got into her car, drove by the rectory and spotted her son's bike parked outside. It wasn't until she knocked on the rectory door that a priest came to the door and acknowledged that Greg was indeed there.

    While the molestation of Greg Bernau was underway, Archbishop Weakland had been informed in writing by three teachers from the parish school regarding their concerns about Pecore's pederastic interests, especially in Gregory Bernau. Weakland responded by threatening the whistleblowers. He told them that "any libelous material found in your letter will be scrutinized carefully by our lawyers." Eventually, Weakland saw to it that all of the teachers involved in the confrontation lost their jobs. Their letters of termination were signed by Father Rosing who had also engineered Father Brentrup's dismissal.

    After the first arrest and conviction of Father Pecore, Greg Bernau and his family reached an out-of- court settlement with Weakland and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for $595,000 and an additional $200,000 in court fees. Against the wishes of the Bernau family, but at the insistence of the Archdiocese, the court records were sealed. However, on May 2, 1988 at the request of Mr. Bernau, Judge Robert J. Miech ordered the records unsealed and opened to the public. Weakland's complicity in this moral outrage was exposed for all to see. No action was taken against Father Pecore's partner in crime, Father Rosing.

    Another interesting case is that of Father James L. Arimond, columnist for the notorious homosexual magazine The Wisconsin Light. Arimond considers homosexuality "God's holy gift." Archbishop Weakland permitted Arimond to give pro-homosexual pep rallies at the archdiocesan Cousins Centre. The archbishop repeatedly ignored protests regarding Arimond's pro-homosexual activities and even gave the priest a promotion. Father Arimond was defrocked after he was convicted and jailed in 1990 for a sexual assault on a teenage boy. Arimond later became a licensed professional counselor in the state of Wisconsin.

    One subscriber to The Wisconsin Light wrote that the Archbishop Weakland's own parish, St. John's Cathedral, is "second only to the homosexual bar district and the shopping mall as a homosexual gathering place."

    It seems the list of clerical pederasts and homosexual priests acting out in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, whom Weakland protected, could go on forever.

    There was former seminary rector Father Jerome Clifford of the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Milwaukee, who resigned amidst multiple charges of sexual misconduct.

    There was Father David Hanser, who molested the sons of Catholic parishioners for three decades, including three brothers in one family.

    There was Father Peter Burns, another priest with a long record of young male victims. Even though the priest's superiors knew of his affinity for young boys, he was permitted to have young men sleep overnight at St. Peter Claver's rectory. Burns was also an active member of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. Tragically, one of his victims, whose parents decided not to press charges against Father Burns, committed suicide in 1992. Up until the day of his arrest and eventual imprisonment, officials of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee permitted Father Burns to freely roam the archdiocese without anyone being informed of his criminal activities.

    There was Father Thomas Walker, who was arrested just one month after Weakland ordained him in 1989 for allegedly having sex with a truck driver, and arrested again in 1999 for prostitution and masturbation.

    And there was layman Robert E. Thibault, Weakland's top liaison to the Boy Scouts and a teacher of religion at a Catholic school, who was arrested in an Internet child sex sting.

    Down With Squealers

    Weakland shares an attitude toward pederasty and homosexuality that is consistent with a "gay" ideology and his own dark secret life.

    In a 1988 column in the diocesan paper The Catholic Herald, the archbishop wrote, "Not all adolescent victims are so innocent. Some can be very sexually active and aggressive and often quite streetwise." He was later forced to apologize for his loose speech regarding the culpability of teenage victims of pederast priests.

    In a 1994 interview with a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Weakland said that true pedophilia among priests was rare. This is a correct statement. Pederast priests are homosexuals looking for fresh, AIDS-free meat. He referred to such relationships 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. "That is when the squealing comes in and you have to deal with it."

    Years later, his verbal indiscretion came back to haunt him. Weakland said he couldn't remember using the "infelicitous word" (squealing). As Dave Umhoefer, staff writer for the Sentinel, observed, Weakland's views on teen sex abuse took on new meaning after the Marcoux scandal broke in May 2002.

    There have also been recent revelations of past criminal activity involving a minor at Archbishop Weakland's alma mater, St. Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa.

    A civil lawsuit filed on May 19, 2000 in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court by Mary Bonson of Port Matilda charges that her son was abused by a priest at her parish and then taken to the Benedictine Archabbey where he was abused by two other monks. The Defendants in the case are the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Bishop Joseph V. Adamec, former Bishop James Hogan; the Benedictine Order in Westmoreland County, and three Benedictine monks including Father Alvin T. Downey a psychiatric nurse and monk at the abbey. Mary Bonson said her son had only revealed his own abuse when she was talking with him about another sex abuse incident that occurred at their parish St. John's Catholic Church in Bellefonte in Centre County.

    Her son, a former altar boy, said he was abused at St. John's by Father Downey, who was serving as a substitute priest from St. Vincent's during the summer of 1980. Her son, who was 16 at the time the alleged molestation was reported to have occurred, said the monk plied him with alcohol and drugs including amyl nitrate capsules used to relax the sphincter muscles in anticipation of sodomy. The lawsuit alleges Downey was eventually removed from St. John's "as a result of some misconduct made known to the Bishop (Hogan) and Benedictine Society" and assigned to the Archabbey, but continued to make visits to Bellefonte to see the plaintiff's son. Unaware of Downey's record as a pederast, Bonson invited the priest to an overnight stay. While she was at work, Bonson said the priest molested her son in her bedroom.

    In April, 1981, Downey sent Bonson's son a bus ticket to visit the Archabbey where the Pittsburgh Steelers work out each spring. He told Mary Bonson that he would introduce her son to the famous Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw, whom Downey said he knew. In the evenings, the priest took the boy from the seminary where he was staying over to the monastery where Downey lived. The boy claimed that two other monks joined Downey and performed oral sex on him. The lawsuit also charges that Downey abused the youth at a retreat lodge for monks and priests at St. Vincent commonly known as "The Ridge." Before his retirement, Bishop Anthony Bosco, a former auxiliary of Bishop John Wright of Pittsburgh, relieved all three monks of their positions at St. Vincent's pending the outcome of the trial.

    Although the alleged abuse took place more than 20 years ago and thus is not prosecutable under the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, the fact that the suit was filed by the victim's mother who only recently learned of the abuse opened the door to litigation.

    On February 6, 2004, Judge Gary B. Caruso ruled that Bonson did have standing and the case against officials of St. Vincent's and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown who knew of the abuse and cover-up could move forward. Judge Caruso held that the mother was "deceived" and made into "an unwitting accomplice" in the harm of her own child.

    On May 18, 2004, Judge Caruso dismissed the charges against the two monks who were alleged to have participated in the assault on Bonson's son. His ruling, however, kept the suit active against the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, Bishops Hogan and Adamec, and the Rev. Downey. John Morrison, Bonson's son, also filed a separate lawsuit with the Westmoreland court.

    John Morrison, who is not named in Bonson's lawsuit, has suffered severe psychiatric trauma and has been treated for suicidal thoughts and depression. Like many victims of sexual abuse, there may not be a second chance for him in this world, but this writer is confident there will be in the next.

    Weakland and the Paul Marcoux Affair

    On April 2, 2002, having reached his 75th birthday, Archbishop Rembert Weakland submitted his resignation to the Holy See. Considering Weakland's long track record of dissent and his many contributions to the ruination of Catholic liturgical practices, one would think that the Holy See would have jumped at the opportunity to rid itself of the troublesome prelate. Unfortunately, the Holy See dawdled, so that when the Marcoux scandal broke the following month, Archbishop Weakland was still at his post.

    On May 14, 2002, a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel received a tip that a man living in San Francisco named Paul Marcoux wanted to go public concerning his sexual abuse at the hands of Archbishop Weakland and the 1998 financial settlement he had reached with Weakland and Archdiocese of Milwaukee to keep the affair hush hush. The reporter flew out to California to interview Marcoux, but the latter backed out at the last minute. Marcoux's apparent vacillation and his failure to produce a copy of the settlement contract convinced Martin Kaiser, the editor of the Journal Sentinel, to drop the story. Kaiser was unaware that Marcoux had also been in touch with ABC officials.

    On Thursday, May 23, 2002, ABC News investigative reporter broke the news of the allegations against Archbishop Weakland on the "Good Morning America" television show.

    The archdiocese was ready with a prepared statement that very same day.

    Jerry Topczewski, Weakland's public relations agent, issued a formal statement on behalf of the archbishop. The statement noted that Archbishop Weakland had asked the Holy Father to accelerate his resignation. In response to the claim of Paul Marcoux that the archbishop had sexually assaulted him 20 years ago and the archdiocese had made a settlement with Marcoux, Weakland responded:

      'I have never abused anyone. I have not seen Paul Marcoux for more than 20 years. When I first met him here in Milwaukee, he was a man in his early 30s. Paul Marcoux has made reference to a settlement agreement between us. Because I accept the agreement's confidentiality provision, I will make no comment about its contents. Because I have financial responsibility for the well-being of the archdiocese, I want to let the people of the archdiocese know that through my 25 years as bishop, I have handed over to the archdiocese money obtained by my lectures and writings, together with other honoraria. Cumulatively, those monies far exceed any settlement amount. Given the climate in today's world where the church must regain its credibility, this situation would be an added and continuing distraction from that goal. I do not want to be an obstacle to that search on the part of the church, which I will continue to love with all my heart and which I have served to the best of my abilities for these 51 years. As required by church law, I submitted my resignation as archbishop to the Holy Father on my 75th birthday on April 2nd. I have now asked the Vatican to accelerate its acceptance. I ask for prayers and healing.'

    Let us reexamine the main points of the press statement beginning with some biographical data on Paul Marcoux.

    Paul Marcoux was born in Michigan in 1949, an only boy with two sisters. His parents and a sister died when Paul was in his early 20s. His surviving sister said that he took the deaths very hard and was in an "emotionally delicate" condition for several years. Paul was a homosexual and lived a homosexual life, although he liked to describe himself as a "bisexual."

    Prior to his entering Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1975, he had earned some undergraduate credits in Michigan, at Boston College and at the Sorbonne in Paris where he studied voice. Starting in 1976, Marcoux took some undergraduate courses in philosophy. The following year he attended graduate-level classes in theology. He left Marquette in December 1978 without completing any degree and took a job at an area chemical plant.

    One of Marcoux's great passions was the theater. He created a religious psycho-drama program called "Christodrama" in which participants acted out scenes from the Bible and then discussed how these stories relate to their own lives. He had hopes of one day turning his idea into a commercial venture.

    While in Milwaukee, Marcoux lived with Father Ken Metz on the eastside of the city. One evening in September 1979, Metz invited Archbishop Weakland to dinner. The new archbishop had been in office less than two years. Apparently the two men hit it off immediately. Despite their age difference of more than twenty years, the two men shared some common interests. They both had a passion for music. They were both admirers of the Canadian Jesuit philosopher, theologian, and economist, Father Bernard Lonergan.

    But the unspoken tie that bound the two men together was their homosexual desires. Shortly before Marcoux met the archbishop, he had ended an affair with a male professor from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Marcoux said he was not shopping for another lover when he met Weakland nor was he sexually attracted to the older priest. For his part, Weakland has never even remotely suggested that Marcoux was his "first" love.

    The following month, Marcoux called Weakland ostensibly to inquire about entering the diocesan seminary. Weakland suggested they talk over dinner and wine. According to Marcoux, after dinner he drove the archbishop to his residence. Weakland invited him up for a nightcap. Marcoux accepted. After a few more drinks, Marcoux said Weakland made sexual overtures to him and began to kiss him. When Weakland succeeded in pulling down his pants in an attempt to sodomize him, Marcoux, who was drunk, said he resisted the "attack." In a later interview Marcoux said he did not go to the police because two priests advised against it.

    Subsequent events would cast a long shadow over the reliability of Marcoux's alleged "attack" by Archbishop Weakland that night. The evidence suggests that Marcoux saw Weakland as a meal ticket and the archbishop saw him as a meal.

    Following what Marcoux called the equivalent of a "date rape," the two men had at least "three or four other sexualized encounters." Friends of Marcoux said they continued to go out to dinner and cultural events a couple of times a week.

    In July 1980, Marcoux traveled to Nantucket, Mass., where Weakland was spending a retreat-vacation. According to Marcoux, Weakland once again pressed him for sexual favors forcing him to leave abruptly. Their "Nantucket dream," as the archbishop referred to the incident, had gone sour.

    By this point Weakland had already given Marcoux $14,000, money he had received from fellow Benedictines at the time of his elevation to Archbishop of Milwaukee. The ostensible purpose of the gift was to finance Marcoux's Midwest Institute of Christodrama.

    On August 25, 1980, the frustrated and jealous Weakland, in the midst of a typical homosexual hissy fit, sat down to write Marcoux a lengthy "Dear John" letter. First, Weakland expressed his "deep love" for Marcoux. He regretted that he could not be the "great patron" that Marcoux was pressing him to be and $14,000 was his personal limit — threats of suicide not withstanding. Neither could he afford to keep Marcoux in the life style to which he (Marcoux) had become accustomed. Weakland said he was sorry if he had led Marcoux to think otherwise, but he hoped that their friendship could transcend differences of petty finances.

    The archbishop said it was about time that he took seriously the vow of chastity that he made 34 years ago — a vow that gave him the freedom to fulfill his ministry.

    Weakland acknowledged that his relationship with Marcoux had become both financially and emotionally draining. He found himself obsessing over his newfound love to the point that he was neglectful of his duties. The problem was that Marcoux did not reciprocate those feelings. Weakland accused Marcoux of still having an attachment to his former lover, Don, and of hiding those feelings from him in order to retain his favor (and money). "I know now that I can never be to you a Don or anybody else," wrote Weakland.

    The archbishop said he was crying as he concluded his letter. He "felt humiliated, manipulated — a total failure on all counts..." He asked the Lord to help them both, begged Marcoux's forgiveness for having failed him and "for the grace of standing up again and trying to be — not a bishop — just a Christian." He signed off — "I love you, Rembert."

    Weakland's letter to Marcoux no doubt dampened their relationship, but did not end it entirely. According to Marcoux, he and Weakland went to Chicago that October to visit an art exhibit and have dinner, after which the archbishop is said to have renewed his amorous intentions. Soon after this incident Marcoux left Milwaukee and did some traveling and promoting of "Christodrama." He finally settled down in San Francisco.

    For his part, Weakland returned to the business of being a bishop.

    In the spring of 1981, Archbishop Weakland wrote a letter to all the priests in the Archdiocese on the subject of celibacy. The archbishop urged them to uphold their commitment to celibacy, but said lapses were inevitable and should be treated with compassion. In a quasi-confessional tone he acknowledged that at times sexuality can become "a pervasive and domineering preoccupation in one's life." In response to follow-up questions by Journal Sentinel reporters on his letter to his priests, Weakland told them that he would not put a gay priest on a "guilt trip," and he proceeded to deliver a lengthy discourse on homosexuality and how society forces "gays into their own subculture."

    Ten years later, in an interview with The New Yorker, Weakland talked about the "trials" of the celibate life, especially the loneliness, and of his own attraction to women.

    "While I see the great merit in celibacy — the freedom it gives you — perhaps there are people who can't make that sacrifice. And yet we continue to demand that they do — if they want to be priests. Across the board, celibacy works to our detriment in the church," Weakland concluded.

    Weakland Reaches Settlement with Marcoux

    One can only assume that when the archbishop received a letter from Paul Marcoux dated July 20, 1997 claiming that he now recognized that he had been sexually abused by the archbishop 20 years before, Weakland found himself in a state of utter panic. Marcoux proposed that the two meet with their legal aides on neutral grounds to discuss the matter. When the archbishop did not respond, Marcoux retained a Montreal lawyer, Brent T. Tyler, to plead his case of sex abuse against Archbishop Weakland.

    On August 29, 1997, Tyler sent Archbishop Weakland a letter making a formal claim for damages. He invited Weakland to instruct the archdiocesan legal staff to enter into negotiations in order to reach a settlement of said claim. The battle was on.

    The lead attorney for the archdiocese, Matthew J. Flynn of the firm Quarles & Brady in Milwaukee, advised Weakland to play hardball. Flynn was confident that Wisconsin's statute of limitation laws would apply to the case. In his lengthy correspondence with Tyler over the next year, Flynn repeatedly warned Tyler against any attempts at extorting money from Archbishop Weakland or the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

    Flynn said that Milwaukee District Attorney E. Michael McCann, in whom Weakland had earlier confided his fears that a former adult sex partner might try to blackmail him, had told Flynn that if Marcoux filed a civil lawsuit it would constitute the felony of extortion. Tyler was not deterred by Flynn's threats. He was betting on Archbishop Weakland's unwillingness to have his secret life publicly exposed. The key issue, he knew, was not sex abuse per se but the archbishop's homosexuality.

    Tyler's bet paid off.

    On October 6, 1998, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee signed a confidential agreement giving Marcoux $450,000 in exchange for an agreement not to sue Weakland, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee or the Benedictine Order, his sworn perpetual silence and the return of all his correspondence with the archbishop. Neither the archbishop nor the archdiocese admitted guilt. The money was taken from the Bishop Trust Endowment Fund and the Properties and Building Fund and transferred to a Montreal bank account.

    There were only four archdiocesan personnel who knew about the secret settlement with Marcoux: Weakland, Flynn, the archdiocesan financial advisor, and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba, who was consecrated by Weakland in 1979. The Vatican was never informed of the settlement.

    According to Jerry Topczewski, spin-doctor for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, "The Vatican did not know about the payment previously, nor should they have," he said. "The people who needed to know and were authorized to issue a check did," he said. "There was no need for anyone else to know."

    Paul Marcoux returned to San Francisco to spend his money....

© Matt C. Abbott

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He has been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR and WLS-TV in Chicago, and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback from readers. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me... (more)

Subscribe

Receive future articles by Matt C. Abbott: Click here

Latest articles