Shock Over Accusations in Milwaukee
By John W. Fountain, The New York Times
May 24, 2002
MILWAUKEE, May 23 Shock mixed with outrage today
as church leaders here learned of accusations of sexual misconduct
against Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland.
"Can you believe this is happening?" asked the
Rev. Jeff Thielen, 53, the pastor of St. Lucy Catholic Church
in Racine. "I think all the bishops should quit. They
should all quit and be replaced. The hurting has to stop.
Someone's got to do better by all of the victims.
"I've been a priest since 1974. I almost wish I wasn't
a priest. How can people stay Catholic in the face of this?
Archbishop Weakland has denied accusations that he sexually
assaulted a graduate student, Paul J. Marcoux, more than 20
years ago. But he has conceded that Mr. Marcoux, now 54, received
a $450,000 settlement in 1998 in exchange for his silence.
Father Thielen, who happened to be at the headquarters of
the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on routine business today, termed
the matter a catastrophe for the church.
"You think of that money, $450,000, and they're closing
schools, and there's homeless people on the street, and people
aren't getting enough to eat," Father Thielen said. "How
can you justify that? I just could cry."
Father Thielen wondered whether the accusations might explain
Archbishop Weakland's response to claims of misconduct against
"Priests were transferred to other parishes and little
kids got hurt that shouldn't have got hurt," Father Thielen
said.. "He never should have done that.
"I was talking to one of the other pastors the other
day, and he said that things aren't going to change until
they start putting bishops in jail. That's what the priests
are starting to think."
At St. Augustine of Hippo parish in Milwaukee, the news also
hit hard, though Chiara Sainer, the church's pastoral minister,
drew a distinction between this case and others involving
the sexual abuse of children.
"It's a whole different thing than pedophilia,"
Ms. Sainer said. Still, she described the accusations as "a
blow to all of us."
But Ms. Sainer expressed skepticism about Mr. Marcoux's claims,
raising questions about his motives and posing the possibility
that whatever happened between the two men may have been consensual.
"I have no doubt that it happened," Ms. Sainer
said. But she added, referring to Mr. Marcoux: "There
is definitely a difference. He was not a child himself. That
all has to be put in perspective."
Paul Weisenberger, the director of liturgy at St. Augustine
Church, said the accusations had left many Milwaukee Catholics
angry, particularly regarding the settlement.
Archbishop Weakland, 75, has been planning to retire, and
Mr. Weisenberger said there had been a number of parties to
celebrate the archbishop's career.
Mr. Weisenberger said he had just returned this afternoon
from a meeting with a number of people who said they attended
a celebration on Wednesday night at a local church.
"They said it was just a wonderful thing last night,"
he said. "Then, all of a sudden to wake up this morning
and see this on the news, it was a real jarring thing for
Father Thielen said he welcomed the news media attention
this case and others involving the church have attracted.
"With all the things that are going on in the church,"
he said, "sunlight is the best disinfectant."