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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 scandal.

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.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests