Sunday, May 24, 2009

Archbishop says he didn't know priests' abuse was crime

Weakland says he didn't know priests' abuse was crime
By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: May. 15, 2009

In the early years of the sex abuse scandal in Milwaukee, retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland says in his soon-to-be released memoir, he did not comprehend the potential harm to victims or understand that what the priests had done constituted a crime.
"We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature," Weakland says in the book, "A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church," due out in June.
Weakland said he initially "accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not " remember or they would 'grow out of it.'
Clergy victims reacted angrily to the revelation.
"It's beyond belief. He's either lying or he's so self-deceived that he's inventing fanciful stories," said Peter Isely, Midwest director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. "These have always been crimes."
Weakland's handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal is just one chapter in the wide-ranging memoir that recounts his childhood in the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania, his life as a Benedictine monk, his struggles with his own homosexuality, his strained relationship with Pope John Paul II and finally his public fall from grace in Milwaukee.
Weakland retired in 2002 after it became known that he paid $450,000 in 1998 to a man who had accused him of date rape years earlier.
Weakland has declined to be interviewed by the Journal Sentinel. Weakland said in the book that he eventually came to question the notion that victims would forget or "grow out of" the trauma induced by abuse.
"My general reasoning was that there were probably some kids who 'grew out of it,' and then some who were deeply disturbed for life," he wrote.
SNAP this week issued an open letter asking Weakland to meet with victims.
Weakland responded Friday by saying he would seriously consider it.
"We've been trying to get this from him for 15 years," Isely said.

No comments: