US Catholic Faith in Real Life

An archbishop's regrets

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Now that former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland's autobiography, A Piligrim in a Pilgrim Church, has now garnered the attention of the New York Times, it's hard not to comment. I admit to a little sadness as I read of this much-diminished man, and with a little anger because his personal failure diminished progressive Catholicism. Before news of his relationship with Paul Marcotte broke 2002, Weakland carried the hopes of many reform-minded Catholics; after that news, we all discovered that the archbishop was a susceptible to secrecy as the many bishops involved in the sex-abuse crisis that was erupting at the same time.

It  is that secrecy that I think has caused the greatest damage to our church over the last decade. One wonders if the church shouldn't have a Freedom of Information Act of its own that might have uncovered long ago not only the $450K in hush money the Archdiocese of Milwaukee paid Weakland's former lover, but also the cash that was being paid out in sex-abuse settlements before the Boston storm finally broke.

As for Weakland, one wonders how he'll be covered and what effect his book will have. The fact that Eerdmans is his publisher--my guess is that no Catholic publisher would accept it--is telling. Will he be dismissed as a disgraced archbishop? Or might his book be an opportunity for some new conversation in the church? Time will tell...