WITI-TV, MILWAUKEE – What’s in a name? To the victims of pedophile priests, a lot. Early December the pope said he is outraged by the decades of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church in Ireland. The issues in the United States have been well publicized for years, but just how outraged is the catholic church in America?
Innocent children who looked up to the men of the cloth, were victimized many years ago in Catholic Schools. The sexual assaults didn’t stay a childhood secret. The pedophile priests were eventually exposed, and it is well documented that the Bishops covered up the crimes. In a past interview a FOX 6 reporter asked Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, “You allowed each of these priests to continue in ministry in some capacity did you not?”. Weakland answered Yes.
The Milwaukee archdiocese is one of the most notorious cases. From 1977-2002, Archbishop Weakland shuffled numerous pedophile priests around to protect the good name of the church to the detriment of countless children. During a past interview Weakland admitted it was common practice to put a priest back in ministry, and not tell the laity that you knew the priest was an offender.
Weakland was so insensitive to the plight of the young victims, writing in his 1989 column: “Sometimes not all adolescent victims are so innocent”. This was followed by six years later by the stunning statement to the Milwaukee Journal, “The boy gets a little older and the perpetrator loses interest…Then is when the squealing comes in and you have to deal with it.”
In the time before Weakland, Archbishop William Cousins masterminded the cover-ups in Milwaukee. Just over a decade after Arthur Budzinski was molested by father Lawrence Murphy at St. John’s School for the deaf in St. Francis in the 1960’s. He and other victims went to Cousins with the allegations, assuming Cousins would find child molestation unconscionable. Budzinski says, “I thought they’ really listen to my side, but they didn’t listen to my side. They listened to the other side and supported them…Cousins was very angry at us and mat at us, and i couldn’t believe that.”
When the allegations against Father Murphy piled so high they could no longer be ignored. The Archbishop moved him up north, where he molested more children. When convicted child molester Father Sigfried Widera, the priest who molested Sharon Tarantino, was caught while still on probation for child sex crimes, Cousins quietly dumped him on innocent kids in California.
There were other cases of other children who became victims, because of Cousins and Weakland put the pedophiles and the church above protecting the children.
Since serving Milwaukee, Former Archbishop Cousins had a building named after him. The Cousins Center in Milwaukee is the headquarters of the Archdiocese. On Van Buren St. downtown the pastoral center at the primary Cathedral in Milwaukee bears the name of Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland.
Victims of the pedophile priests are constantly reminded of the crimes and the coverups that stole their innocence, and scarred them for life. One of the victims John Pilmaier says, “It speaks of a great deal of arrogance and kind of one last way for the church to say what happened to you really doesn’t matter.” Tarantino said, “It’s like we don’t exist. That the survivors, the victims, don’t exist to our church in Milwaukee.”
Which is why SNAP(Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is going to ask the incoming Archbishop later this week to change the names of the Cousins Center and the Weakland Center.
Archbishop Weakland didn’t answer the door when FOX 6 knocked on his door to get his opinion, but he did pick up the phone. Weakland told FOX 6 he hadn’t really thought about it, and believes there are more important issues.
But for the children who are now adults, and now know that years ago the church leaders who could have protected them chose instead to put them in danger; The names of those men proudly displayed on church buildings are a constant reminder that their innocence was expendable.
The Archdiocese said they couldn’t make anyone available for an interview despite one week’s notice. They said Bishop Listecki might be available for an interview in a vouple weeks after he’s installed. FOX 6 is working on scheduling that.
As for the Cousins Center, the Archdiocese Rep did say she was told the name hasn’t been addressed because it’s up for sale.
FOX 6 Exclusive