Milwaukee Archdiocese Removes Former Archbishops’ Names From Buildings

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 21, 2019   

Abp. Cousins', Abp. Weakland's names removed from church buildings due to sex abuse cover-up

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MILWAUKEE (ChurchMilitant.com) - The names of two former archbishops have been removed from buildings in the archdiocese of Milwaukee, owing to their roles in the clerical sex abuse scandal.

On Tuesday, the name of Abp. William Cousins was removed from a building formerly called the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center. The center will be renamed on Friday.

A video from Tuesday shows a worker removing Abp. Cousins' name, one letter at a time, from a large sign outside the building.

Similarly, Abp. Rembert Weakland's name was removed from the parish center at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee.

Archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski told local news about the move: 

If these names have caused angst, anxiety, stress, hurt, harm for themselves, for their families, from those who have walked with them in this journey, as they have moved forward from the abuse they have experienced, then removing these names is something we want to do as a church and extend ourselves forward to reconcile whatever way possible with abuse survivors.

"This is a moment where we can say bishops share the blame, very clearly, in decisions that were made in the past," Topczewski continued. "Again, not to keep judgment on what motivated those decisions, but simply to say if this helps in the healing of survivors then we want to do it."

This is a moment where we can say bishops share the blame, very clearly, in decisions that were made in the past.

Archbishop Cousins headed the Milwaukee archdiocese from 1958 to 1977. He allegedly moved a child-abusing priest into the diocese of Superior, Wisconsin — without informing that diocese why the priest was being moved.

That priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, had been on staff for 24 years at the St. John School for the Deaf. When a former student came forward in 1974 alleging that Fr. Murphy had molested him, Abp. Cousins removed Murphy from the boarding school and sent him off to the diocese of Superior.

Father Murphy admitted to the abuse allegations after his retirement in 1993 but died in 1996 before the Vatican could arrange a canonical trial.

Archbishop Weakland, meanwhile, was head of the Milwaukee archdiocese from 1977 to 2002

When Weakland took the reins in 1977, he was made aware of the situation with Fr. Murphy. He prohibited Murphy from offering Mass in the Milwaukee archdiocese but did not inform the diocese of Superior about the abuse allegations, maintaining the cover-up.

Under Abp. Weakland's leadership, there was also the case of Fr. William J. Effinger. Weakland first learned of abuse allegations against Fr. Effinger in 1979 when a couple told Abp. Weakland the priest had molested their son. Weakland sent Effinger to psychological treatment but kept the priest in active ministry.

Effinger continued sexually abusing children through the 1980s. He was convicted of sexual abuse in 1993 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Father Effinger died behind bars in December 1996.

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Archbishop Weakland resigned from his post in 2002 after news broke that he had doled out $450,000 in hush money to a man who claimed Weakland sexually assaulted him in 1979.

The archbishop denied the allegation. But his accuser, Paul Marcoux, brought to light a letter that Weakland wrote to him in 1980. 

Weakland says at one point in the letter, "So gradually I came back to the importance of celibacy in my life." 

He ended the letter with the statement, "I love you."

Weakland later admitted in 2009 that he was homosexual.

Also in 2009, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shed light on court documents from 1993 in which Abp. Weakland admitted that he had shredded archdiocesan documents related to clerical sex abuse allegations. The documents he shredded were weekly logs about priests of the archdiocese, especially those accused of sexual abuse.

In January 2011, the archdiocese of Milwaukee — now headed by Abp. Jerome Listecki — filed for bankruptcy amid numerous settlements with victims of priestly sex abuse. In August 2015, the archdiocese finalized its plan to pay out $21 million to more than 300 victims of clerical sex abuse.

 

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