Foundation Urges Milwaukee Probe of DA, Archbishop (June/July 2002)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging not only that (former) Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland be investigated over his use of $450,000 in Archdiocese funds as “hush money” to an adult alleging sexual abuse, but that self-described “devout Catholic” Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann be investigated for his murky role in the negotiations.

The Foundation in late May urged the Office of Lawyer Regulation in Milwaukee to look into actions by McCann, who is in charge of deciding whether to investigate Weakland. Weakland stepped down on May 24 after revelations of the pay-off. “There appears to be an unacceptable and extraordinary conflict of interest in leaving such an investigation up to the discretion of McCann,” wrote the Foundation.

McCann admits Weakland had personally confessed having a relationship with a younger man to him. That man, Paul Marcoux, claims Weakland assaulted him in a “date rape” in 1979 when Marcoux was 30 and a Catholic student seeking advice on becoming a priest.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the archdiocese consulted McCann over whether Marcoux could be criminally charged with extortion, after Marcoux approached the archdiocese seeking damages in 1997. Two attorneys representing Marcoux assert the Archdiocese threatened criminal action against Marcoux, and themselves.

The hush money was paid to Marcoux a year later. An official with the State Bar of Wisconsin said it would be generally unethical to threaten possible criminal charges to try to fend off a lawsuit. McCann admits he was consulted by Archdiocese lawyer Matthew Flynn about possible criminal charges.

Weakland’s expedited resignation swells to (at least) 18 the list of Roman Catholic bishops and archbishops worldwide removed or resigning over sexual scandals or cover-ups of sexual scandals in the church through June 11.

News of Weakland’s scandal apparently brought on two heart attacks suffered by Marquette University Law School Dean Howard Eisenberg, whom Weakland appointed this spring to head a commission to invesigate sexual abuse cases against Milwaukee priests. Hours before suffering his first heart attack, Eisenberg told reporters: “I just want to cry and crawl under my bed.” After a second attack, Eisenberg, 55, died on June 4.

Freedom From Religion Foundation