Rembert Weakland

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The Most Reverend
Rembert George Weakland
Archbishop Emeritus of Milwaukee
See Milwaukee
Appointed September 20, 1977
Installed November 8, 1977
Term ended May 24, 2002
Predecessor William Edward Cousins
Successor Timothy M. Dolan
Ordination June 24, 1951
by Simone Salvi
Consecration November 8, 1977
by Jean Jadot
Personal details
Birth name George Weakland
Born (1927-04-02) April 2, 1927 (age 88)
Patton, Pennsylvania,
United States
Nationality American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents Basil and Mary (née Kane) Weakland
Previous post Abbot Primate of Benedictine Confederation (1967–1977)
Alma mater St. Vincent College
St. Vincent Seminary
International Benedictine College
Juilliard School
Columbia University

Rembert George Weakland, O.S.B., (born April 2, 1927) is an American prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Milwaukee from 1977 to 2002. He is the author of A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop, which explores Church reform issues and the child abuse crisis.


He was born George Weakland in Patton, Pennsylvania, to Basil (1897–1932) and Mary (née Kane, 1898–1978) Weakland.[1] One of six children, he has four sisters, Leora, Elizabeth, Barbara, and Marian; and one brother, William. He attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Patton, and then studied at St. Vincent College and St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe.[1]


In 1945 Weakland entered the novitiate of the Order of St. Benedict, more commonly known as the Benedictines, at St. Vincent Archabbey. Taking the name Rembert, he made his solemn profession as a Benedictine monk on September 29, 1949, at Solesmes Abbey in France.[1] He studied theology at the International Benedictine College in Rome.[1]

On June 24, 1951, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Simone Salvi, O.S.B., in Subiaco, Italy.[2] 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.[1]

Weakland was elected Coadjutor Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey on June 26, 1963, and received the Solemn Blessing of an Archabbot from Bishop William G. Connare of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, on August 29, 1963. Following this, he became the Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Directors of St. Vincent College. On May 8, 1964, he received a papal appointment 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 became Chancellor of the International Benedictine College of Sant'Anselmo, Rome, Italy. He was reelected to a second term as Abbot Primate in September 1973. He served as a member of the Council of Superiors General from 1968 until 1977. In 1968, Weakland administered Last Rites to the body of Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton in Thailand, whose body was flown back to Gethsemani monastery in Kentucky, where Merton is buried.[3]

Archbishop of Milwaukee[edit]

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.[4]

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".

Weakland retired as Archbishop in 2002. In July 2009, he published his memoirs under the title of A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop dealing with the issues of ongoing Church reform.

Public controversies[edit]

Sexual abuse scandal[edit]

In 1984, Weakland responded to teachers in a Catholic school who were reporting sexual abuse by local priests by stating "any libellous material found in your letter will be scrutinized carefully by our lawyers." The Wisconsin Court of Appeals rebuked him for this, calling his remarks "abrupt" and "insensitive."[5] In 1994, Weakland said those reporting sexual abuse were "squealing." He later apologized for the remarks.[5]

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a deposition released in 2009 revealed that Weakland shredded reports about sexual abuse by priests.[6] Weakland admitted allowing priests guilty of child sex abuse to continue as priests without warning parishioners or alerting the police.[7]

Weakland stated in his autobiography that in the early years of the sexual abuse scandal he did not understand that child sexual abuse was a crime.[8]

Liturgical agenda[edit]

In 1965–66, Weakland served as President of the Church Music Association of America. According to an account by Richard Schuler,[9] a split emerged very quickly, with Weakland taking sharp exception to the "reactionary attitudes in liturgical thinking" that he said were present at the Consociato meeting. In interviews with the press, he expressed regret that the meeting failed to include modern music and dancing in its liturgical agenda. His views did not prevail within the CMAA, and so his presidency did not last.[10]

Theological dissent[edit]

In 2000, Weakland was a critic of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document Dominus Iesus on religious relativism.[11]

Cathedral renovation[edit]

One of his last major actions as archbishop was effecting a controversial renovation of the historic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee.

Sex scandal and retirement[edit]

Weakland retired on May 24, 2002 at the mandatory retirement age of 75. Weakland's retirement was overshadowed by revelations that he paid $450,000 of diocesan funds to a former male lover to prevent a lawsuit.[12][13][14]

Weakland stepped down soon after Paul Marcoux, a former Marquette University theology student, revealed in May 2002 that he was paid $450,000 to settle a sexual assault claim he made against the archbishop more than two decades earlier. The money came from the archdiocese.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Retired Archbishop Weakland". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. 
  2. ^ "Archbishop Rembert George Weakland, O.S.B.". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Fox, Tom (December 12, 2008). "Give the gift of NCR". National Catholic Reporter. 
  4. ^ "Retired Archbishop Weakland". Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
  5. ^ a b Dave Umhoefer, "Scandal casts new light on Weakland's statements" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 26, 2002.
  6. ^ Bruce Vielmetti, "Weakland shredded copies of sex abuse reports, documents say" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel December 3, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Former Catholic Bishop Of Milwaukee, Says He's Gay
  8. ^
  9. ^ Chronicle of the Reform
  10. ^ "First General Convention of the Church Music Association of America" in Jonannes Overather (ed.) Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform: After Vactican II. (Rome: Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae, 1969), pp. 270–271.
  11. ^ Dominus Iesus: An Ecclesiological Critique
  12. ^ NationalReview
  13. ^ Heinen, Tom; Zahn, Mary (June 1, 2002). "Weakland begs for forgiveness". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
  14. ^ Dahir, Mubarak (July 23, 2002). "The dangerous lives of gay priests: fearing a witch-hunt in the wake of the sex abuse scandal, gay Roman Catholic priests talk of their dedication to their work and their God—and of the secret loves that put their careers at risk". The Advocate. Retrieved July 7, 2007. [dead link]

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
William Edward Cousins
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Succeeded by
Timothy Michael Dolan