Liberal Catholic Priest Father James Martin Hammered for Defending Bishop Who Protected Sex Abusers

US priest Father James Martin speaking at the world meeting of families in Dublin, on how the Catholic Church can welcome members of the LGBT community. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty

Liberal Jesuit Catholic priest Father James Martin, who has routinely undermined church teaching on homosexual acts and transgenderism, sparked a significant backlash from people of all persuasions on Monday night when he defended an archbishop who protected sexually abusive priests.

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland died at the age of 95 on Monday, and though liberal Catholics would prefer to remember him as a “critic of Vatican orthodoxy,” as the New York Times said in his obituary, rank and file Catholics remember him for his role in the child sex abuse scandals of the late-20th century.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profiled in 2009, Weakland shredded copies of reports profiling abusive priests as he shuffled them around his diocese without warning parishioners.

“Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland routinely shredded copies of weekly reports about sexual abuse by priests, according to formerly sealed testimony turned over to Milwaukee County’s district attorney on Thursday,” the outlet reported.

“In a 1993 deposition, Weakland admitted destroying copies of the reports in his office, according to a partial transcript of the deposition released by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,” it added.

Weakland later addressed the issue in his autobiography by claiming he did not know the sexual abuse of minors to be a crime. “We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature,” Weakland wrote.

Peter Isely, Midwest director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said that Weakland either lied or deceived himself.

“It’s beyond belief. He’s either lying or he’s so self-deceived that he’s inventing fanciful stories,” said Isely. “These have always been crimes.”

After publicly positioning himself as a liberal prelate that openly questioned the church’s stance on a range of issues, from abortion to contraception to homosexual acts, Weakland retired in disgrace at the age of 75 in 2002 after it had been revealed he paid $450,000 in hush money to a former male lover of his who had threatened to go public with their affair.

When announcing Weakland’s death, Father James Martin mourned the disgraced archbishop as a “friend” and an “erudite scholar.”

“Archbishop Rembert Weakland has died. An erudite scholar, gifted pastor and Benedictine abbot primate, his legacy was marred by revelations that he paid money to a man with whom he had been in a relationship. I considered him a friend and mourn his loss. May he rest in peace,” Martin tweeted on Monday.

When pressed on Weakland’s role in covering up the sexual abuse of children, Father Martin leaped to his defense:

Liberal Catholics and conservative Catholics alike immediately pounced on Father Martin and demanded he delete the tweet or publicly apologize for dismissing the sexual abuse of children as just another common sin.

Martin, who serves as an editor-at-large for the Jesuit publication America Magazine and who also starred in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, was not alone in his eulogizing of Weakland.

In his obituary for the New York Times, Robert McFadden buried the archbishop’s role in the Catholic sex abuse scandal after characterizing him as a martyr of church homophobia and hailing him as “an intellectual touchstone for progressive Catholic reformers.”

“He championed new roles for women; questioned church bans on abortion, birth control and divorce; and challenged the Vatican’s insistence on celibacy for an all-male priesthood,” McFadden wrote of Weakland.



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