Milwaukee archbishop removes disgraced previous bishops’ names from diocesan buildings
MILWAUKEE, March 20, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Milwaukee’s archbishop announced Tuesday he is removing the names of predecessors Archbishops William Cousins and Rembert Weakland from diocesan buildings “as a sign of repentance” for their cover-up of priests accused of sexual abuse.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki made the announcement in a March 19 diocesan newsletter and told a local radio station the notion of removing the names had been raised for several years, Catholic News Agency reported.
“As the Church continues to restore trust in its response to clergy sexual abuse, the timing seemed right to do so now,” Listecki told WTMJ.
Cousins led the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from 1958 to 1977, and Weakland served as archbishop from 1977 to 2002.
Archdiocesan documents reveal that during those 44 years, the two failed to remove priests accused, in some instances by dozens of people, of sexual abuse, according to Catholic News Agency.
They “oversaw some of the archdiocese’s most notorious child molesters, keeping them in posts or moving them to new assignments without telling families of their histories,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
That included “Lawrence Murphy, who abused hundreds of deaf boys, some of whom were groomed in the confessional; and Sigfried Widera, who was facing 42 counts of child abuse in Wisconsin and California when he jumped to his death from a Mexico hotel room in 2003,” it reported.
Listecki is removing Cousins’s and Weakland’s names from diocesan buildings “[a]s a sign of our repentance, and because of the pain caused to abuse survivors and their families with regard to the handling of sexual abuse allegations,” he wrote in his newsletter.
However, he made no mention that Weakland, who in his time was widely regarded as the one of the most liberal U.S. bishops, resigned in 2002 amid revelations he paid out $450,000 in diocesan funds to silence a seminarian who accused him of sexual assault.
It was later revealed that the seminarian, Paul Marcoux, and Weakland had engaged in a consensual homosexual relationship, which Weakland ended in 1980.
Weakland’s memoir, A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church, describes how his homosexuality “came to life in my own self, how I suppressed it, how it resurrected again,” the archbishop told reporters in 2009.
“What is most disappointing” is that Weakland’s “sexual perversions and obsessions colored the way he led the Archdiocese of Milwaukee,” Michael Rose, author of Good Bye Good Men, told LifeSiteNews at that time.
In his 25 years in charge, the homosexual prelate turned the archdiocese “into a bastion of liberalism that encouraged dissent from the teachings of the Church on sexual issues and a host of others. Gay ministry and radical feminism were welcome while orthodoxy was maligned,” said Rose.
Nevertheless, Weakland Center, the parish pastoral center for St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in downtown Milwaukee, remained so named until last week, when the name was “quietly removed,” reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Also removed was a bas-relief inside the cathedral “depicting Weakland shepherding small children,” it reported.
A new name for the diocesan headquarters will be announced Friday.
Listecki expressed hope his step would provide sex abuse victims some peace, Catholic News Agency reported.
“Just one bishop’s errant actions (or inaction) is enough to taint every bishop,” and it is his responsibility to “rebuild trust,” he said in his letter.
“Whether it was clericalism, a misguided intent to protect the institutional Church or the desire to avoid scandal, regard for priest offenders often trumped care for victims,” Listecki wrote.
“For this, I apologize to abuse survivors and to the faithful of this archdiocese. You deserved better.”
Meanwhile, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is pushing the archdiocese to release the names of more than 100 alleged priest abusers that remain sealed in a 2015 bankruptcy agreement, in which the archdiocese “paid out $21 million to about 330 of the more than 500 victims who filed claims in the bankruptcy,” reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Listecki opposes unsealing the names, it reported.
In December 2017, Listecki supported homosexual priest Fr. Gregory Greiten in “coming out” to his parish and publicly, even though Greiten conspicuously did not mention any commitment to personal chastity in doing so.
In September 2018, Listecki condemned a retreat for “gay priests, brothers and deacons,” sponsored the dissident New Ways Ministry and held at a center run by Racine Dominican Sisters in his archdiocese, but said he did not have the authority to stop it.