Wisconsin Bishop Settled Sex Claim
Thu. May 23, 2002 - By MELISSA McCORD, Associated Press Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who has adopted a
zero tolerance policy toward abusive priests, agreed in 1998 to
pay $450,000 to a man who accused him of sex assault, according
to documents cited Thursday by ABC News.
The report came a day after the Roman Catholic bishop of Lexington,
Ky., temporarily stepped aside from his pastoral duties in the wake
of a lawsuit filed by a man for alleged sexual abuse.
ABC said the agreement with Weakland had required Paul J. Marcoux,
53, to keep silent.
"I was involved in a cover-up. I accepted money to be silent
about it, not to speak out against what was going on," Marcoux
said in an interview broadcast on "Good Morning America."
Marcoux (pronounced mar COO) said he was sexually assaulted 20
years ago, when he was a student at Marquette University and had
gone to the archbishop seeking advice about entering the priesthood.
Marcoux told the network Weakland "started to try and kiss
me and continued to force himself on me, pull down my trousers and
attempted to fondle me."
"Think of it in terms of date rape," Marcoux told ABC.
ABC said as part of the settlement, the archbishop and the archdiocese
denied the claims. It said the church declined to comment until
the report was aired. Matthew Flynn, an attorney for the archdiocese,
reached after the interview aired on the East Coast but before it
appeared in Milwaukee, declined comment to The Associated Press.
Jerry Topczewski, the spokesman for the archdiocese, did not return
calls from the AP.
A spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
said the conference had no immediate comment.
In its report, ABC quoted from an 11-page handwritten letter dated
Aug. 25, 1980. The letter, which according to ABC was written by
Weakland, said the archbishop could not pay Marcoux more than $14,000
to settle the case.
"I should not put down on paper what I would not want the
whole world to read. But here goes anyway," the letter said.
"I felt like the world's worst hypocrite. So gradually I came
back to the importance of celibacy in my life."
The ABC report said Marcoux sought more money in 1997 and the archbishop
paid $450,000 to settle the case on condition of secrecy.
Weakland, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in April
and is awaiting the Vatican (news - web sites)'s appointment of
a new leader, has been under renewed criticism for how he dealt
with a sexually abusive Roman Catholic priest in 1979.
In a newly released 1993 court document, Weakland said he moved
the Rev. William Effinger to a new church after the priest admitted
molesting a 13-year-old boy. Weakland issued a public apology in
1992 over the Effinger case.
In April, with sex abuse scandals battering dioceses across the
country, the Milwaukee Archdiocese adopted a zero tolerance policy
toward molestation by priests. Weakland also wrote a letter apologizing
to anyone who was sexually abused by a priest and appointed a commission
to review allegations of sexual abuse in the archdiocese.
Weakland, whose archdiocese serves 685,000 people, has been a liberal
force in the church. In the 1980s, he helped draft a controversial
pastoral letter describing poverty in the United States as a moral
Weakland was censured by the Vatican for studying why women have
abortions. He has suggested the church discuss allowing the ordination
of married men to solve the priest shortage and has pushed for the
church to give women a greater role.
Last week, the archidiocese held simultaneous listening sessions
in six parishes on sexual abuse in the church. Weakland attended
one but did not answer questions.
In Kentucky, Bishop J. Kendrick Williams took administrative leave
and strongly denied allegations that he abused anyone.
"Let me state this simply: the allegations are false,"
Williams said in a statement from the diocese Wednesday. "I
do not remember the young man, and I have never been brutal to anyone
in my entire life."
Bishop Anthony O'Connell of the Palm Beach, Fla., Diocese resigned
in March after admitting to sexual misconduct years earlier in another
state. He was the second bishop of Palm Beach to resign over a sex
scandal in the last four years. Bishop Keith Symons became the first
bishop to resign after admitting molestation.
Hawaii's Joseph Ferrario in 1989 was the first U.S. bishop accused
of molestation. His accuser sued, but a court dismissed it as too
late. Ferrario denied the charges and retired early in 1993.
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles was accused of abuse this
year, but police cleared him of the accusation.