Catholic
 Apostolic
 & Roman
Christian Order
Read Christian Order
Contents
Editorials
Editorials
Current
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1990s
1980s
Main Page

 

August/September & October 1996

The Weakland File

MARGARET JOUGHIN

- PART I -

"Milwaukee mutineer, Archbishop Rembert Weakiand, is another highly placed prelate stridently advocating the ordination of women and apparently hoping to lambaste the Church into submission by questioning her credibility."
New York Times, 6/12/92
 

Reports of Archbishop Rembert Weakland's conduct have sent shock waves through the ranks of orthodox Catholics everywhere. Wisconsin's President of a group calling themselves "Catholics Serving the Lord," Mr. Tom Phillips, was moved to compile a dossier drawing together the vast amount of correspondence, newspaper reports and other material pertaining to Weakland's activities. It reads as a catalogue of horrors which strikes a chill into the hearts of the faithful. The correspondence alone astounding for its level of vindictiveness directed by Weakland at those who plead for a return to Catholic principles, would no doubt make an interesting study for a psychologist.

Against this, Archbishop Little of Melbourne, Australia, says that Weakland is "compassionate," "innovative" and "creative"; he praises Weakland's "remarkable vision for a fully Catholic life of his archdiocese" and with great attention to detail he lists Weakland's academic qualifications which he regards as unrivalled". But Archbishop Little must know that intelligence and talent do not guarantee virtue. Indeed the highest intelligence created by God was Lucifer! Putting aside all the hype then, we must ask What are the facts? surrounding this high-profile and most controversial American prelate.

We turn now to the voluminous dossier prepared by Tom Phillips of Archbishop Weakiand's own archdiocese, Milwaukee, U.S.A. All of this material, and much more, has been reported by Tom Phillips on television or in the local media in U.S.A.

In presenting his documentation Phillips says "it is important that you see the degeneracy with which Archbishop Weakland is involved." Much has already been said about Weakland's open defiance of Rome and his-anti-Christian stance on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and feminism. However, the documentation shows that he also:

  • Allowed the militantly homosexual organisation Milwaukee Lesbian/Gay Pride Committee (which includes extremist groups ACT UP and Queer Nation to use a parish hall rent free to raise funds for the Gay/Lesbian Pride Parade and Rally which "celebrates" sodomy.

  • Allowed practising homosexuals to hold parish Masses.

  • Supported Fr. James L. Arimond, columnist for blatantly homosexual magazine The Wisconsin Light. Arimond, who lectured on homosexuality at the archdiocesan Cousins Centre, rejects Church teaching on a number of issues and refers to homosexuality as "God's holy gift". He was convicted and jailed for paedophilia, July 1990. Weakland ignored protests about Arimond's activities in 1987 and 1988 and promoted him.

  • Tolerated a situation that enabled a homosexual writing in The Wisconsin Light to state that St. John's Cathedral (Weakland's own church) is "second only to the homosexual bar district and the shopping mall as a homosexual gathering place".

  • Acts as co-chairman of the board of trustees for an organization called the Milwaukee AIDS Project. Weakland contributed $4000 from archdiocesan funds and has been an active fund-raiser for this group. He conducts its meetings and has written letters on behalf of the, group on its official stationery. The president is an outspoken homosexual activist. The Milwaukee AIDS Project distributes homosexual and pornographic literature. (Brochures using profane and obscene language list among "safe sex" activities "mutual masturbation, light Sado and Masochistic activities, oral sex, sex toys, vibrators, massages, fantasy, phone sex. Magazines promote "Instant action, Deep satisfaction; Quick relief; Hot Gay Action"; include pictures of gay strippers, advertise gay baths and bills, gay X-rated movies and books, etc).

  • Authorized and implemented a grossly immoral school sex-ed program.

  • Allowed teaching of ex-priest Prof. Daniel Maguire to continue at Marquette University. Maguire supports abortion and says: "I would favour letting gay persons in the priesthood."

  • Claims that Catholics can hold a pro-choice position on abortion. Rome blocked an honorary degree that the University of Fribourg planned to award to Weakland saying that Weakland had taken positions on abortion that were causing "a great deal of confusion amongst the faithful".

  • Authorized and implemented Archdiocesan program "Sexual Attitude Restructuring" (SAR) which uses pornographic slides and movies under the direction of a Catholic priest. Descriptions of the explicit material includes "couples engaged in oral sex, nude women manipulating the sexual organs of their partners, nude males and females masturbating". The program used for over 10 years in Milwaukee Archdiocese has been used in seminaries, college campuses and parish halls.

  • Contributes to the growing scandal in the Archdiocese, manifestations of which are the increasing number of priests with AIDS and the Fr. Pecore child molestation case.

The Pecore affair

This last case is particularly tragic and an outline of the events will reveal the full horror of what we are facing in the Church today. As one American observer says, what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. And it's a very big iceberg.

In 1983 a "pastoral team" (Fr. Fred Rosing, pastor, and associates Frs. Dennis Pecore and Peter Schuesler) was appointed to the Mother of Good Counsel parish in Milwaukee. During 1983 hundreds of parishioners and teachers became concerned about the behaviour of "the team".

The school principal Fr. Bruce Brentrup expressed concerns to the team regarding moral conduct. Despite his service of 15 years he was dismissed ("forced out") by the team in 1984.

On July 26, 1984 three teachers collaborated on a letter to Archbishop Weakland. The letter was signed by one of the teachers, a member of the staff for 10 years, Dr. Paul Niebler. The letter outlined high handed behaviour on the part of the team, their financial mismanagement and "Improper conduct and scandal". This detail was given: "An assistant has on several occasions taken young boys to his private bedroom one at a time." The teachers hoped that Archbishop Weakland would "be able to do something before this turns into a full fledged scandal…"

Archbishop Weakland replied to Dr. Niebler on 13 August 1984 threatening legal action and undermining his job security. Later in 1984 all three teachers lost their jobs. The termination notice was signed by the team's pastor, Fr. Fred Rosing on 12 October 1984.

In 1986, Gregory Bernau reported Fr. Dennis Pecore for sexual molestation.

In January 1987, Fr. Dennis Pecore was charged with sexual abuse of minor, Gregory Bernau. The abuse dating from January 1984 lasted until December 1985 and included both oral and anal sex. The boy was 14-years-old when the abuse began.

On 24 July 987, Peccore pleaded guilty to paedophilia and received a jail sentence. Other details surrounding the case are these:

According to The Milwaukee Journal (8/5/88) the victim "said his mother called the rectory and asked if her son was there; the other priests told her he wasn't. It was only when she knocked at the rectory's door that they acknowledged he was there." [Emphasis added]

On 17 May 1988, the victim gave a signed declaration that on two occasions Fr. Fred Rosing visited the bedroom of Fr. Pecore while the sexual abuse was taking place. Bernau says: "... Fr. Fred could also see me lying in Fr. Dennis's bed and said 'Hi Greg'. Nothing else was said or asked of me". Despite his complicity in this tragic affair Fr. Rosing continued in his role as pastor of mother of Good Counsel parish, Milwaukee.

On 2 May 1988, Gregory-Bernau wrote to Judge Robert J. Miech. He reveals the attempted cover-up and the conspiracy of silence which appears to attend such matters in the contemporary Church. Bernau says:

"I am the victim in the sexual assault case... I am writing, along with all the other people of the Archdiocese, to have you open the Bernau Settlement Agreement to the public. Here are my reasons: (I am referring to the document Petition to seal settlement agreement.)

  1. I feel that I have been exposed to public ridicule and derision and if the facts are put forth to the public, they will not do or say anything worse than they have already said or done.

  2. I feel that the public already knows what went on between Father Dennis Pecore and myself, so if the Settlement Agreement is opened the public will not cause me any physical or emotional injury.

    That is my reasoning on the said document, following are my personal reasons:

  3. If the Archdiocese wanted to protect me, they would have not put me through all the hassles they did.

  4. In the first place my mother, father, or myself never wanted the Settlement Agreement to be sealed. It was the Archdiocese's idea to seal it and when our family saw the clause in the agreement that said it was to be sealed, we strongly objected.

Finally, I would like to add that I am very disgusted with all the secrecy and homosexuality in the Archdiocese. I think if this Settlement Agreement was open to the public, they would find what has been going on and put pressure on the priests. One last comment, I do think the Catholics that support the Church financially, should know where their money is going!"

"Judge Robert Miech ruled the record should be opened to the public. Damages paid amounted to $595,000 and legal fees were $200,000.

Cardinal O'Connor Concurs

Weakland was roundly condemned by a number of professional people including judges and district attorneys for questioning the innocence of some adolescents who had been sexually abused by priests.

Tom Phillips appeared on television to expose the corruption in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. He wants us to carefully note that Weakland was informed in writing in 1984 when the sexual abuse of Gregory Bernau was taking place. Instead of investigating he threatened those who contacted him and apparently saw to it that they lost their jobs. Phillips' dossier - which contains all the documentation exposing this massive "cover-up" was made available to the Melbourne archdiocese in late 1992.

The Milwaukee Journal Metro (18/3/88) reports that:

"Archbishop Rembert Weakland has sent a letter to all priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese in an attempt to prepare them for the fallout that may occur after a critic (Tom Philips) appears on a television show tonight".

In the letter, dated 14 March 1988, Weakland warns the priests of the "amateur" character of Tom Phillips' documentation; his "Fundamentalist" approach, and his "narrow point of view." He finishes his lengthy attack on Phillips with a clever display of guile. To his hapless priests, Weakland says:

"I know that many of you frequently have to deal with difficult and often judgmental people in your parishes. My heart goes out to you. Jesus certainly did not please everyone, and the frequent references in this Lenten Season to the tensions between himself and those who did not understand what the Good News was all about should be more meaningful to us all. Peace!"

To be an "amateur" of course, is no sin. To be a corrupter of morals and a pretender is quite another thing. However if Weakland prefers the testimony of professionals here is William F. Buckley, Editor of the New York National Review:

[Weakland] "hopes to cow Mr. Phillips into line by invoking the very authority he himself so scandalously flouts. These are grievous days."

Tom Phillips received this message from the office of New York's Cardinal O'Connor:

"The concern you express is genuine and the documentation is very disturbing. Reading it is difficult enough, living it must be very painful."

We should pray for the faithful Catholics of Milwaukee. They still face ten years under the "leadership" of Weakland. And pray too that orthodox Catholics will stand up in great numbers to oppose this great menace. Make no mistake: the only real vipers in this whole sordid affair are most certainly those who support officially sanctioned visits by Weakland, even by their silence.

 

* * *

- PART II -

"My Brand of Catholicism?
It's my Brand of Me."
- Archbishop Weakland


When Archbishop Weakland accepted the invitation, extended by the Melbourne archdiocese, to be Keynote Speaker at the National Liturgical Music Convention, he was probably unaware that a storm cloud was about to break over his head in his home town, Milwaukee.

So that in October 1992, when certain Melbourne clerics were overreaching themselves in the search for superlatives to describe the high-powered liturgical event scheduled for April 1993, the latest in an ever growing line of paedophile priests, Fr. William Effinger, was unexpectedly confronted in Milwaukee by one of his long-suffering victims. This action has triggered an unprecedented expose of clerical paedophilia and brought to light the duplicity of those who contrive to suppress the facts.

Corruption and Cover-Ups

It is a well documented fact that Archbishop Weakland's diocese is especially marked by sex scandals. The Milwaukee Journal (29/10/92) reports that men and women claiming to have been childhood victims of Fr. William Effinger "swamped the district attorney's office with telephone calls. By 10.30 workers had taken about 25 calls". Some callers said Effinger first "plied them with martinis". The lawyer representing Effinger's victims believes that Effinger sexually assaulted "as many as 150 children".

Archbishop Weakland has been aware of Effinger's paedophilia since 1978. The victim in the 1978 incident received a payment from the Church and Effinger was reassigned to another parish. To those who questioned his judgment Weakland said he "followed the advice of psychologists" in letting Effinger continue pastoral work. A prestigious group of psychologists who pointed to the recklessness of Weakland's action, however, threw doubt on his claim saying:

"Since the early 1970s, all reputable psychologists have been saying that child sex abusers should not be returned to situations in which they could molest again."

When challenged further, Weakland went to ground refusing to provide the names of those who allegedly advised that an offending paedophile could be returned to parish work. The lawsuit lodged in 1993 naming Weakland, says that he acted:

"wilfully, intentionally and in wanton and reckless disregard of the rights and safety of the plaintiffs by failing to remove Effinger and should be assessed punitive as well as compensatory damages."

The Milwaukee Journal (17/2/93) reveals that Weakland is now fighting a disclosure demand by attorney Robert L. Elliott who has challenged Weakland to provide information about sexual abuse complaints against priests since 1968. Elliott described the archdiocese's attempts to conceal information from the public as "outrageous" now that the victims have come forward.

After Weakland's return to Milwaukee from Melbourne, yet another lawsuit for paedophilia was lodged by a teenager against Fr. Peter Burns and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Journal (28/4/93) reports that the victim, 13 at the time of the sexual assault in 1988, is suing the Church claiming it failed to act against the priest after a similar incident a year earlier.

Meanwhile at Milwaukee's Sacred Heart School of Theology, former seminary rector, Fr. Jerome Clifford, resigned following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Milwaukee Journal (28/3/93) lists other concerns at the seminary:

  • A student placed a personal ad in a gay publication, giving the seminary telephone number for contact

  • A student was arrested for soliciting sex from a male police officer in a public park

  • A student owns 2 gay bars in another state

William F. Buckley writes in the Los Angeles Times (24/3/93): "Insurance companies will no longer write liability protection to the Church, so riddled is it by current scandals". Fr. Charles C. Fiore told the Milwaukee Sentinel (4/9/1992) that he expects before long to be able to name a bishop:

"I personally know of six bishops who are paedophiles ... the evidence, while it is convincing, is not such that it would stand up in a court of law as yet".

According to The Free Lance Star (11/11/89) a group called "Catholics for an Open Church" charged that a cardinal, a bishop and an archbishop "engaged in cover-ups" of priests molesting children. On 6/11/89 in The Washington Post this group singled out Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago and Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee "for not taking appropriate action against paedophile priests in their dioceses". Even if Rome can't bring herself to discipline these wretched souls the Church in America looks set to be routed by financial ruin. American author, Jason Berry, estimates that the financial cost to the Church for sex crimes will reach $1 billion by the year 2000.

Clerical Dissembling: Rembert Redefined

Apologists for Weakland, who tried to give the impression that his contribution at the Melbourne Convention would be strictly musical, must have felt vindicated by the two brief reports in Australian secular papers. The controversial issues in which Weakland has so embroiled himself overseas didn't rate a mention. The Age (22/4) reports: "Some in the religious orders, led by Archbishop Weakland, argue for a return to a more elitist form of music, to Gregorian chants, choirs and classical hymns..." Compare that however, to this article written by Paul Likoudis for The Wanderer (25/7/91):

"The articles in the New Yorker and Milwaukee Magazine illustrate some of Weakland's paradoxes. His past as a music scholar in the great Benedictine tradition is revealed - but as Milwaukee Catholics complain, he has never supported their efforts to bring Gregorian Chant into parishes. According to Milwaukee Catholic Larry Stich, Weakland once declared that there was no music suitable for Catholic worship produced before 1965."

The claim that Archbishop Weakland was in Melbourne exclusively to share his musical expertise fell flat too when it was revealed that Weakland was in fact to address a closed meeting of priests on the role of the ordained ministry. This is a topic on which Weakland is notoriously unreliable as his article Out of the Kitchen and into the Vatican. (New York Times, Dec. 1992) clearly shows. Advance publicity from the Melbourne archdiocese elevated Weakland to the status of a "visionary". In a promotional circular, Fr. D. Panton, Chairman of the Senate of Priests, described Weakland's visit as an "extraordinary blessing". He was introduced at his press conference on his arrival as a "modern day prophet".

Curiously enough even Weakland's defenders, who were granted a disproportionate amount of space in The Age to answer journalist Michael Barnard's article Keynote Archbishop is Off Key (18/3/93), couldn't seem to agree whether Weakland enjoys prophetic status because of his complete solidarity with Rome or because he habitually thumbs his nose at Rome. Serious contradictions emerged particularly in the juxtaposition of the lengthy articles by Melbourne Archbishop Frank Little and Thomas H. Stahel SJ, the American correspondent for left-liberal Eureka Street. So that while Archbishop Little (25/3) described Weakland's "unimpeachable" orthodoxy, and insisted on his "ongoing solidarity" and "communion" with "the Holy See and the Pope in Rome", Stahel (15/4) posed this rhetorical question: "Is there anything at which he (Weakland) has not succeeded with the possible exception of pleasing John Paul II?"

Stahel's article provides further evidence that relations between Weakland and Rome are, in fact, strained. In the face of ongoing attempts by the Melbourne hierarchy to prove Weakland's orthodox we draw on Stahel again:

[Quoting Weakland] 'Yes, I'm sure that they [Rome] are thinking up ways to keep me in line, to criticise me, to isolate me ... to get worked up over something like Fribourg, to feel bad about it! To look over my shoulder and wonder if Rome will be pleased with what I say?'

" ... the archbishop is not unwilling to speak and act according to his own lights, even if those lights do not correspond exactly with official Roman preferences.

"...he [Weakland] said of the 1987 Synod of Bishops ... that 'he would never go through such a charade again'... About the Vatican bureaucracy… Weakland says: 'I spent 13 years in Rome; the Vatican is demythologised for me. It is not the repository of truth and right thinking that some make it out to be - not at all'."

The cockiness and contempt so evident here were noticeably absent in Weakland's statements in Melbourne.

Not only the Melbourne hierarchy, but Weakland too seemed anxious to shed his "progressive" image for the duration of his visit. In the light of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Milwaukee perhaps we should not be surprised. The problems Weakland faces in Milwaukee are acutely embarrassing for him and his liberal defenders.

Whatever the motivation for Weakland's low-key approach on his 1993 Melbourne visit, however, Catholics everywhere should be aware that a number of vital issues were suppressed, as they always are on his overseas jaunts as guest speaker here and there.

Both Archbishops, Little and Weakland, complained bitterly that their views had not been sought by the,media. But what Melbourne Catholics don't know is that Channel 7's Warren Wilton and The Herald-Sun's Anita Quigley kept us informed of their constant appeals to both Archbishops (including a call to Weakiand's Milwaukee office prior to his visit) to put their case against those who had raised concerns about the visit. Both Archbishops steadfastly refused these approaches by the media to make any comment whatsoever. Although Archbishop Weakland suddenly developed a certain coyness about talking to the media it has been more usual for him to seek out the press to record his every controversial opinion. Indeed part of the appeal for Weakland's liberal lackeys is his reputation as ecclesiastical iconoclast.

Paul Wilkes wrote in 1992 (The Education of an Archbishop) of Weakland's boldness in sending to Rome an "explosive" draft proposal addressing the priest shortage. Weakland's suggestions contradicting the conclusions of the 1990 Synod aroused "serious concerns" in Rome, and drew this stinging rebuke from the Apostolic Nunciature (10/2/91):

"... your intervention cannot but appear to be out of place and, objectively, a sort of provocation".

There was little to be heard in Melbourne from the Weakland repertoire that has so endeared him, over the years, to the secular press and Modernist forces worldwide. Given the Milwaukee Archbishop's reputation for "puncturing balloons" (Weakland's own description of his role); his striding around the globe warning Rome of her impending irrelevance; his dismissal of Pope John Paul II as a "ham actor" and his boasting after his Vatican rebuke on the abortion issue that bishops in Conference were now "competing to see who could sit next to me", Melbourne Catholics may have been surprised to have seen a remarkably subdued prelate on his arrival here.

In place of the characteristic swaggering, Weakland appeared cautious and defensive, but when questioned, reckless to the point of contradicting many of his own earlier statements and denying established facts. We were delighted of course to learn from Kairos, the Melbourne diocesan paper, that Weakland now supports "the Church's view on abortion". We admit to having had our doubts following headlines like this one in The Milwaukee Journal (24/11/90) proclaiming Weakland's defiance on the on the abortion issue: Weakland plays down snub by Rome, says he won't change.

The Press Conference

There was just a touch of the old bravado when Weakland arrived at his press conference thanking Melbournians profusely for the surprising amount of advance publicity. He should have blushed for shame to have added: "I have not received the same degree of attention in the United States".

Those who are familiar with the veritable flood of material, the banner headlines and relentless outpourings from the secular press in America covering Weakland's activities over a number of years will recognize the devilish posturing going on here. It is a fact that Milwaukee Catholics wake to newspaper revelations implicating their chief "pastor", trumpeted by headlines like these in the Milwaukee Sentinel: Weakland critical of celibacy (17/7/1991); Weakland warns of disaffection with Rome (15/5/91); Weakland says he knew of sex allegations against priests (18/10/92); Weakland questions male only priesthood (23/10/92); Weakland wants gays in military (25/5/93).

Mark Warren of Channel 2 asked Archbishop Weakland to describe for us his "brand of Catholicism". Weakland's reply was as extreme an expression of subjectivism as one is likely to hear:

"My brand of Catholicism?" he responded, "It's my brand of me."

This is Weakland's position in a nutshell. And therein lies his dilemma and the whole distorted Modernist view of self in which man, as Philip Trower says, becomes the "arbiter of religion". Weakland's problem then, is not merely a matter of "style" as he so frequently pretends. His problem is one of philosophy. It's his subjectivism and individualism which he can't reconcile with the Catholic tradition. From this perspective, as Trower recognizes, man comes first and God plays an ever diminishing role. Religion is not based on objective facts about God known from His creation and by Revelation. It has its origins in man's ever changing "needs". Thus Weakland's "listening sessions" on issues such as abortion, have come to replace the absolutes that emerge from Christ's commands.

Weakland told Paul Wilkes of the New Yorker that the Church still hasn't come to terms with the issue of sexuality - "the Galileo issue of the day". According to Weakland:

"... the Church is reluctant to accept the results of the human sciences; instead it harks back to the days when you could say, "This is black, This is white; This is right, This is wrong'."

Weakland appears to hold a strangely naive view of what science is and what it can offer. In any conflict of ideas he simply assumes that the voice of secular learning is a higher authority than the voice of the Church.

Plugging for pluralism in a pastoral letter (Dec. 1992) he makes the astonishing statement that Catholics educated in liberal universities assume a "more informed" attitude toward Church pronouncements. It came as no surprise at the press conference, then, to hear of Weakland's involvement in the Myer-Briggs program, widely advertised as "an indicator of personality types where there is no (sic) right or wrong ways to behave, only differences".

The influence of this insidious, subjectivist philosophy is widespread. Time magazine in an article The Battle over Gay Clergy (13/11/89) notes that clergymen "influenced by the liberalization in theology and society reject or redefine the official concept of celibacy". The article quotes the regional director of priestly education in one of the larger men's orders: "We'll never know what is right or wrong until we ... look at people's experiences". This prominent priest explained to Time that his superiors have been "quietly aware" of his long-running homosexual relationship. However, "they expect him to be judicious, not to change".

The reaction of Weakland's defenders, to the action Rome took in blocking an honorary degree to be conferred on him by the University of Fribourg, varies a good deal. Those who claim that Weakland is in full union with Rome have no option but to ignore the fact. The Australian Broadcasting Commission's Ellen Fanning made the extraordinary claim that Rome's veto was made in response to Weakland's opposition to Ronald Reagan's policies! Others, like Eureka Street's Thomas Stahel S.J., claim falsely that Weakland was denied the Fribourg doctorate "because he had held six 'listening sessions' on abortion and contraception." Though pressed at the Melbourne press conference for an explanation of Rome's action, Weakland prevaricated indicating that the reasons for Rome's action were not clear to him. Weakland's listening sessions may well give the false impression that Catholic truth is settled by Gallup polls or similar exercises, but the truth, that Weakland was at pains to suppress at the press conference, is that Rome acted in response to a statement, prepared by him following the sessions, in which he challenged Church teaching and made a number of false claims.

In response to that statement Archbishop Pio Laghi, head of The Vatican Congregation for Education, issued the order to leaders of Fribourg University with this explanation:

"With regard to Archbishop Rembert Weakland, this prelate has recently taken certain positions relative to the question of abortion which are not without doctrinal importance and which are causing a great deal of confusion amongst the faithful in the United States. The granting of a doctorate… would only add to the confusion".

Weakland expected us to believe that he knows nothing of this.

Professor of Theology at Notre Dame University, Fr. James Burtchaell, has provided a valuable analysis of Weakland's abortion statement for the National Catholic Reporter (15/6/ 1990). In his penetrating criticism Fr. Burtchaell charges Weakland with "incompetence and bias", as well as his presentation of the "unequivocal" Catholic position on abortion as "too simplistic" in a "pluralist" society.

Rembert and New Creation: Porn for Catholic Kids

Sex-education programs in Milwaukee Catholic schools have also come under scrutiny. Writing for the Milwaukee Sentinel (24/7/90), Catholic columnist Margo Szews says:

"For the past 13 years, Weakland-directed catechetical programs have been teaching abortion and contraception according to 'situation ethics' ... adolescents learn that abortion and contraception are 'opinion questions', and that 'there's no right or wrong'... books and programs that teach the absolute morality of Catholicism are not listed in the archdiocesan bibliography and are not permitted in Milwaukee area Catholic schools."

Weakland's comments at the press conference about one of these sex-education programs - the New Creation series - currently in use in several Milwaukee Catholic schools, is of utmost importance to our assessment of his credibility. This program endorsed and implemented by Weakland is one of four - all based on situation ethics - which each school must use in order to retain accreditation.

Of the New Creation program Margo Szews says: "Eight-graders will learn no fewer than six methods of artificial contraception, and seventh-graders can read that incest 'may not be harmful... It is more like experimenting with sex with your brother or sister before you begin to have sexual relations with other people'."

James Likoudis, writing for Homiletic and Pastoral Review (Feb. 1987), describes this program as: "the worst sex education atrocity yet to be inflicted upon Catholic parents and their elementary school children". Catholic education, he says, is "disgraced" by this "corrupt and corrupting" program. More important still are Rome's references to the program in 1986 as "scandalous" and a "travesty of sex education".

At the press conference, therefore, I addressed this question to Archbishop Weakland:

"The New Creation sex education program was endorsed and implemented by you. Rome calls it 'scandalous', you have said it is in line with Rome's guidelines. It even condones incest Are you still claiming it's in line with Rome's guidelines?"

Archbishop Weakland replied: "That is not the program I saw. That is not the program I saw. Nor would it be a program I would approve."

In light of documentary evidence available to the contrary, Weakland's response can't fail to leave us with the gravest doubts about his integrity. Faced with the disturbing details surrounding the New Creation issue he became defensive, denying any knowledge of the program whatsoever. At this point I produced Weakland's letter defending the use of New Creation, reminding him that it bore his signature. In order to defuse the situation Archbishop Little quickly interrupted me, to remind the assembly that we have already had one forgery [reference to an earlier daft and futile incident in which someone had faked Cathedral letterhead and forged Little's name to warn Weakland off coming to Melbourne]. Censorship? Certainly. Innuendo sliding to slander? You bet! It seemed that Archbishop Little himself planned to get much "premeditated" "mileage" from the alleged forgery.

Weakland of course, has a pressing reason to attempt to distance himself from this New Creation program. As Cardinal Gagnon's letter shows, Rome has condemned it in the strongest terms (1). More remarkable, however, is Rome's call to arms against the unscrupulous characters who are pushing the program. Note well that Weakland's bizarre response that the program is in line with Rome's guidelines(2) comes 3 months after Rome's clear condemnation.

Following his outright denial of any knowledge of the New Creation program at the press conference, Weakland shifted his line of defence for his Kairos interview saying "I was surprised ... the question flabbergasted me". Weakland now claims "I wasn't involved", the program is "old" and "nobody in the United States talks about the New Creation Series any more".

Note carefully then, Margo Szews' letter dated 6 May 1993 naming schools currently using the program (3). Note also the circular dated 14 February 1990 from St. Francis Cabrini school advising parents that the New Creation program will begin "the week of February 19th" (4), and we get some idea of the dissembling going on here. Remember too, that Archbishop Weakland's visit was supported, so far as we can tell, by every Australian Bishop and scores of our priests. God help us.

Weakland was accused in March 1988 by columnist William Buckley of the hypocrisy of "invoking the very authority he himself so scandalously flouts". It is a tactic that Weakland apparently finds useful from time to time and nowhere more so than at his 1993 Melbourne press conference.

Chronic Deception

So the charade continued with Weakland striving to create a picture of his entirely harmonious relations with Rome.

Describing his recent ad limina visit, Weakland spoke of his very happy meeting with the Pope in which he found the pontiff more "relaxed" than ever, and much "mellowed".

Did Weakland think that the reports of the ad limina visits detailing Rome's specific concerns regarding the Church in America wouldn't reach us? In fact, the Pope's address to the Bishops from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana on the occasion of their ad limina visit in April 1993 carried clear references to the Bishops' responsibility for the serious state of confusion in the Church in America today.

The Pope said this:

"The moral, psychological and cultural pressures of life in the United States today are tempting some in the Church to compromise her teachings and her discipline, to the grave detriment of souls.

"In a climate of religious individualism, some assume the right to decide for themselves, even in important matters of faith, which teachings to accept, while ignoring those they find unacceptable.

"Selectivity in adhering to authoritative Church teaching ... is incompatible with being a good Catholic.

"It is the Bishop's task to call the whole Catholic community to accept in its fullness the Church's authoritative teaching on faith and morals.

"Only when your teaching is clear, unambiguous and united will it rise above the clash of conflicting opinions with the forcefulness and power of the truth ,.. the greatest service you can render to the Church at this present time is to ... end the disharmony and confusion produced by teachings on questions of faith, morals and discipline which are at odds with the Church's Magisterium."

In the light of this evidence Weakland's account of his ad limina visit at the press conference can only be described as sheer deception.

A report in The Sun (Maryland, 4/11/89) reflects the real situation in Vatican/American ecclesiastical relations. A Vatican official, we are told, informed parents of an abused child that the American bishops refuse to obey the Pope and that the American Church "is in schism". In Buffalo, NY, a priest has forbidden prayers for the Pope because of the Pope's stand against the ordination of women.

When the Pope spoke with all the American Bishops in Los Angeles in 1987, for instance, warning them that "dissent is unacceptable", Weakland returned to Milwaukee claiming the Pope said nothing on dissent even in the face of John Paul's clear statement on the subject.

To Catholics concerned about Weakland's refusal to stop dissenting lecturers from undermining Church teaching, Weakland made the absurd and unsubstantiated claim that asking him to step in was "contrary to Church teaching based on the Second Vatican Council". This decision, he says, is based on the conviction that the laity are "mature and thus capable of making adult judgments about controversial issues". Not all of the laity are "mature" however - in the Weakland lexicon "mature" appears to be synonymous with "subversive". And those who disagree have been subjected to startling displays of vindictiveness.

Faithful Catholics know that as an official representative of the Catholic Church, Weakland is obliged to teach what the Church holds. According to Weakland, however, the role of the Bishop is not to have "all the answers" but to "say it like you see it". In other words, to promote his own opinions, and of course, as he says, to "puncture balloons" even when that means contradicting fundamental doctrines of the Church. As columnist for The Australian newspaper, Anglican Vicar, James Murray notes (1/5/93), Weakland's "views on abortion, homosexuality, women's ordination and kindred subjects are clearly at variance with the traditional teachings of the Church of which he is a bishop."

The Kairos "Answers"

It has already been said that, apart from the press conference, the Archdioceses of Milwaukee and Melbourne closed ranks in avoiding media attention following opposition to Weakland's visit. The only place Weakland was prepared to "answer his critics" was in "an edited interview" in the Melbourne diocesan magazine Kairos (2/5/93).

The "answers" supplied to Kairos under the headline Old News is No News, are apt to provoke disgust because most of them have already been proved false by documentation cited throughout this article. They will not please the Modernists who will balk at Weakland's sudden apparent wish to conform, nor the orthodox who know they have been betrayed.

Those who have followed this article to this point will see the deceptive nature of the Kairos article beginning with its title. In fact the most serious charges cited against Archbishop Weakland were current. Of the controversial material circulating in Melbourne, Weakland says "nobody" in his diocese took it seriously, it was "old", it had "all been answered", and the press failed to ask him for a "balancing view".

Each of these claims is patently false. Tom Phillips who prepared the dossier on Weakland in America received this message from the office of New York's Cardinal O'Connor dated 11 February 1988: "The concern you express is genuine and the documentation is very disturbing. Reading it is difficult enough, living it must be very painful".

Furthermore the most incriminating evidence against Weakland related above all to 1993 disclosures of sex scandals in Milwaukee and Weakland's subversive New York Times article in December 1992.

On the issue of abortion Weakland subsequently told Kairos, "I certainly support the Church's view on abortion. There could be no equivocacy on that."

Compare that with the Milwaukee Sentinel report (21/5/90) citing Weakland that, "it is possible to be a Roman Catholic in good standing and still hold a pro-choice position..." under the banner headline "Weakland: Prochoice could be OK - Stance at odds with US conference of Bishops."

Compare also the Milwaukee Joumal (24/11/90) report in which Weakland treats the Vatican veto over his abortion statements with disdain: "I have to admit I didn't take it (the veto) as seriously as most people did ... it won't change my procedure, I'm sure, in dealing with any topic".

We were reliably informed that in May 1993 abortion and contraception were still presented as "opinion questions" in the Milwaukee Catholic schools, and that nothing had changed.

On sex-education Weakland tells Kairos, "I have to rely on the experts" (which ones - Freud, Kinsey and their disciples?). Weakland also says, "We think kids ought to know what condoms are and so we tell them and also teach them the Church's teaching on contraception."

Once again compare that statement with the contrary claim by Margo Szews in the Milwaukee Sentinel (24/7/90) that all sex-education programs imposed by Weakland are based on situation ethics and "are designed to foster acceptance of birth control and abortion". The Milwaukee Sentinel (15/3/89) reports that Weakland called on all archdiocesan schools to teach students how to use condoms as part of an AIDS education program,

Weakland, as we said, has shifted his stance on the New Creation, controversy. At the press conference he pleaded ignorance of the program. He tells Kairos that he "wasn't involved" and that the program is history. Our documentation however, proves that Weakland not only reviewed the program, he approved and implemented it and pretended that it was in line with Rome's guidelines. At the very moment in May 1993 when he was publicly insisting that it was history, the program was still being used in 35 Milwaukee Catholic schools as the Szews letter shows.

In the next "answer" for Kairos Weakland denies having allowed practising homosexuals to hold parish Masses. Again the documented evidence shows the sad reality. The Milwaukee Journal (15/12/88) says: "For the past 10 years, gay and lesbian Catholics have been meeting at St. Pius X Catholic Church ... 20 or 30 people gather for Mass at 6 p.m. Sundays that has been organized by Dignity."

Milwaukee Catholic, Tom Phillips, says in his dossier (1/5/91):

"Weakland has allowed the Dignity Masses at Pius X to continue to the present ... I personally observed a Dignity Mass there 22/4/1990 ... They used the Dignity rainbow flag spread out on the floor for the altar".

On the ordination of women Weakland told Kairos:

"I have said publicly that the ordination question should continue to be debated and left open…"

Weakland finds the Church's arguments denying ordination to women "unconvincing" and gives the false impression that Church teaching is about to be changed: "The Church is at a turning point and the role of women could be its new Galileo" (The Milwaukee Journal, 6/12/92). The Milwaukee Sentinel (15/2/92) reports: "Ordination of women to the priesthood is the key issue for the Church, Weakland said".

Weakland's muddled thinking on this issue stems from his forgetfulness that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is first and foremost Christ's action (and that of the priest acting in persona Christi) and only secondarily the action of the laity. Furthermore the ordination question has not been determined by the Church as Weakland imagines, and it has never been "open" for debate within the Catholic Church. "It comes", as Duns Scotus tells us, "from Christ". There's an old formula the Church uses for such issues - "non possumus". It's not negotiable. And we live in hope that the Archbishop of Milwaukee will one day understand that, as John Paul II has recently confirmed, it's not on now or later.

Next up Weakland tells Kairos, "I don't like word dissent". Naturally! It holds no meaning for the subjectivist who creates his own "truths".

On his relationship with Rome Weakland tells Kairos, "I have always found that Rome is very honest and open. . ." Compare that with Weakland's contemptuous references to Rome in the Stahel Eureka Street article quoted above, or to The New York Times (27/3/90) which reports that Weakland was "almost alone among leading American bishops in publicly criticizing Vatican actions against American dissidents like Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle."

Following the Fribourg veto in 1990, Weakland wrote:

"this will cause ... bitterness" and "encourage some to believe that the decisions in Rome are made primarily under pressures from ultra-conservative groups in the U.S. and that it does not seem to matter what injustices are done to human beings by leaving such clouds over their heads."

Weakland concluded his tirade against Rome on this occasion by expressing the fear that the Church's credibility would suffer. The Archbishop is concerned not for the credibility of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church but rather for the transition to his "free" functioning, pluralist, democratically structured American "new church" which is content for the time being at least, to use the true Church as its power base. The credibility of the Catholic Church is bound to suffer so long as she allows herself to be so treacherously used.

 

FOOTNOTES:

(1)
PONTIFICUM CONSILIUM PRO FAMILIA
Prot. N. 68/86

Vatican City, May 28, 1986

Mrs Nancy Evers
5761 North Shore Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53217
U.S.A.

Dear Mrs Evers,

Thank you for your kind letter of May 8th.

Unfortunately, I am well acquainted with the NEW CREATION SERIES, published by the W.C. Brown Company of Dubuque, Iowa. As a matter of fact, the Holy Father is also informed about the matter. Despite repeated warnings of the Holy See, both the editors and teachers continue to use and spread this Series.

Only if families unite and join in battle against this travesty of sex education will the battle be won. I pray for your success and bless all of you who love the Church and your families enough to fight against the use of this scandalous Series in our schools.

Sincerely yours in Jesus and Mary,

Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, p.s.s.
President

(2)
ARCHDIOCESE OF MILWAUKEE
OFFICE OF THE ARCHBISHOP

August 25, 1986

Mr. Tom McCabe
5701 North Kent Avenue
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin 53217

Dear Mr McCabe,

In reviewing the material in the NEW CREATION SERIES, I find that I have no objections to it. I believe it is in line with the guidelines presented by the Congregation of Education.

Sincerely yours in the Lord,

Most Reverend Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B.
Archbishop of Milwaukee

(3)
May 6, 1993

Margaret Joughin
Melbourne, Vic. Australia.

Dear Margaret,

Enclosed please find the "Family Life" pages from the Milwaukee Archdiocesan guidelines, selected pages from the "New Creation" program and information about the books that are recommended.

I called the archdiocese today and the Associate Director for Curriculum and Instruction told me that out of 150 elementary schools in the Archdiocese, there are 35 schools currently using the "New Creation" program. I called St. Frances Cabrini School in West Bend, and was told that they are using "New Creation", and I also located a couple more schools that are using the program…

Thank you again for all you are doing for the Church, and give me a call if you have questions about any of this.

Sincerely, Margo Szews,
MilwaukeeSt. Frances Cabrini School, West End, Wisconsin

(4)

Feb. 14, 1990

Dear Cabrini Parents

We are pleased that our school, grades 3-8 will be engaged in a Sexuality Curriculum, the "New Creation" Series, beginning the week of February 19th … Both the school board and a parent committee have reviewed these texts before they were adopted. This curriculum will be taught during the regularly scheduled religion time… stressing important concepts such as self-esteem and responsibility… human growth and development…

The educational series we are using does have both an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat seal…

Sincerely, Janice Stauske, Principal.

 



Back to Top | Features 1990s