The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is facing outrage from a victim advocacy group after it allowed retired Archbishops Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee and Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, both prominent figures in the priest sex abuse scandal, to speak at a prayer service and concelebrate Mass at St. John’s Basilica.
Weakland was invited to give the keynote address at the seventh biennial Cathedral Ministry Conference concerning the building’s renovation, and concelebrate alongside Pilarczyk at Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s installation Mass. Weakland was also expected to lead a prayer service at the conference, where Pilarczyk was also scheduled to speak.
Weakland, who admitted praciticing homosexuality in a recent memoir, said in a video deposition in May that he transferred priests with a history of sexual misconduct back into churches without alerting parishioners because "no parish would have accepted a priest unless you could say that he has gone through the kind of psychological examination and that he’s not a risk to the parish."
Weakland retired in 2002 after it was revealed he paid hundreds of thousands of church dollars to a former homosexual lover who threatened to publicly accuse Weakland of sexually assaulting him. He has since admitted carrying on several homosexual affairs while serving as Archbishop of Milwaukee.
“If we say our God is an all-loving god, how do you explain that at any given time probably 400 million living on the planet at one time would be gay?" asked Weakland in a New York Times interview. "Are the religions of the world, as does Catholicism, saying to those hundreds of millions of people, you have to pass your whole life without any physical, genital expression of that love?”
Cincinnati Archbishop Pilarczyk in 2003 pleaded no contest when his diocese was convicted of neglecting to report sex abuse by priests in the 1970s and 80s to civil authorities.
St. John’s Rector Father Carl Last defended the invitations based on the prelates’ expertise on issues surrounding the cathedral.
Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests held a press conference on the steps of St. John’s Cathedral Wednesday to protest the archdiocese’s gracious treatment of Weakland.
"This individual is responsible for transferring and concealing dozens of priests who molested and raped children," said SNAP Midwest Director Peter Isley, reports Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel.
The advocacy group also attacked the immortalization of Weakland’s image in a bronze bas relief under a statue of Mary in the cathedral. The image had been on display since 2002, erected when Weakland was still archbishop. Rector Fr. Last defended the images as "part of history."
"I couldn’t believe it. That this was a practical joke that this was someone joking about this," said SNAP’s Peter Isley of the image, which includes Weakland in a Biblical scene depicting Jesus blessing children. The cathedral also contains a bronze bust of Weakland.
Archbishop Listecki has declined to comment on the matter. The archdiocese Wednesday sent out a press release saying they were working towards healing and resolution with victims of priest abuse, and that there is more work to be done.