Fishwrap gives Archbp. Weakland a pass on clerical sexual abuse of children

As I was slumming through the site of the Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) I stepped in their piece about retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s role in the clerical sexual abuse scandals in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

I got to the end of the piece and scratched my head.  I had the sense that Fishwrap gave Archbp. Weakland a pass.

Among other things, Weakland explained that, back in the day, … well… let’s quote Fishwrap:

In the deposition, Weakland said he did treat priests with more leniency because they were men of the cloth.

“I admit that in many ways we treated, or I treated, the priest a little bit differently than I would have treated an ordinary school teacher,” Weakland said. “There was a certain obligation that I had toward the priests that went beyond what I might have toward anyone else.”

Get that?  Today, that sounds pretty bad.  When bishops and priests talk about how they used to handle the sexual abuse problems way back when, we all cringe now and even get angry at the “cover up”, the “clericalism”, the “lack of accountability”.  We get mad.

At the end of the piece…

Nine years after Weakland’s resignation, the Milwaukee archdiocese became the eighth in the nation to file for bankruptcy. It spent more than $29 million over 20 years to cover costs associated with the sex abuse scandal. Weakland was archbishop during the majority of the sex abuse cases.

Doesn’t sound very good, does it?

Here’s my problem.

As you read on in Fishwrap‘s piece about Weakland, you never get protestations of outrage, anger, disappointment about how this BISHOP didn’t do enough to protect children and punish priest abusers, etc. etc.

What has Fishwrap written about bishops who have had far less naïveté than Weakland?

Fishwrap had a Schadenfreude-induced, spittle-flecked nutty over Bp. Finn’s mistake in Kansas City.  Even poor Orestes wasn’t pursued by the Furies as relentlessly as NSR went after Finn.

I looked around on the site of the Fishwrap for editorials denouncing Archbishop Weakland’s handling of the crisis in his archdiocese.  I searched for articles along the lines of those they fired off about Bp. Finn in Kansas City.

Maybe I am missing something.  Perhaps you readers can find them?


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  1. sw85 says:

    Wasn’t Weakland the fellow who embezzled diocesan funds to keep his old male lover silent?

    Ahh, but he was a liturgical dance aficianado, so all is forgiven!

  2. schmenz says:

    Oh, the Fix is definitely in, Father, for our dear Rembert. Yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal coverage pretty much did the same thing, essentially ignoring the responsibility of that man for these outrages and selectively quoting him to make it sound as if he were a wise, astute and an impartial judge. Sickening. Only in one lowly paragraph towards the bottom of the article was Rembert’s own sodomy referred to and then only in the most oblique terms.

    Weakland has much to answer for. Though the situation with him was not helped when both Dolan and Listecki had him present at their installation Masses. In saner days the man would either have been in prison or banished from sight when his successor took over.

  3. disco says:

    Fishwrap and all liberals have a common problem: they believe homosexual activity is not sinful and they seem to have a mental disconnect between it and sexual abuse. Where in the past, it would be taken for granted that homosexual persons might abuse children it is now thought virtually impossible. Great pains are taken to distinguish acts of abuse from homosexuality, even when objectively the acts in question were between two males. As though a heterosexual person would seek out victims of the same sex.

    Weakland is a homosexual and therefore he deserves all the benefit of whatever doubt that there is.

  4. torch621 says:

    Like others have said, Weakland is an avowed homosexual, and therefore he gets a free pass from the liberals for being a part of an “oppressed minority”.

  5. Does Ab. Weakland get a pass because he is an admitted homosexual, or because of his leadership in the wreckovation of the Roman liturgy and of Catholic faith and morality more generally?

  6. Cathy says:

    Disco, I think it goes deeper than that, I don’t think they consider any sexual activity or abuse as sinful as long as it does not produce an unwanted child that cannot be easily disposed of. As well, the litmus test of a good bishop, in their eyes, is one who openly dissents on Church teaching regarding ordination to the ministerial priesthood. Dissent, to NSR, is considered scholarly, while obedience to Church teaching is considered blind.

  7. DisturbedMary says:

    Weakland was as gay as a fruitcake. Thou shalt not criticize gaiety. Fishwrap and the gaystapo, appreciate the outright lie/misdirection that priestly abuse be called pedophilia. This way they can avoid that truth that 81% of the abusers were homosexual priests whose victims were teenage boys. Pederasty, I think it’s called. They simply will not hear it and they can go on and on ad nauseum about the little children victims. Amazingly, the bishops are rowing the same denial boat with the other oar. They don’t call the abuse what it is either. They hardly ever even use the term “homosexual”. The two side are rowing in the same direction — away from the truth. Clever the devil, eh?

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Well, I don’t get it. But obviously Weakland must have come across well to some people. I went back and looked at the old “From the Anchor Hold” blog by St. Blog’s original anchoress, Karen Marie Knapp. (She passed away many years ago, but she had a great spiritual blog. I hope she still prays for us.) And she had a post all about “our beloved retired archbishop,” and how Milwaukee Catholics banded together to pay off payouts to reduce the burden on the archdiocese. And she wasn’t being ironic; she thought well of Weakland and many of his associates, though of course she thought badly of their sins.

    Of course, it may be about knowing people when they’re young and are still nice and well-meaning. Or maybe it’s a spiritual level I’ve never achieved. But unless this Weakland guy has really high attractiveness or something, I don’t see how so many people could have liked him.

  9. Suburbanbanshee says:

    But part of the mystery of salvation is that libertines and hypocrites can stand at the altar and confect the Eucharist, ex opere operato, and similarly that a saint can feel grateful for the correct teaching, however hypocritical, coming from a scandalous sinner.

    And so we see posts like Knapp’s, where a woman of chastity and prayer lovingly thanked Weakland for teaching her to live single, simple, and submitted. It is like a rosebush growing out of a dungheap, but it did happen.

  10. GOR says:

    I get very annoyed every time Weakland’s name appears in print. Not only did Dolan have him at his consecration, but he allowed him to confer Confirmations in the archdiocese, until the parishioners of a suburban parish protested.

    But, unlike Ab. Gomez in LA with Cdl. Mahony, neither Dolan nor Listecki publicly ordered Weakland to have no further role in the archdiocese. And Weakland has not exactly shunned the limelight with his writings and support from the likes of Commonweal. His protests of regret and repentance ring hollow.

    But he continues to have support among many of the Milwaukee clergy. One has to wonder why…?

  11. Athelstan says:

    Hello Fr. Z,

    This has long been a tale of “Whose ox is being gored?” Or, rather, whose favorite bishop.

    I can think of a few principled progressives who have expressed genuine outrage over Weakland’s misdeeds, and lump him in with the rest of the bad bishops. But too many find it difficult to get past his leadership on progressive causes. Margaret Steinfels, whose work has appeared in NCR, infamously insisted even years after his departure that Weakland was ‘a good bishop,’ and decried the ‘witch hunt’ which she believed had removed him from power. She even wrote the foreword to his book.

    When ideology takes over, morality is too easily pushed to the sidelines. I can’t defend every aspect of Bishop Finn’s handling of the Ratigan case, which struck me as being too passive and naive, especially given that it happened in the wake of blizzards of sex scandal revelations. But it stands far in the shade of what we now know that Weakland did during his long tenure in Milwaukee. And there’s no question which prelate’s role has garnered the vastly greater ink, bandwidth, and editorial indignation at the NCR.

  12. boko fittleworth says:

    Here’s another important thing to remember about Weakland. Paul VI wrote a letter admitting that Mass in the vernacular would lead to the loss of the treasury of chant among the people, but offered the consolation that the treasury would be preserved in the Benedictine monasteries. Then Weakland, as head of the Benedictines, went around the world getting rid of chant in the monasteries. I’m simplifying, but that’s basically what happened. Weakland HATED the Church and her liturgy and her architecture. He was a destroyer. A deliberate, programmatic destroyer.

  13. Lepidus says:

    GOR – The one thing that at least Listecki did (and the man who wanted to be pope wouldn’t) was insist that Weakland’s name be removed from the Eucharistic Prayer. Prior to him coming out with that comment, he would be mentioned as “Weakland our retired bishop” or “Bishop emeritus”. I always thought that it would have been more appropriate to ay “Weakland, our disgraced bishop”….

  14. GOR says:

    Lepidus, I had not heard that.

    And apparently my pastor hasn’t either, as he continues to name Weakland in the Eucharistic Prayer as one of Listecki’s “helping bishops…”

    Maybe he is just being charitable – as all of us are in need of prayers! But to designate him as a ‘helping bishop’ is what gets me. Being less charitable, I can think of other appellations…

  15. rbbadger says:

    I did read Archbishop Weakland’s autobiography. It was all I could do to stop from flinging the book across the room in anger. The hubris of the man knows no bounds. I was actually appalled at the hubris and narcissism on display in those pages. Then, there’s what he’s done to the mother church of Milwaukee. Not only are there images of Weakland to be found in his former cathedral, but then there is the appalling plaque near the main entrance which reads: “This Cathedral was restored, not without difficulty, exactly according to the norms of liturgical renewal established by Vatican Council II and solemnly and joyously inaugurated and rededicated on February 9, 2002, by the Archbishop and Ordinary, Rembert G. Weakland, OSB.”

    I think that Archbishop Weakland should not be seen publicly. I wouldn’t recommend sending him to a monastery for the rest of his days, mostly because I wouldn’t want to inflict that penance on the monks. He should at least have the grace to bow out. But he won’t. “Rembert, our disgraced bishop”. It sort of fits.

  16. acardnal says:

    rbbadger, I hope you did not pay for the book, but borrowed it from a library. Weakland does not deserve any royalties!

  17. robtbrown says:

    boko fittleworth says:

    Here’s another important thing to remember about Weakland. Paul VI wrote a letter admitting that Mass in the vernacular would lead to the loss of the treasury of chant among the people, but offered the consolation that the treasury would be preserved in the Benedictine monasteries. Then Weakland, as head of the Benedictines, went around the world getting rid of chant in the monasteries.

    He was not head of the Benedictines–there is none. Every abbey is independent. Weakland was abbot of San Anselmo in Rome, and he had no authority over the Benedictines world wide. None.

    He did, however, push the destruction of the liturgy, but that had nothing to do with the Swiss and German Benedictines, who were more than capable of ruining it themselves.

  18. rbbadger says:

    @acardnal: Yes, I bought a copy, but I bought a copy used. That way, Abp. Weakland gets no royalties from me. After I finished the book, I put it out in the trash for recycling.

    As for the Benedictine abbeys, some have maintained the rich heritage of chant, especially those belonging to the Solesmes Congregation. (Clear Creek, the abbey founded by Fontgombault in the Tulsa Diocese, belongs to the Solesmes Congregation.)

    I currently make my home in South Korea. South Korea has many Buddhists. One often sees Buddhist monks and nuns about town. They are very easy to spot, thanks to their shaved heads and grey monastic attire. By and large, the monks do not use the vernacular in their chanting. Each day, the monks chant both the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra. These are not chanted in vernacular Korean. Rather, they are chanted in classical Sino-Korean, that is classical Chinese with Korean pronunciations. Classical Chinese cannot be understood by most Koreans, unless they’ve had training in their own Hanmun traditions. So, Buddhist monks in Korea do not use the vernacular, never appear in public not in monastic attire, and all of them face the same direction during chanting. I can’t see how a similar thing would be bad for Roman Catholic monks. Use Latin, always wear the habit, and face towards the Lord. Seems like a good idea to me.

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