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Posts for May, 2009

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Admits He’s Gay

Jim Burroway

May 12th, 2009

When public figures come out of the closet, the event is usually greeted with joy and applause in the gay community. But when that event is tainted with scandal, the reaction is considerably muted. When New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey announced that he was “a gay American” and was resigning just as a scandal was about to bust open, it was, shall we say, a mixed bag.

And so when the next coming out involves a Catholic Archbishop who was accused of sexual assaulting a seminarian and hiding pedophile priests, I’m reminded that there are those who I really don’t want as a member of my club.

In a soon-to-be released memoir, A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop, former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland acknowledges he is gay. He also discusses his struggles with his homosexuality and the teachings of the Catholic church. According to Publisher’s Weekly:

When Weakland resigned as Milwaukee archbishop in 2002 after revelations of a past homosexual relationship and a confidential payout, it was seen as another stunning episode in the unfolding clergy abuse scandal. It was especially painful to liberal Catholics who viewed Weakland as their champion. Weakland was publicly penitent, but other events that year—chief among them the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston—made Weakland’s drama a footnote. With this frank and well-told memoir, that’s no longer the case. A Benedictine monk, Weakland is up front about his homosexuality in a church that preferred to ignore gays, and about his failures in overseeing pedophile priests. But this is really the poignant journey of a soul, not a mea culpa about sex, with chapters on his hardscrabble boyhood and fascinating, and sometimes sobering, insights into the life of a bishop and the tensions between the American Catholic Church and the Vatican. At points the narrative has more than enough detail on the life of a globe-trotting abbot. But overall this is an invaluable historical record and a moving personal confession. (June)

Weakland stepped down soon after Paul Marcoux, a former Marquette University theology student, revealed in May 2002 that he was paid $450,000 in archdiocese money to settle a sexual assault claim he made against the Weakland. The incident allegedly occurred more than two decades earlier. Weakland denied the assault, but apologized for concealing the payment.

Weakland was a favorite among liberal Catholics because of his strong stance on social justice issues and liturgical reform. In a recent statement, Weakland said Christians needed to speak more openly about gays in the priesthood without the “hysteria” that often characterizes the debate.