Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Rembert Weakland represents all that is wrong with post-Conciliar Catholicism

[Let me make it clear before I start that I too am a sinner in need of God's mercy. I don't, however, have the charge of thousands of souls and the oversight of a diocese in communion with the Holy See.]

The more I think of Humbert Weakwrist Rembert Weakland the more I think he is a kind of composite of every bad bishop that has ever been ordained to the episcopate in the past 40 years.

A short biography: Born in 1927 he was educated at St Vincent's College and St Vincent's Seminary Latrobe. In 1945 he entered the Benedictine novitiate at St Vincent's Archabbey.He made his solemn profession as a Benedictine monk , at Solesmes in 1949. He also studied theology at San Anselmo in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood in Subiaco, Italy in 1951. He furthered his studies in music in Italy, France, and Germany, as well as at both the Juilliard School and Columbia University in New York. From 1957 to 1963, he taught music at his alma mater of St. Vincent College.

Weakland was elected Coadjutor Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey in 1963. He was appointed as Consultor to the Commission for Implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council and was appointed a Member of that Commission in 1968. He was elevated to abbot primate of the Benedictine Confederation on September 29, 1967, a position he held until 1977. At this time he also became Chancellor of the International Benedictine College of Sant'Anselmo, Rome, Italy.

On September 20, 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed Weakland Archbishop of Milwaukee. He was consecrated bishop on November 8, in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist by Archbishop Jean Jadot. On December 21, 1999, he defended and received a Ph.D. in Musicology - "with distinction" - from Columbia University, New York, for his research and thesis on "The Office Antiphons of the Ambrosian Chant". He retired from the post of Archbishop in 2002.

On paper a brilliant academic career and a fulfilling priestly and religious life.


Weakland has wreaked havoc with the Catholic Church in his diocese and beyond and continues to pollute the font.

Priestly Abuse: Defensive, bullying, insensitive, buck-passing, secretive

In 1984 he threatened teachers who had raised concerns about abuse in Catholic schools with libel writs. In 1994, Weakland said those reporting sexual abuse were "squealing." According to a deposition released in 2009, Weakland shredded reports about sexual abuse by priests. He moved a serial pederast, Fr William Effinger from parish to parish in the time-honoured way of ineffectual bishops.

In the case of the notrious pederast, Fr Lawrence Murphy, he wrote to Rome twenty years too late. Dithering over what to do he wrote to the then Cardinal Ratzinger about the case (he's normally pretty contemptuous of Rome's involvement in anything). The Prefect of the CDF told Weakland to initiate proceedings. He took three months to do so. Needless to say Weakland bleated about it to the BBC this year (Eddie Mair - who else?). He sought to pass the buck to the Holy Father over the case of Fr Murphy. A fellow bishop is having none of it.

"In order to be responsible for something, one has to have the authority to do something about it. And the very people who want to make the Holy Father responsible for everything heinous in the sexual misconduct scandal are the least likely to accept the Pope’s authority in any matter. They are the most disobedient people, in general. Yet they want to lay all the responsibility at the Pope’s feet. That simply makes no sense and we should not be fooled."

Liturgy & Wreckovation: philistine, uncanonical, arrogant, vain

Milwaukee Cathedral before Weakland got his hands on it

Needless to say, Weakland was a prominent wreckovator. He made a spectacular mess of Milwaukee's beautiful 19th Century Cathedral, ripping out the sanctuary baldachino and altar and puttting in its place a nave altar out of keeping with the character of the building. His first stop was the wreckovator's wreckovator, Fr Richard Vosko

The Cathedral after - Ugggghhhh

So bad and blatantly uncanonical were his attempts to turn the elegant 19th Century Cathedral into a Baptist mega-chapel that the Congregation for Divine Worship ordered him to desist from further vandalism. Too late - the damage is done.

His vanity was such that a bronze relief on the base of a prominent statue of the Blessed Virgin bears an image of....guess who? Archbishop Weakland, of course! Is such egotistical hubris appropriate in a Catholic Bishop? The poor Catholics of Milwaukee are stuck with his fizzog for the foreseeable future. If I had a hammer....

As an eminent liturgical scholar (I can't deny this, see above) Weakland served as President of the Church Music Association of America. There is a fantastic account of his hissy fit at the Fifth International Church Music Congress by Mgr Richard Schuler:

He too was present only for the last day of the Chicago sessions and was apparently unaware of the procedures established long before, governing the discussions during the study days. He and others wished to introduce many subjects to the floor for discussion that were not a part of the announced theme, which was actuosa participatio populi and its relation to sacred music. This theme had been approved by the Holy See as the only subject matter for discussion. In an interview with the Milwaukee press, the archabbot alluded to the congress as a kind of legislative body with the task of acting for the universal Church in order to exclude modern music and, among other things, dancing. The congress, of course, had no legislative authority, nor had its organizers thought of it as having such a role. Nevertheless, a small group tried to subvert the work of the congress.

Weakland, needless to say, thought the society full of "reactionary attitudes in liturgical thinking" (yeah, whatever) and his presidency did not last.

Doctrine: dissenting, disobedient

Rob Dreher's take:

Here's a tiny portion of what the Free Man of Milwaukee has meant for the Church in his city: He directed Catholic schools there to teach kids how to use condoms as part of AIDS education, and approved a graphic sex-education program for parochial-school kids that taught "there is no right and wrong" on the issues of abortion, contraception and premarital sex. He has advocated for gay rights and women's ordination, bitterly criticized Pope John Paul II, denounced pro-lifers as "fundamentalist," and declared that one could be both pro-choice and a Catholic in good standing.

He's quoted by that apogee of dissenting 'theologians', Richard P McBrien with approval on Weakland's inconsequential critique of Dominis Iesus:

Like Cardinal Mahony, Rembert Weakland, Archbishop of Milwaukee, complained in his own weekly column in his archdiocesan newspaper about the local press coverage. Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel carried the headline, "Vatican Insists Only Faithful Catholics Can Attain Salvation". Archbishop Weakland also agreed that the document failed to take into account "the enormous progress made after Vatican Council II in the mutual recognition of each other's baptisms and the ecclesial significance of such recognition". He continued: "What is disappointing about this document is that so many of our partners in ecumenical dialogues will find its tone heavy, almost arrogant and condescending. To them it is bound to seem out of keeping with the elevated and open tone of the documents of Vatican Council II. It ignores all of the ecumenical dialogues of the last 35 years, as if they did not exist. None of the agreed statements are cited. Has no progress in working toward convergence of theological thought occurred in these 35 years?" Archbishop Weakland asked.

Personal life: corrupt, venal

My apologies for the distasteful content of the following, (Rob Dreher, again):

The alleged ex-lover, Paul Macoux, is calling his decades-old encounter with Weakland "sexual abuse," but from what we know now, that's not the case. Macoux, 54, was at least in his late 20s when he began a relationship with Weakland, and from an 11-page, handwritten 1980 "Dear Paul" letter Weakland wrote to Macoux, it appears that the archbishop and his paramour had a consensual relationship, one that Weakland ended when he decided to begin honoring his vow of celibacy.

The letter reveals Weakland, archbishop of Milwaukee since 1977, to have been in "deep love" with Marcoux, who comes off as a manipulative grifter who looked to the archbishop, 21 years his senior, as a sugar daddy. Responding to Marcoux's apparent request for more money to fund a personal project, Weakland tells him that the $14,000 he had already given Marcoux "is really my personal limit

In total he shelled out $450,000 in all to what was in effect his rent boy. Did you get that? $450,000: He paid $450,000 from diocesan funds to his gay lover.

I would be interested to hear from readers if they know anyone with exactly the wrong combination of characteristics to be a Catholic bishop than Weakland.

How could a man who looked so like Phil Silvers go so wrong?


Blogger Ttony said...

Well done. It should, of course, have come from the Bishops' Conferences in E&W and in S (not to mention I), but it won't.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Emilio III said...

I had hoped he would be spending his retirement doing penance for his sins, but unfortunately he was writing his memoirs: Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church. The poor man suffered much due to narrow-minded Popes, but continues to support gay marriage and the ordination of women.

Is it too late to bring back the Rite for the Degradation of a Bishop?

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Hestor said...

Is it too late to bring back the Rite for the Degradation of a Bishop?

I believe it still exists in the old Pontifical Romanum. Needless to say it won't used because

1. Its in the extraordinary form

2. We've moved on from all that since the glorious council

9:07 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

Post Summorum Pontificum, surely the whole of the pre-Conciliar Rite is opened up for use (certainly there have been plenty of usus antiquor baptisms).

This is clearly another rite that needs reviving...

10:21 PM  
Blogger terry said...

See also Jimmy Akin`s brilliant article entitled: Smoking Gun Memo Finally Translated

at http://www.jimmyakin.org/2010/04/smoking-gun-memo-finally-translated.html

You will be shocked. But also delighted that the Holy Father is being vindicated at last

12:04 AM  
Anonymous berenike said...

He's in the bibliography of my Finals dissertation.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

No shame in that, Berenike...

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Hestor said...

Paulinus - it was my rather pathetic attempt to sarcastic at the prevailing attitude today.

On a serious note, the idea of degrading a bishop would never be entertained, because Rome tolerates all sorts of rubbish in the episcopacy. Look at how they choose Nichols down here.

1:24 AM  
Anonymous berenike said...

I dunno, I feel rather tainted by association :( Besides, it's annoying to have acknowledged someone like this as an authority in any field!

9:35 AM  

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