Friday, April 9, 2010

Week late, dollars short TBD

At the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website
April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month


Thursday, April 8, 2010

'What is truth?' said the witness in response to the oath

Marie Rohde tells the The story of a 40-year cover-up. Our Archdiocese has not made it easy to counter that headline.
Months ago, Milwaukee archdiocesan representatives told lawyers for the victims that all requested documents had been produced. But Michael Finnegan, a lawyer working with Anderson, said his firm found hints of more in documents produced by the Superior, Wis., Diocese. Murphy had served for years in Superior after leaving Milwaukee in 1974 but remained under the supervision of the Milwaukee archdiocese, so records on Murphy must have been shared by the two dioceses.

“We told Milwaukee that we got stuff from Superior that had come from Milwaukee,” Finnegan tells NewsBuzz. “We told them there had to be more in their files and that if they didn’t produce it, we’d go to court, and they could explain what was going on.”

As it turned out, most of the most damning information eventually came from the Milwaukee files.
While it sometimes can be difficult to be sure all documents have been located in response to an expansive request, it's gotten hard to give that benefit of the doubt in these cases.

As I've indicated, I don't see any of the pending cases going to trial. If nothing else, our Archdiocese will file for bankruptcy if that's what it takes to keep its people from testifying before a jury. Its press release on the bankruptcy, which I assume was drafted years ago, will give some different explanation.

(via Murphy's Law)


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The 2.45 Million Dollar Archbishop

WisBlawg reported Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel since 1890s Available on Google News
Archived news articles from the Milwaukee Journal and Journal/Sentinel are now available in Google News from the 1890s to the present. Unfortunately, there is no way to print the pages, but you can direct link to an article.

To access the archives, go to the advanced search page and enter Milwaukee Journal in the Source box.
You'll find items like this: Rome endowments to honor Weakland: Foundation here funding professorships in music, liturgy, Catholic teaching, by Tom Heinen, Milwaukee Journal, November 22, 1997 (specifically $1.5 million and $500,000 endowed chairs at the Gregorian University and International Benedictine College, Sant'Anselmo, respectively, from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Supporting Fund, Inc.).

That date was during the settlement negotiations in the Timeline: Weakland, Marcoux relationship, which ultimately resulted in our Archdiocese's $450,000 settlement.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Casting the first shadow

An alert reader notes that among the New York Times documents from Father Lawrence Murphy's file, reposted at Bishop Accountability, is the September 2, 1998 letter from Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Archbishop Weakland first informs Cardinal Bertone that he can close his file because Father Murphy died August 21, 1998. Weakland goes on,
Although we thought the family had agreed to a private funeral Mass at the chapel of one of our cemeteries and that the casket would be closed, they did just the opposite, defied our agreement, invited people from the deaf community to attend, had the casket open and Father dressed in full vestments. The Mass was celebrated by the Auxilary Bishop of Milwaukee, His Excellency Bishop Richard Sklba. Bishop Sklba, in his carefully prepared words, alluded to the good work Father Murphy did, but also, in deference to the deaf community present, had to mention that some shadows had been cast on his ministry.
My reader wonders if Bishop Sklba could not have insisted, before proceeding, that the family comply with the agreement to the extent it was still possible. The letter goes on,
In spite of these difficulties, we are hoping we can avoid undue publicity that would be negative toward the Church.
How much negative publicity could there be if "Murphy’s actions were public knowledge and reported to civil authorities as early as 1973; in newspaper articles as early as 1974; and through civil court proceedings as early as 1975." as we were told in that statement from Archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski in the October 13, 2009 Milwaukee Catholic Herald?


Friday, April 2, 2010

Grating expectations

Katherine Lingle unintentionally points out a potential problem with "Restorative Justice" programs.
Is it fair to expect victims to be the ones who make the first move?
I say not if it's put that way, but she's already got the expectation ramped up to mandate.
To follow Jesus, Catholic victims should come forward and ask for the services of the program.
For an example of how "expectations" of victims can work in practice, see the letter to the editor from Miriam C. Ross, SSND, published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

P.S. Though "two can play" the expectations of victims game.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dean Weissmuller interviewed in the Chicago Tribune

Milwaukee priest’s victims have questions, no answers: Former Chicagoan recalls alleged abuse in case that has reached to the Vatican, by Manya A. Brachear and Marie Rohde
Weissmuller, now 51, and four other men who filed a lawsuit last August learned last week that they were part of a scandal with global implications. The New York Times revealed new evidence that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, might have known about Murphy's misconduct at least a few years before he died but never took steps to remove him from the priesthood.
If that isn't an accurate description of Cardinal Ratzinger's actions, that's what happens when the first source for information about what's happening in lawsuits against our Archdiocese is The New York Times, as opposed to, say, our Archdiocese.

(via comment by "Catholic Bill" at Pressroom Buzz)


Brundage on the trial of Father Murphy

Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy: Then-presiding judge for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gives first-person account of church trial, by Fr. Thomas Brundage, JLC, at Catholic Anchor

(via Whispers in the Loggia)


Monday, March 29, 2010

The last to know

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee's statement, response to NYT article in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald includes that
A chronology of Lawrence Murphy is available on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Web site at
It literally and unhelpfully links to the site's home page, and let's you search, rather than linking to the Lawrence Murphy Chronology.

The chronology's mid-to-late-1990s entries might now be supplemented from the news reports involved in the controversy over the ecclesiastical proceedings at that time.

I'll supplement the early-to-mid-1970s enrtries with these two items.

"Murphy’s actions were public knowledge and reported to civil authorities as early as 1973; in newspaper articles as early as 1974; and through civil court proceedings as early as 1975." according to a statement from Archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski in the October 13, 2009 Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

"[then-Archbishop Will1am] Cousins testified he found nothing in his investigation to substantiate any of the complaints about Murphy. That testimony came in a 1975 sworn deposition in a civil lawsuit filed by a victim. Murphy 'sacrificed himself for the school' after 'harassments and threats,' Cousins said under oath. The lawsuit was dropped." according to the March 26, 2006 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

It would make sense for our Archdiocese to say it could not have been involved in a cover-up if by 1975 it was "public knowledge" that Father Murphy had been sexually abusing kids. It's just hard to square that with Archbishop Cousins, under oath, denying Murphy's actions that same year.

Update: The New York Times posted The Document Trail of the Vatican proceedings against Father Murphy. (via Paul Moses at dotCommonweal)


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Integrating our energized vibrancy

Back to planning at Parish Council
CMMI: Capability Maturity Model Integration

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Friday, March 12, 2010

A hundred sheep, but who's counting

We were invited to the recent Campanile Society dinner for selected donors to last year's Catholic Stewardship Appeal. That was even though my contribution was at an unlisted (Acedia?) level of giving.

Archbishop Listecki later sent those of us who declined to attend a letter of thanks for our donation, and a pitch for this year's appeal.
I need your help to ensure the Church's mission of teaching, serving and sanctifying, and passing on the gift of faith to our children and all God's people (680,000 in our archdiocese!)

Not to mention needing someone to check the form letters against Archdiocesan statistics, see Milwaukee Catholics down 38,000 in 2009.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Play midsty for me

When Adoremus Bulletin reported US Bishops Approve Missal Texts, there was this local angle.
Bishop Richard Sklba, auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee and past president of CBA [The Catholic Biblical Association of America], also strongly objected to Liturgiam authenticam’s insistence on fidelity to the original text: “I’ve been very clear about my own conviction that the use of inclusive language translations, both in Scripture and in liturgical books, particularly when resulting in more faithful renditions of the original author’s intent, is an obligation for the Church. I do not see this as merely a question of option” (Milwaukee Catholic Herald, May 21, 2001).

During the November meeting, Bishop Trautman’s effort to delay approval of the Missal received vocal support from Bishop Sklba, who said, “In my judgment the text is still unfinished, filled with awkward grammatical phrases, over which I stumble every time I attempt to pray the text aloud”. Commenting on the Holy See’s recent gesture to Anglicans (the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus) Bishop Sklba said,
This will certainly have some consequences. One of which, I submit, will be the more public presence of the Book of Common Prayer in our midst as a living reality. The language of the Book of Common Prayer is elegant. It’s elegant in its phraseology and its cadence. So fine that it influenced and shaped our English language for almost five hundred years. Our proposed liturgical texts will be compared to that historic one, critically, I’m afraid, and with less than positive result. I still believe we need more time to produce and refine a text worthy of worship of our Church. So I ask that we continue to take the time we need.

On inclusive language, a recent Sunday's Gospel reading and homily at my parish demonstrated more effort at various evasions of the word "men" than the net effort at evangelization in a couple of decades.

On the new translation, English-speakers will, I submit, find it no more awkward grammatically than the phrasing "the more public presence of the Book of Common Prayer in our midst as a living reality." See Diachronic apostolicity.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Ask the Archbishop

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel religion writer Annysa Johnson and other local media will pose questions to Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki at a Newsmakers Luncheon March 9 at the Milwaukee Press Club. In an effort to represent the community, we'd like to know what you'd like us to ask the archbishop. Send your questions to Annysa...


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Not on the list

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that a Controversial bishop will be at Marquette on Thursday.
Retired Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who has been blocked from speaking at some churches, including Milwaukee's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, because of his views on women's ordination and homosexuality, will speak on "Justice in the Church and Society" at Marquette University on Thursday for the annual Faber Lecture.

Given the recent controversy over who participated in the installation of Archbishop Listecki at the Cathedral, this creates an opportunity for explanation of Church teaching in the bishops' column in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. Archbishop Weakland could interrupt his retirement to explain the errors of Bishop Gumbleton's views on homosexuality. Bishop Sklba could explain the errors of Bishop Gumbleton's views on women's ordination.


Friday, February 12, 2010

One less school bell to answer

Our Archdiocesan weekly reports St. James School, Mukwonago to close.

At the other end of the Archdiocese, it is claimed that last year's Merger ensures future of Catholic education in Fond du Lac.

See Catholic Schools Remaining Week


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Advance on the cluster front

If you follow Archdiocesan developments more closely than I do, you might have already learned there now appear to be Cluster Councils.

Seems like it was not even four and one-half years ago I heard my parish's cluster had its own logo.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Archbishop Listecki at 'On the Issues with Mike Gousha'

February 16, 2010 12:15 p.m. at Marquette University Law School
On the Issues with Mike Gousha: The Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki Milwaukee’s new Archbishop joins us to offer his perspective on the role of the Church in the 21st century, and the opportunities and challenges facing the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
Space permitting, you can reserve online.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Archbishop Listecki to Receive His Pallium from the Pope on 6/29/10 in Rome

On June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Pope will confer upon Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki the Pallium, signifying an archbishop’s ecclesial and pastoral authority, in union with the Pope, over the metropolitan province of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee entrusted to his care. ...
There is a link regarding a tour/pilgrimage available.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Catholic Schools Remaining Week

This week is Catholic Schools Week notes our Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Last week our Archdiocesan weekly reported Kenosha, Racine focus on middle school collaboration. In Kenosha,
Operating under the umbrella of St. Joseph Academy in Kenosha, officials will slash operating costs by utilizing a single principal and administrative board between St. Mark School and the current St. Joseph High School and Interparish Junior High School.
In Racine
While not combining schools as in Kenosha, Racine St. Catherine High School will be implementing the middle school grades into its program beginning next fall; they already have 25 students registered for the sixth grade class.
While no schools have acknowledged a plan to shut down or eliminate grades for the 2010-11 academic year, SCHS hopes to be pro-active in having an attractive educational option if such decisions are made.
On that point, the only rumor I heard said to expect school closings under Archbishop Listecki, indicating it was inevitable, not that it is on a hidden agenda of his. And if you read the Faith In Our Future Mission Statement, it's quite broad on what qualifies. It does not literally say it's about keeping more schools open.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Planning for and in the future

The Parish Planning Resources page at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website now says, if you check "Publications" in the sidebar,
The Vision/Ministry Planning Process will not be posted on the website until the new Archbishop has an opportunity to review and edit its contents. The deadline for submission of the vision/ministry plans has been moved from June 30, 2010 to June 30, 2011.
The program is now called VISION: 21st Century.
After more than 15 years and three cycles of archdiocesan planning initiatives, we find ourselves at the dawn of a new millennium in need of a comprehensive plan for Mission and Ministry. VISION: 21st Century will help us articulate a plan for the Church in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and chart our course for the 21st century.
So by 2011 Archdiocesan planning expects to be ready to look ahead to 2001.

P.S. Looking ahead through this decade, they could have called it VISION: 2020. Even put pupils in the zeroes. And add glasses. Maybe black horn rims like Archbishop Weakland wore in his early official portraits. Next you think "Buddy Cardinal Holly". Then one day you realize you could have substituted "Paul Marcoux" for "Peggy Sue"; it's a slippery slope.


Monday, January 25, 2010

In a (Darrell) Huff

In January 12th testimony at a legislative committee hearing, our Archbishop voices opposition to ‘window legislation’. Trying to make a case that the pending legislation [SB319/AB453] unfairly targets the Catholic Church, he said,
during Assembly Committee testimony this past November, supporters of this bill testified that, indeed, Catholic clergy make up only 1 to 2 percent of child abusers.
That "only" caught my eye. Unless I'm mistaken (and feel free to Comment or email if I am)...

In 1970, Catholic priests numbered 59,192 in a U.S. population of 205,052,174. Catholic clergy, I calculate, then made up .029% of the population. If so, then "only" would apply if they included significantly less than .029% of the nation's child abusers. If instead they were between 1% and 2%, that is between 35 times (3,400%) to 70 times (6,900%) more.

Update: In a comment Dad29 suggests Archbishop Listecki meant that 1 to 2 percent of priests were abusers, not that 1 to 2 percent of abusers were priests. The Wisconsin Catholic Conference posted his testimony.
We need only to look at Delaware where similar legislation resulted in more than 80 percent of the cases in litigation being brought against the Catholic Church. We know from statistics that, certainly, Catholic clergy do not make up 80 percent of the offenders is this societal atrocity. In fact, during Assembly Committee testimony this past November, supporters of this bill testified that, indeed, Catholic clergy make up only one to two percent of child abusers.
He isn't challenging that as a fact. So it still appears that the percentage of sexual abusers of children who were Catholic clergy was well above their percentage of the general population.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Extending remarks for the record

Marie Rohde reports free-lance from Milwaukee in the National Catholic Reporter, New archbishop faces tough questions.

I was asked to comment for the article and part of what I said was quoted and characterized as "pushing the archdiocese to release detailed financial accounts." As an exercise in a reporter's or editor's judgment, I have no complaint about that. And to say I can push something from this blog is rather improbable, though flattering.

But since I have a medium at hand, I'll elaborate. The entirety of my comment was,
If I could only request or suggest one thing to Archbishop Listecki, it would be to see to it that every year every Catholic household receive the parish Status Animarum report (like this example) and the aggregate of the information for the entire Archdiocese. Even better, these would include graphs of trends. At my parish, at least, we receive a steady stream of parish financial information. If we received detailed information about what that money is, or isn’t, accomplishing, perhaps we’d give more money, more time, and more attention.


Friday, January 22, 2010

"Outta my way, Father Carl!"

Continuing our virtual tour of Milwaukee's renovated Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, we come to the Marian shrine which (now) symbolizes our protective Mother in 2002 calmly but quickly on her way to give an Archbishop (depicted on the plaque beneath her feet) a punch in the nose.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More than many sparrows but less than this bronze

"Is there any organization in town that is more clueless about public relations than the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese?" asked Bruce Murphy in last Tuesday's column, The Furor Over Weakland’s Bronze.
The criticism has been led by Peter Isely, the implacable director of the Midwest chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. You could argue that Isely always sees the negative about the archdiocese, but he is a smart, savvy strategist who seizes on any chance to dramatize the plight of those he represents against an archdiocese he portrays as uncaring. And time and again the actions of the archdiocese reinforce his arguments.
Consider Archbishop Listecki's use of the new talking point that objections to Archbishop Weakland are merely emotional. Or consider Cathedral rector Rev. Carl Last who said that if someone finds meanings in the Cathedral bronze other than what was originally intended, "it's his problem." Mr. Murphy continues,
I don’t know what the archdiocese could have done about the installation ceremony. Not allowing any role in the ceremony for a longtime Milwaukee archbishop like Weakland would seem a tough thing to do.
They're tough enough to tell people still angry or upset about Weakland's handling of the abuse cases to get over it, but not tough enough to tell Weakland he has to stay away for the good of our Archdiocese. Odd given that Weakland himself once apologized publicly for his "lack of courage".

Regarding the bronze pedestal plaque,
The smart thing would have been to immediately confess a goof and commission a new tribute – and with no particular haste.
Too close to the bait and switch strategy all too common in our Archdiocese. Why not instead acknowledge that subsequent events have added these connotations to the sculpture. Financing St. Peter's Basilica wasn't intended to be a factor in causing something like the Reformation. It turned out to be one, but we haven't torn it down. Both bronze and basilica serve as unintended symbols of hard lessons.
Why doesn’t the archdiocese get it?

The answer, I fear, is this: Officials are still far more concerned about the feelings of Weakland, his longtime lieutenant Bishop Richard J. Sklba, and other officials who got enmeshed in the clergy abuse scandal. That attitude, of course, is what led the church to protect abusive priests in the first place. And that attitude, if it is indeed still entrenched, will make it very difficult for the archdiocese to ever overcome this scandal.
Perhaps they think they've spent enough time on it, and it's time to move on. Like a shepherd whose schedule is more important than his sheep.

(via SNAP Network)

P.S. To the eye untrained in public relations, this is not the best context in which to find Bishop Sklba expressing concern over Where Have All the Poinsettias Gone?
I return to my question: what happens to all the poinsettias this time of the year? Does anyone at all care? I’ll ask the same question come Easter when the fragrant lilies of that season will be tossed out with equal disdain or disregard. Is there anything at all wrong with this picture?

P.P.S. Regarding the post title, it was not meant literally. As I have indicated elsewhere, I assume an aviary manager who handled abuse of many sparrows by subordinates as Archbishop Weakland did abuse of children would not be around to welcome any successors.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Participation trophy

... There won’t be a bronze plaque in the Hall of Fame for Mark McGwire anytime soon.

But there is a bronze bas-relief of Rembert Weakland in the Milwaukee cathedral right now.

Baseball has standards. ... --"Diogenes"

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Richard's poor almanac

Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba looks back on Anniversaries large and small, since his 1959 ordination, in the bishops' column in our Archdiocesan weekly.
The terrible sadness of the sexual abuse crisis and the need to claim the responsibility we each bear for that tragedy has scarred the past two decades. There have been so many victims ... including all who clumsily tried to do the right thing without truly understanding the depth of the wound.
Contrast that to Archbishop Listecki dismissing that wound as emotion. From these contrary premises they each manage to reach a conclusion excusing inaction.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Archbishop Dolan's initial (October 22, 2002) meeting at which Priest-abuse victims share their grief. Bishop Sklba was in attendance.
"Victims of sexual abuse and their families truly know the meaning of a broken heart," said Karen Cerniglia, whose son, Joe, said he was sexually abused in his early teens by Father William Effinger in a rectory in Lake Geneva. Effinger died in prison after being convicted of abusing a boy and accused of other abuse.

"I want you to know that I trusted and believed in Archbishop (Rembert G. Weakland) and in you," she said to Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba. "However, my faith was completely shattered."

Cerniglia said she was heartened when she met Sklba at a parish gathering and he promised to call her by-then adult son to talk to him. She gave Sklba his number, but no call was ever received.

"Is that a compassionate and caring way to treat my son?" she asked.

Sklba, described by others as a compassionate and good man, acknowledged the conversation. He said he tried several times to reach her son, but the calls were unanswered.

"Ever since then, I have been burdened with a sense of failure," Sklba said. "I do know I tried to do that."

The mother's retort: He could have called her.
One might be tempted to read Bishop Sklba's response to her as not claiming responsibility, nor even clumsily trying to do the right thing. If this experience, and some ongoing sense of failure, motivated him to finally complete the call, I haven't seen it reported in the seven-plus years since.

Also from the Journal Sentinel report,
During the meeting, Sklba took much of the wrath expressed by victims, particularly from those abused by the late Father George Nuedling in Twin Lakes.

One of Nuedling's victims asked why Sklba had sent a priest to another parish after learning of abuse in 1996.

"Why not report it to the police? Why did you not try to find other victims?" the man asked.

"He was not in rehabilitation. It's terrible, Bishop Sklba. Victims can't have peace until they have justice."
Sounds familiar.

I return to the bishop's column to give him the last word.
it is the Gospel of truth and justice, of compassion and healing which must continue to be proclaimed ... to ourselves as well as to the entire world.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Listecki on 'Sunday Insight"

Last week's Sunday Insight with Charlie Sykes on WTMJ-TV was devoted to an interview of new Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki.


Friday, January 15, 2010

In the striking zone

Heidi Schlumpf at the National Catholic Reporter weighs in on the Cathedral Bronze Controversy.
I've been a supporter of Weakland, one who has been disappointed by him surely. But this does seem like an odd choice.

The Mary Mother of the Church statue above the relief panel, by Chicago artists Jeffrey and Anna Koh-Varilla, is striking, though.
Reminiscent of the follow-through of a pre-conciliar nun who just launched an eraser at a student in the back row.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Grading screwballs on a curve

Weakland Says He Did Best He Could on Sex Abuse Cases reports Jay Sorgi of WTMJ-TV.
Weakland sent an e-mail to The Associated Press responding to state Sen. Glenn Grothman's remarks at a hearing Tuesday. The West Bend Republican called Weakland a "piece of work" and church officials "screwballs" for allowing Weakland to attend new Archbishop Jerome Listecki's installation Mass last week.
In the Archbishop's response,
He says he did his best with the [sexual abuse] cases with the knowledge and experience he had.
That isn't really a refutation of Senator Grothman.

(via SNAP)


Thistling in the dark

The National Cathedral Ministry Conference which wrapped up today included some tours of Milwaukee's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. In lieu of a physical tour, here's a virtual tour and a Catesby Leigh book review in First Things that includes a critique of the renovation completed in 2002.

One controversial feature Leigh mentions is the Corona. The first rendition of the proposed renovation reminded too many people of a Hollywood version of a pagan temple. That lead to this revised version. Subsequent to that, it was proposed that the Corona depict the crown of thorns.

That, surprisingly it turns out, did not draw any known objection from Bishop Sklba. A few years later, in this column in our Archdiocesan newspaper reviewing The Passion of the Christ, he wrote,
In my judgment that level of brutality was even erroneously imposed by the film on the biblical text at times, as for example the film’s portrayal of the crown of thorns. In fact the imposition of the crown was intended to mock, not cause pain. To prove the point, I would note that the Greek word was acanthus, a thistle, the very leafy plant which decorates the top of Corinthian columns. Our traditional Catholic piety, however, would never have noticed that reality.
On your virtual tour, you can contrast The Corona as built.

P.S. Which Archbishop Weakland has called "theologically profound".



Milwaukee's Catholic Bishops have started posting at the new Our Faith weblog on the Archdiocesan website.

The Blog Disclaimer includes:
The opinions expressed by bloggers and those providing comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied in any of the blogs on


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

That's why pencils have erasers ... and sharp points

At a legislative committee hearing yesterday, Archbishop Listecki opposes lifting limits on abuse suits. Companion bills [SB319/AB453] before the legislature would eliminate the statute of limitations for future claims of sexual abuse and do so retroactively for a one year period. (See Mammon et Magister)
new Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki told lawmakers Tuesday that the measure would bankrupt the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Some time back, I heard Archbishop Dolan decline to rule out bankruptcy in response to a question from Peter Isley. Other dioceses have gone through Chapter 11. It ought to be explained, based on those experiences, why this has to be avoided here. Otherwise one might be left with the impression that actually filing is avoided because the threat of filing gives leverage.

Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) co-sponsored the senate bill. She was uncertain if the bill had the votes to get out of commitee, or to pass if it reached the floor.
Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed skepticism about the bill but grilled Listecki about the church's handling of past abuse cases and questioned why former Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland appeared with Listecki when Listecki was installed as archbishop last week.

Weakland has admitted in a memoir and court depositions that he shielded abusive priests.

"Isn't (honoring Weakland) really a poke in the eye to all those people who suffered so horribly?" Grothman said.

Listecki said Weakland's handling of abuse cases was flawed, but the church has changed its practices since then.
Having attended an abuse "listening session" and gone through the "awareness training", I am unconvinced their hearts are in those changed practices. Minimizing Archbishop Weakland shielding abusive priests as "flawed" and accomodating his latest comeback attempt looks to me to be a symptom of that.

P.S. Archbishop: Proposed bill would bankrupt dioceses, by The Associated Press, LaCrosse Tribune (via WisPolitics)
Moments later he [Senator Grothman] called church officials "screwballs" for allowing Weakland to attend Listecki's installation Mass and not removing a plaque bearing Weakland's likeness.
[Archdiocese chief of staff Jerry] Topczewski said outside the hearing that the plaque was in place before word of the lawsuit broke.
Referring to Paul Marcoux's threatened lawsuit. Archbishop Weakland must have forgotten to mention it at the time. Mr. Topczewski went on,
Weakland remains part of the church and deserved a spot at the Mass as much as other bishops who attended, he said.
Their Hands Are Tied.

Update: Wis. senator insults former archbishop, WKOW-TV Madison (via "Diogenes" at Off the Record)

Update 2: Failing to address Weakland will cost Milwaukee diocese, by Amy Pawlak, Milwaukee Examiner

Update 3: Listecki pressed about Weakland’s status, by Bob Hague, Wisconsin Public Radio. "Listecki admitted that Weakland is 'a lightning rod' within the Archdiocese."


Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Here's a solution to the controversy over the Milwaukee Cathedral bronze sculpture depicting Archbishop Weakland with some children. Rather than remove it to storage, as Dad29 suggests, or destroying it (beating it into ploughshares?), how about selling numbered limited edition reproductions engraved with the title "Lambs to Slaughter"? Proceeds could be divided among the artists, Archdiocese, and SNAP. I'd give up any claim to rights in the title in exchange for Number One in the series.

Update: The Archdiocese needs to remove Weakland artwork, by Amy Pawlak, Milwaukee Catholic Examiner


The Amazing Colossal Archbishop

With the early 2000s Milwaukee Cathedral renovation back in the news, here's my nominee for most ironic Milwaukee Catholic Herald cover photo: July 19, 2001.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Back to the Bronze Age

Catholic News Agency reports on the Cathedral sculpture controversy. Despite two subsequent Archbishops and a lot of clergy and staff wishing otherwise, note this choice of pertinent background.
Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, whose resignation Pope John Paul II accepted in 2002 when he reached the age of 75, was found to have had a homosexual relationship with an adult male seminarian who he paid to keep quiet about their involvement.
That sounds like "hush money" an improper use of Archdiocesan funds. If so, one would expect that there would have been, at a minimum, a public acknowledgment of this from Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba and Finance Officer Wayne Schneider, who approved the payment. On the contrary, Archbishop Dolan subsequently reorganized his staff, keeping them in the smaller circle of his closest advisers. We have to assume that our Archdiocese still regards this payment as proper, and it will pay if analogous circumstances arise again, despite efforts to convince us otherwise.

The CNA report goes on,
The former archbishop has also admitted to moving pedophile priests around to different parishes, FOX 6 TV reports.

Although his misdeeds took place years ago, a new bronze relief pedastal [sic, pedestal? pederastal?] that portrays the former archbishop alongside images of the Virgin Mary, St. John and various other figures including children is now causing a stir.
As you may have heard.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has decried the piece of art and expressed in a statement Wednesday a desire to know why the former archbishop is being “pictured in the biblical scene of Jesus protecting the little children” as Archbishop Weakland has also faced accusations in the past of covering up priestly abuse in his diocese.
Julie Wolf, our Archdiocesan Communications Director responded,
“It was commissioned to represent the archdiocese at that point in time, when Archbishop Weakland was archbishop, when Fr. Carl Last was the rector of the Cathedral and he still is,” said Wolf, who continued to tell CNA that the piece is intended “also to represent the people who make up the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, including children and adults and various ethnic groups.”
"Continued to tell" probably meaning "went on" or "reiterated" rather than "stonewalled".
A statement issued by the archdiocese on Wednesday also explained the content of the bronze relief, saying that the image of Rembert Weakland “is shown kneeling in reverence to Mother, Mary, who as Mother of the Church and Mother of us all, is depicted as protector of not only children, but all of us.”
Now with the added meaning to many of protection from Archbishop Weakland.
Wolf has also denied the claim that the former archbishop ordered the piece himself, saying that it was the initiative of an art sub-committee, which was part of the larger multi-year St. John the Evangelist Cathedral renovation effort.
While Ms. Wolf might convince a visitor today that various aspects of the Cathedral renovation were the product of mindless bureaucracy run amok, criticism around the time of the renovation, even from Rome, was met with the emphatic assertion that such details of the project were within the scope of Archbishop Weakland's prerogatives of office.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee emphasized that, “Our priority remains to work toward healing and resolution. Identifying ongoing sources of pain is important to that process. We acknowledge that much has been accomplished these past eight years and much more remains to be done."
With the caveat that if you identify the source of pain as Archbishop Weakland, etc., you'll be told it's psychosomatic. Maybe Archbishop Listecki's successor will deal with it.


Friday, January 8, 2010

The shepherd and the sheep's complacency

In a Wisconsin Public Radio report, Archbishop Listecki attributes declining Mass attendance to a complacent laity.

He elsewhere elaborated.
Listecki made it clear that he wants to win back followers. To do so, he hopes to "tell the story" about good things being done in the archdiocese, which represents some 640,000 Catholics.
Presumably this will be tweaked away from this works-righteousness form.
"A lot of the data coming back says they've just grown apart from (church)," Listecki said. "They've stopped going to church, stopped participating in a religious community or parish and have kind of grown into that complacency in relationship to God."

He attributes that to the grown [sic] secular nature of society, an issue he addressed during his first homily.
So it isn't entirely the laity's fault; it's also society's fault.

P.S. From the St. Al's bulletin: Mass Is Boring? Your fault.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Weakland ho!

Whispers in the Loggia notes the time warp at the installation Mass of Archbishop Jerome Listecki.
Lest anyone needed reminding of what (recent archbishops notwithstanding) remains the Milwaukee church's prevailing ecclesiology (read: Rembert Nation), those listening closely during the preface dialogue would've heard much (if not most) of the assembly respond as follows: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of God's name..." and then again " is right to give God thanks and praise."


Through the Looking Last

In a report by WITI-TV on the Cathedral sculpture controversy, Cathedral Rector Father Carl Last channels the Spirit of Vatican II.
As for the statues, Father Carl says Weakland's image represents the head of the local archdiocese at the time. Father Carl says, "I don't see a need to modify it. I think I've explained the intent of it and the focus of it. If some individual wants to say he doesn't see it that way it's his problem."
P.S. No institution has done more to protect bronze images of children than the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.


Archbishops with and without conviction

Referring to SNAP, today's paper reports Victims group questions visits by 2 retired archbishops. The visits are to next weeks national Cathedral Ministry Conference in Milwaukee.

First, retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee.
"This individual is responsible for transferring and concealing dozens of priests who molested and raped children," SNAP Midwest Director Peter Isely said of Weakland in a news conference Wednesday with other victims and family members outside the Milwaukee cathedral.

"And he's immortalized himself in bronze ... in the place of Jesus shepherding children," Isely said.
While Archbishop Weakland as a Nantucket lifeguard might have been a more apt symbol for the artists' intent, SNAP might be missing an opportunity to use the lambs to slaughter meaning now actually conveyed.

Second, retired Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati. At the conference, newly-installed Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki,
is scheduled to celebrate Mass alongside Pilarczyk, a former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who in 2003 entered a plea of no contest on behalf of the Cincinnati archdiocese, which was convicted of failing to report clergy sex abuse to civil authorities during the 1970s and '80s.
Might turn out to be a conflict between meaning intended and meaning conveyed there as well.


Things were said about mistakes that were made

WISN-TV reports on Archbishop Listecki's post-installation press conference. A question was asked about the Cathedral sculpture controversy.
"Archbishop Weakland served the church for a long period of time. There's an aspect of wisdom. Were mistakes made? Obviously there were mistakes made. I think we have to analyze history and make sure we don't make the same mistakes."
Too late, he's already repeating the mistake of saying mistakes were made.


Sounding bronze and stinking symbol

Charlie Sykes in A Bronze for Weakland? relays questions from a SNAP press release including,
why, as part of that renovation [of the Cathedral], [Archbishop Rembert] Weakland commissioned charitable money to be used to create a bronze relief of himself pictured in the biblical scene of Jesus protecting the little children (the relief is on the pedestal of the Mary, Mother of the Church Shrine, which is on the east side altar of the cathedral); ... Also in the background of the relief, according to Chicago artists Jeffrey and Anna Koh-Varilla, is a portrait of the Cathedral’s current rector, Fr. Carl Last. A recent email by Anna and Jeffery Koh-Varilla, confirms that the relief was meant to bring the biblical scene into the contemporary world of the Milwaukee church by placing Weakland in it [as protector of children].
The question could have been Another Bronze for Weakland? Around 1995 our Archdiocese commissioned the Varillas to produce this life-size bronze bust.

Bronzes are small change compared to $2 million expended in 1997 by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Supporting Fund Inc. to endow two chairs in Weakland's honor at universities in Rome, see Rome endowments to honor Weakland. And we now know that the following year $450,000 in hush money was paid to Paul Marcoux.

I still wonder how money could be found for those 1990s expenditures while financial necessity was claimed as the reason most of Milwaukee's inner city parishes were being closed.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wishes, horses, resolutions

In the New Year's Eve day edition of our diocesan weekly, Bishop Callahan urges Resolve to build God’s kingdom in the new year. Or at least start on it.
I would enjoy knowing that all of us are resolutely resolving to go to Mass every Sunday as much as we may want to shed extra pounds and quit smoking.

That is not as encouraging as he intended it. How about being as resolute on going to Sunday Mass as in watching the Packers.
Perhaps resolving to spend 15 minutes a day in quality prayer, or resolving to pray the rosary each day, or even carrying the rosary in our pockets or purses would be the kind of thing to get us started.

Though some contemporary parish Christian Formation programs probably involve more laps around a labyrinth than around a rosary.
Then again, I’m not trying to get you to think up ideas as much as I’m trying to get you to take some great action that will take you into the new year with some concrete, positive action that will benefit your soul.

One non-great action might be picking up the parish bulletin and the Bible and reading each day's Scripture selections.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Archbishop Listecki's installation homily

Homily of the Most Reverend Jerome, Edward Listecki, Eleventh Archbishop of Milwaukee, Mass of Installation, Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 4 January 2010
(via Whispers in the Loggia)

Text at Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Reject secularism, Listecki says, by Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Back in the friendly confines

I wonder, though, when a successor bishop will have the courage to demolish this cathedral to build one that will hold at least two to three thousand worshippers. --Archbishop Weakland

Some edifices are sports cathedrals that have to be preserved. Wrigley Field is one of them. --Bud Selig

Among the keynote speakers at next week's National Cathedral Ministry Conference are The Most Rev. Rembert Weakland, OSB, Archbishop Emeritus, Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and the Very Rev. Carl A. Last, Rector & Pastor, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, who will speak on "The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist: It's History and Renovation".


Monday, January 4, 2010

New Archbishop punches in

When the installations of Popes John Paul I and II successively eliminated many royal and even ecclesiastical trappings, a non-Catholic colleague asked, "What next, Pope's first day on the job?" While our Archdiocesan weekly teases us with an invition to Meet the 'new guy', it goes on to report that for Archbishop Listecki, Installation will include centuries-old rituals. For example, here's an explanation of The Coat of Arms of Archbishop Listecki.

Our Archdiocese says Installation Mass Broadcast Live, and there will be live streaming at WISN-TV. Here's the Order of Worship.

Update: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel posted a series of photos from last night's Vespers. Bishop Listecki used a silver hammer to knock three times on the cathedral door. (No pop culture references were harmed in taking this photo.) The photos provide a number of views of features of our renovated Cathedral, such as the Crucifix.

Update 2: Press conference to follow the installation.

Update 3: At Whispers in the Loggia, Brewerland Word of the Day: "Witamy, Arcybiskup".

Somehow brings to mind local DJ "Mad Man" Michaels' Dragnet parody about a detective on the trail of The Czarnina Kid.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mammon et Magister

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel welcomes Archbishop Listecki, but notes that financially there are Lingering challenges for new leader.
His opposition to a bill [SB319/AB453] that would make it easier for victims to sue their abusers is standard for church leaders, but not helpful for victims.

The issue isn't victims suing individual priests, it's retroactively lifting of the statute of limitations, temporarily, for suits against the Church. While this is called a "window", it obliterates the wall. If statutes of limitations are subject to retroactive repeal, then closing a supposedly temporary window cannot prevent it being reopened later on, or being left open.

The strategy behind the current spate of fraud suits, which are not covered by insurance, is to use the financial exposure to leverage bishops to support this legislation. Lifting the statute of limitations would arguably permit recharacterizing claims as involving negligence rather than fraud in an attempt to get back within insurance coverage.

In response,
He [Bishop Listecki] argues that the church has done more on this issue than other institutions.

That might be persuasive if a group of victims said it. Bishops saying it comes across as self-serving. Quoting Dr. Paul McHugh isn't helping.
Given the scale and nature of what happened, it still hasn't been enough. And arguing that others need to do more doesn't do much for the many victims of a handful of clergy.

They ought to be the ones doing more than other institutions if for no other reason than that Catholic dioceses are the institutions going bankrupt due to abuse claims.
Listecki's challenges are formidable, but he's coming to a generous, believing community that has been led well in recent years.

As opposed to during the preceding era that dare not speak its name.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Listecki's list

The preview of Archbishop Listecki's Monday installation in this morning's paper also looks beyond. He's expected to continue to be relatively explicit where Church teaching touches on public policy. The article quotes him at his November 14, 2009 press conference. "'Unlike some who might denigrate politics, I uphold politics. ... If we don't challenge one another's statements, then we're relinquishing our responsibility to the common good,' he said." Beyond that,
Among Listecki's first priorities as archbishop, [Bishop William] Callahan said, will be meeting with his priests and helping parishes find new ways to collaborate and better use their limited resources. Like his predecessor, he is expected to be a strong supporter of Catholic schools and the local seminary, St. Francis de Sales.

Listecki also will assume leadership of the archdiocese's $105 million capital campaign, which has collected about $28 million so far, from $92 million in pledges, since it was launched in the fall of 2007.

It's hard to imagine him having the opposite of any of those priorities, so this doesn't tell us what to expect on these issues.
In addition, the Milwaukee archdiocese is facing a number of clergy sex abuse lawsuits that could potentially bankrupt it.

The pending cases are, or are mostly, cases alleging our Archdiocese assigned priests known to have sexually abused children to parishes without disclosing this to the members of parishes, that those priests then reoffended, and that this constituted fraud.
The local clergy victims group, which has been critical of Listecki's handling of sex abuse cases in La Crosse, last week called on the archbishop-designee to force [Bishop Richard] Sklba to resign, saying new evidence in the lawsuits suggest he played a critical role in helping then-Archbishop Weakland cover up the sex abuse scandal.

See What do you do when you're branded.... I'll leave aside the legal merits of those cases. Here in the secular world parents who fail to protect their children from sexual abuse risk losing their parental rights. The standards for bishops are conspicuously lower.
Callahan, who has served as administrator of the archdiocese, called it a "non-issue," saying Sklba is scheduled to retire in 2010.

Perhaps that's his way of saying that Bishop Sklba is A St. Joseph in our midst, as Archbishop Dolan once did.

P.S. See Poor Richard's Almanac, my October 23, 2002 post on Archbishop Dolan's initial meeting with abuse victims, which Bishop Sklba also attended. Perhaps a new archbishop means there's an opportunity to negotiate a resolution of all the pending abuse claims, but I see no preliminary indication that there will be a change of approach.


Prejudgment day

Some Milwaukee priests left comments when they signed the petition for "grassroots review" before implementation of the revised Roman Missal. The petition was the product of Rev. Michael J. Ryan of Seattle as a follow-up to his recent article in America, see What If We['d] Said, 'Wait'?

Fr. Ryan there said that "'What If We Just Said No?' was my working title for this article." That leaves the impression that the proposed market testing is acually a tactic to delay and then thwart changes about which he and others have already made up their mind.

That seems to be the case for Rev. Charles G. Zabler (Our Lady of Good Hope) who commented,
We need to test drive this change in language. It will not fly. ...
If I was sure my flying car wouldn't fly, I wouldn't be advocating a test drive.

Rev. David E. Cooper (St. Matthias) commented,
We must speak our truth honestly, respectfully, clearly and with compassion. The author succeeds on all counts and I proudly add my name in support of a worthy cause. Please let's not shoot ourselves in the foot again!
The previous litugical gunshot wound isn't specified. If he means the current liturgy, that's an argument for retroactive application of Fr. Ryan's proposal. (Maybe he's referring to his recantation after the Prayer service for women's ordination held at St. Matthias.)

Rev. George M. Rebatzki (senior priest) also advocates a fair trial before the hanging.
This is a "must." The translations are horrific and in no way enhance the celebration of Liturgy. ...
Rev. Charles H. Schramm (St. Mary, Hales Corners) says,
Thank you so much for this courageous article! It expresses exactly my thought on this! I am the pastor of a 10,000 plus members parish, and whenever I have given a preview of the new proposed translation to parishioners, the reaction is often, "You've got to be kidding!"
That was my reaction to his answer when AJ decided to Ask the Pastor on August 22, 2006 "Why do we no longer kneel during the Eucharistic prayers during Ordinary time?" or his answer to the March 28, 2007 question on general absolution.

Fr. David W. La Planate [sic] (St. Kilian) said,
Language is more than just words. When the Liturgy began to be celebrated "in the language of the people," it brought many closer to the Table. ...
If he means Mass attendance has been going up the last 40 years, I have go wonder what planate he's been on.

Rev. Kenneth Mich (Good Shepherd) stars in Father Knows Best.
One of the unintended consequences of these "clumsy" translations is that many of us who preside will feel pastorally obligated to make our own adaptions to the prayers for the benefit of the Assembly's worship. ...
No mention of subjecting his own adaptions to objective evaluation.

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

What do you do when you're branded...

Our Archdiocese of Milwaukee has revamped its website. Sometimes that indicates rebranding is underway.

P.S. Also on the rebranding front, Milwaukee's WISN-TV reports the local chapter of SNAP "is calling for the resignation or firing of auxiliary bishop Richard Sklba" and "They also want bishop Listecki to rename the Weakland Center at the cathedral."
"We're here today to say to Archbishop Listecki, 'take your first 100 days and do a couple things to get this Weakland-Sklba era behind us,'" said SNAP's Peter Isley.

WTMJ-TV's report concluded "It's unlikely Bishop Listecki will take any action against Sklba."


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stritch in time

Our Archdiocesan weekly reports that district president of Wells Fargo Bank’s southeastern Wisconsin retail and business banking operations Kent Bergemann named interim president at Cardinal Stritch. The position was open, as the Herald reported last week, when Helen Sobehart, Stritch president submits resignation.
Bergemann is treasurer and finance committee chair for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee...

Bringing in someone with a financial background indicates financial problems at Cardinal Stritch University, reinforced by bringing him in but not saying that's why.

P.S. A stitch for Stritch: Sujata Sachdeva, the Koss executive accused of embezzling more than $4.5 million, "is on the board of trustees of Cardinal Stritch University", among other local organizations.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Concentrating on the core business

Our Archdiocesan weekly reports that deputy director James M. Brennan named Charities’ interim director. The position was open, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had reported, after Hannah Dugan, Catholic Charities executive director resigns.
He assured that Dugan’s determined work for the disadvantaged will continue.

"First of all, our staff this past year and for the past couple of years has refocused its work on the poor," he said. "That focus will continue."

It had been focused elsewhere?
Anne Marie Wick, president of the Catholic Charities board, told your Catholic Herald that she and another board member had asked to meet with Dugan on Dec. 10 but not about Dugan’s role with the agency.

Sounds like that was because there wasn't going to be any.
“Hannah communicated to us that she had prayed about this,” Wick said. “She tendered her resignation.”

Mr. Brennan returns to the issue of focus.
“This is the transition that will allow us to focus on our mission at Catholic Charities, and focus on our work to the clients being served by Catholic Charities. The rest will be handled very well,” he added.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Listecki owned land with pal who swindled

Daniel Bice, in his No Quarter column on Milwaukee's Archbishop-designate in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, claims
here's something that few know about the guy:

The few who know being anyone who's read the guy's Wikipedia entry, which said,
In 2004 it was revealed that Bishop Listecki had earlier purchased a vacation condominium with friends, one of whom was Dr. Dennis Composto, who plead guilty in 2006 of stealing money from the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Archdiocese of Chicago issued statements in 2004 and 2006 that Bishop Listecki had cooperated fully with the investigation, and was cleared of any wrongdoing. Composto died early in 2007. [footnotes omitted]

That's not really a scoop to report what's already in an encyclopedia.


He admits, we deny

Our Archdiocesan weekly informs subscribers
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee responded to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s article regarding the former archbishop’s shredding of copies of sex abuse reports in a Dec. 4 e-mail addressed to pastors, parish directors and diocesan priests.

The Journal Sentinel article was picked up by local TV and radio, so I wonder why there was no response directed to local media. The email says only copies were shredded, not originals. See Better shred than read
The information comes from a 1993 deposition in which Archbishop Weakland admitted destroying copies of the reports in his office.

If the Catholic Herald was convinced there's no problem, I would have suggested "disclosed" rather than "admitted".


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More crisis for fewer Catholics

Bruce Murphy's December 8, 2009 Milwaukee Magazine column includes an item "More Crisis for Catholics". (His "More" refers back to the magazine's earlier article Catholics In Crisis.)
The introduction of new Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki seemed to offer hope for the Catholic archdiocese. The Chicago native and La Crosse bishop was described as an easygoing people person and a fine storyteller. Most importantly, he was the first Polish leader in a community that has long had a huge population of Polish Catholics.

That long-standing grievance got recurring cursory unsympathetic treatment in Archbishop Weakland's memoir.
But the shine has come off quickly. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests has charged that Listecki’s diocese of La Crosse has the highest percentage of priests cleared of child sexual abuse allegations of any Catholic diocese in the United States, six times the national average.

That frames the issue a bit oddly. If it's an extreme situation, I'd expect there'd be more information about specific cases from aggrieved complainants. No one, I assume, is advocating some euphemized quota.
When asked about this by Wisconsin Public Radio, Listecki replied that he didn’t have enough time left in his tenure to address the question, and besides, it was the holiday season.

Which makes sense substantively. He couldn't do a systemic review in his last month as Bishop, it makes sense for his successor to decide whether to review the process since he'll be the one presiding over it, and a Bishop is, presumably, busier than usual in his official capacity this time of year. From a public relations standpoint, though, he came across as if he was going to be too busy with shopping and Christmas lights. Looking ahead, we can expect either evidence that he's getting media training, or an end to interviews.
Next came the revelation that former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland had routinely shredded copies of weekly reports about sexual abuse by priests. He made this statement in formerly sealed testimony turned over to the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office last week. Weakland testified that he didn’t want to keep the documents in his office.

See Better shred than read.
The day after this bombshell hit, the archdiocese sent a memo with "talking points" to priests and parish directors saying that Weakland was shredding "copies of reports," not the originals. So he kept the originals around but just tore up the copies? That seems a little hard to believe.

The commenters to my just-referenced post note that if only copies were shredded this is not a case of destroying evidence. Mr. Murphy alludes to the residual point, that it seems desirable that the Archbishop would make provision to keep the copy at least until discussing it with the Vicar who prepared it. To get a copy to read, shred, and then try to remember seems mindlessly bureaucratic, at best.

Again, I hope that our Archdiocese didn't literally label this memo "talking points". But if not, then someone else, SNAP perhaps, got that pre-emptive spin put on it.
The never-ending clergy abuse crisis – and the nagging sense that the archdiocese never quite comes clean about it – has taken a toll.

I've heard that soon after his arrival Archbishop Dolan was urged to personally review all the abuse files, and I have not seen any report that he has. Archbishop Weakland testified that he did not discuss abuse cases with Archbishop Dolan, or with Archbishop Cousins for that matter. If there were good reasons for those decisions, I don't recall hearing them.
One sign I’ve reported before is that attendance at weekly Mass has dropped from 270,000 to 165,000 in about a decade. More bad news comes from a just-released annual statistical supplement to the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, which shows the total Catholic population dropped from 681,781 to 643,775.

See Milwaukee Catholics down 38,000 in 2009. I've long had the impression hardly anyone on the payroll cares.
Why these declines? "I’d be at a loss to comment on any specific reason," says archdiocesan spokeswoman Julie Wolf. "If you’re looking for me to say it’s due to the clergy abuse crisis, I don’t think I can say that. The Pew Research shows that all church attendance [at all denominations] is down."

I get responses like that at my parish, too. They'll respond that something is a widespread problem, which somehow means no one in any particular place should be trying to figure out what to do about it.
Even if the clergy abuse crisis hasn’t contributed to the decline in numbers, it certainly makes it harder for the archdiocese to recoup its losses.

Given the demographics, maybe our clergy and staff plan to ride the death spriral into retirement.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Better shred than read

The recent report that Weakland shredded copies of sex abuse reports, documents say doesn't surprise me. The Washington Post reported in 2002 that our Archdiocese had insisted that documents produced in connection with a lawsuit be shredded "because they showed how much money it had spent on treatment, litigation and settlements related to sex abuse".

Our Archdiocese now reports those amounts, but the leadership doesn't make it easy to believe their hearts aren't still with the shredder.

Update: The following are being referred to as the Archdiocese's "talking points" in response to the story. (via SNAP)
December 4, 2009

Dear Pastors, Parish Directors and Diocesan Priests,

We are providing you with some information that may be helpful should any of your parishioners have questions about the article that appeared in this morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Archbishop Emeritus Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B.

The article stated that Archbishop Weakland, during his tenure as Archbishop of Milwaukee, routinely shredded “weekly reports about sexual abuse by priests.”

Here are some facts you may want to share to set the record straight:
- What was referred to in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, as being shredded, were copies of reports, not originals.
- The Milwaukee District Attorney, E. Michael McCann, reviewed all documents related to clergy sexual abuse in 2003.
- If the current Milwaukee County District Attorney would like to review the cases again, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee would support that decision.
- The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has kept its promises and remains committed to working proactively toward resolution of any issues brought to us by victims/survivors of sexual abuse as a minor by diocesan clergy.
- Most importantly, there is no clergy member with a substantiated report of sexual abuse of a minor in public ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Julie Wolf
Communications Office


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Our Greatest Churches

H. Russell Zimmermann writes in the November 2007 issue of Milwaukee Magazine on his picks for Milwaukee's 25 most beautiful and historically significant churches. Among them is St. John's Cathedral, with this concluding caveat.
In 2002, another major project was announced as “a glorious renovation” of the interior. The modernist design was derided as “a theater-in-the-round” and “too Protestant” by detractors. To me, the shockingly mismatched interior is a mistake. The archdiocese's most beloved edifice deserves a meaningful restoration to its original, richly ornamented interior.

I'm way ahead of him, having in 1997 "Received a thank you letter from the Very Rev. John H. Endejan for my contribution to the Cathedral Preservation Foundation."


Monday, November 23, 2009

Milwaukee Catholics down 38,000 in 2009

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee statistics published annually in the (print-only) Directory supplement to the Milwaukee Catholic Herald show a Catholic population of 643,775 in the just-published 2010 edition, compared to 681,781 in the 2009 edition of a year ago. That's a decrease of 38,006 or 5.5%.

I have not seen an Archdiocesan explanation of these statistics. This might not reflect an actual year-to-year decrease, but rather that recent parish censuses finally showed previously unreported declines. But that is only a question of what the rate of decline has been, not what will be done to reverse it. If anything.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Eucharistic Prayer and the New Archbishop

At our Archdiocese's Prayer and Worship weblog,
Dean Daniels, Director of the Archdiocesan Office for Worship, provides the following information regarding how to refer to Archbishop-designate Jerome E. Listecki in the Eucharistic Prayer. Dean recommends the following:

(Sort of like the Ten Suggestions, now we have rubricommendations.)
For Jerome our Archbishop-Designate,
For William our Diocesan Administrator

That's shorter than the Academy Award acceptance speech form at so many parishes. For a distant example, Fr. Shawn O'Neal once said that,
For the record, I alter the Eucharistic Prayer. For example, in EP 2, go to "Lord, remember your Church..." after the consecration. I say: "...together with John Paul, our Pope, William, our bishop, all bishops, all priests, all deacons, all religious, and all people whom you, Lord, have called by name."

At my parish Bishop Sklba still gets added, but mention of Archbishop Weakland seemed to disappear sometime during the run-up to the Faith In Our Future capital campaign.