Rembert Weakland

The Most Reverend
Rembert 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
Patton, Pennsylvania,
United States
Nationality American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents Basil Weakland & Mary Kane
Previous post Abbot Primate of Benedictine Confederation (1967–1977); Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey (1963-1967); Coadjutor Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey (June–August 1963)
Alma mater St. Vincent College
St. Vincent Seminary
Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm
Juilliard School
Columbia University

Rembert Weakland OSB (born April 2, 1927) is an American Benedictine monk, who is a 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.

Early life

He was born George Weakland in Patton, Pennsylvania, to Basil Weakland (1897–1932) and Mary Kane (1898–1978). 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 enrolled at the minor seminary run by the Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe.<ref name=arch /[1]

Monastic life and priesthood

Following graduation in 1945, Weakland entered the novitiate of the archabbey, taking the religious name of Rembert. When he completed this initiation into monastic life the following year, he went on to study at Saint Vincent College and Saint Vincent Seminary, also run by the archabbey. He made his solemn profession as a monk on September 29, 1949, at Solesmes Abbey in France. He was then sent by the archabbot to study theology at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome.[2]

On June 24, 1951, Weakland was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Simone Salvi, O.S.B., Abbot of Subiaco Abbey in Italy.[3] 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 City. During this period, while doing research at the British Library, he discovered the text of a medieval liturgical drama, the Play of Daniel, for which he released an authoritative text with commentary. It came to be frequently staged by musical groups, such as the New York Pro Musica, which specialize in music from that era. From 1957 to 1963, he taught music at his alma mater of St. Vincent College.[2]

Weakland was elected Coadjutor Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey on June 26, 1963. He soon succeeded to the office and received the solemn blessing of an archabbot from the local bishop, William G. Connare of the Diocese of Greensburg, 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.

On September 29, 1967, Weakland was elected the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation, to which office he was later re-elected in 1973. During this period, he served as Chancellor ex officio of the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm. He also served as a member of the Vatican Council of Superiors General from 1968 until 1977.

In 1968, Weakland was attending the international and inter-religious monastic conference in Thailand, at which the American Trappist monk and writer, Thomas Merton, gave some talks and where he died through an accident. After Merton's body was found, Weakland administered the Last Rites of the Catholic Church to his body before it was flown back to Merton's home monastery, the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he is buried.[4]

Archbishop of Milwaukee

On September 20, 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed Weakland the Archbishop of Milwaukee. He was ordained a bishop on November 8, in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist by Archbishop Jean Jadot, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States.[5]

On December 21, 1999, Weakland defended and received a Doctorate 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

Sexual abuse scandal

In 1984, Weakland responded to teachers in a Catholic school who were reporting sexual abuse by local priests by stating "any libelous 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".[6] In 1994, Weakland said those reporting sexual abuse were "squealing". He later apologized for the remarks.[6]

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a deposition released in 2009 revealed that Weakland shredded reports about sexual abuse by priests.[7] Weakland admitted allowing priests guilty of child sex abuse to continue as priests without warning parishioners or alerting the police.[8]

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.[9]

Liturgical agenda

In 1965–66, Weakland served as President of the Church Music Association of America. According to an account by Richard Schuler,[10] 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.[11]

In 2000, Weakland was a critic of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document Dominus Iesus on religious relativism.[12] One of his last major actions as archbishop was effecting a renovation of the historic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. Weakland retired on May 24, 2002, at the mandatory retirement age of 75. His retirement was overshadowed by revelations that he paid $450,000 of diocesan funds to prevent a lawsuit.[13][14][15] 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 claim he made against the archbishop more than two decades earlier stemming from a long-term relationship with Weakland.[8] In 2014, Weakland planned to move to a Benedictine abbey, but the abbot rescinded the invitation.

See also


  1. "Former Archbishops: Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
  2. 1 2
  3. "Archbishop Rembert George Weakland, O.S.B.". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  4. Fox, Tom (December 12, 2008). "Give the gift of NCR". National Catholic Reporter.
  5. "Retired Archbishop Weakland". Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
  6. 1 2 Dave Umhoefer, "Scandal casts new light on Weakland's statements", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 26, 2002.
  7. Bruce Vielmetti, "Weakland shredded copies of sex abuse reports, documents say", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 3, 2009.
  8. 1 2 Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Former Catholic Bishop Of Milwaukee, Says He's Gay
  10. Chronicle of the Reform
  11. "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.
  12. Dominus Iesus: An Ecclesiological Critique
  13. NationalReview
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Benno Gut
Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation
Succeeded by
Victor Dammertz
Preceded by
William Edward Cousins
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Succeeded by
Timothy M. Dolan
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