Rembert G. Weakland Coverage

Oct 16, 2008 | All, Rembert G. Weakland

Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee was one of the Catholic Church’s most venerable voices for change until 2002 when he resigned amid revelations that he had used church money to pay a $450,000 settlement to a man with whom he had had a relationship years earlier.

Archbishop Weakland, who had been the intellectual touchstone for church reformers, has written a memoir scheduled for release in June 2009. In it he speaks out about how internal church politics affected his response to the fallout from his romantic affair; how bishops and the Vatican cared more about the rights of abusive priests than about their victims; and why Catholic teaching on homosexuality is wrong.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America” in 2002, the man the archbishop had fallen in love with 23 years earlier said the Milwaukee archdiocese paid him $450,000 years before to keep quiet about the affair.

Archbishbop Weakland said he had been aware of his homosexual orientation since he was a teenager and suppressed it until he became archbishop, when he had relationships with several men because of “loneliness that became very strong.” He said he was probably the first Catholic bishop to come out of the closet voluntarily.

Archbishop Weakland’s autobiography, “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church” (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), covers his hardscrabble youth in Pennsylvania and his vows as a Benedictine monk; his election as the worldwide leader of the Benedictine Order; and his appointment by Pope Paul VI to the archbishop’s seat in Milwaukee, where he served for 25 years.

Archbishop Weakland said the church opened itself to change in the 1960s and ’70s after the Second Vatican Council, but became increasingly centralized and doctrinally rigid under Pope John Paul II. He was among those who publicly questioned the need for a male-only celibate priesthood. He also led the American bishops in a two-year process of writing a pastoral letter on economic justice, holding hearings on the subject around the country.

Archbishop Weakland, who has been living in a Catholic retirement community since his resignation, had planned to move in June to St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, N.J., where he said he would be closer to his family in Pennsylvania and grow old in the care of a community of Benedictine monks. But he announced in an interview on May 26 that “they were getting very worried about the situation because of what they thought would be negative publicity. So I withdrew my desire to go there.”

The Benedictine monks at St. Mary’s Abbey administer the adjacent Delbarton School, a Roman Catholic preparatory school for boys, where tuition was nearly $25,000 in 2008. Archbishop Weakland said he had been told that the school was in the middle of a fund-raising campaign and that there was concern from lay people on its board about his retiring at the abbey.…

Rembert G. Weakland Coverage
New York Times
Updated: May 27, 2009
By Laurie Goodstein