Archbishop Settles Sex Assault Claim

ByABC News via logo
May 22, 2002, 9:47 PM

May 23 -- Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland has urged the Catholic Church to open up about its growing sex-abuse crisis, but he is now accused of trying to keep sexual assault allegations against himself a secret, ABCNEWS has learned.

Paul Marcoux, a 53-year-old former theology student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said the archbishop sexually assaulted him more than 20 years ago when he went to Weakland for advice about going into the priesthood.

Weakland, along with the archdiocese, later paid Marcoux $450,000 to sign a settlement agreement in which Marcoux agreed to take no further action regarding his allegations. He also vowed never to tell anyone. Also in the agreement, obtained by ABCNEWS, Weakland denied the allegations. The deal was hammered out four years ago by the archbishop, Marcoux, and their respective lawyers.

"I've been involved in the cover-up. I've accepted money to be silent about it," Marcoux told ABCNEWS.

Neither Weakland nor the archdiocese would comment on the allegations, but the archdiocese released a statement today, after the ABCNEWS report aired on Good Morning America. Weakland also asked that the Vatican speed up his resignation, which was already in the works because he had turned 75.

"I have never abused anyone. I have not seen Paul Marcoux formore than 20 years," Weakland said in the statement, read byarchdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski outside the archdioceseoffice in suburban St. Francis.

"Because I accept the agreement's confidentiality provision,"Weakland said in the statement, "I will make no comment about its contents."

A Church Leader

Weakland, 75, has been archbishop for 25 years, and is considered one of the most important leaders in the American Catholic Church. He was expected to play an important role at next month's meeting of U.S. bishops to deal with the church's growing sex abuse crisis. His plan for dealing with abuse cases has been touted as a national model.

"So, as long as the victims are OK about it, I have no problem opening up those cases," Weakland told reporters at a recent news conference.