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.
Jesuit Father James Martin declared this week that Gay Pride celebrations show us “whom Jesus calls us to love” and therefore are “deeply complementary” with devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. https://t.co/neXt5F0DQT
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) June 16, 2022
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:
Have your friends ever done anything sinful?
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) August 22, 2022
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.
If my friend kept abusive priests in parishes & shredded documents to hide the evidence while having a relationship contrary to chastity, he would be my EX-friend. I don't require every friend to be a saint, but there's a certain point I no longer consider someone a friend.
— Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC (@FrMatthewLC) August 23, 2022
They could be an acquaintance, but friendship has more sense of a shared vision of the good, which such actions are radically contrary to. (This is my way of viewing friendship, which I admit is not the only one, and in other senses you make a valid point.)
— Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC (@FrMatthewLC) August 23, 2022
The replies condemning this have everything: libcaths, tradcaths, priests, seculars, a habibi… https://t.co/ba7wtc3kWe
— Christine Rousselle (@crousselle) August 23, 2022
You should delete your tweet. Then delete your account. And then spend the rest of your life doing penance for your flippant and dismissive attitude towards abuse.
— Jonathan Copeland🌻☀️⛵The Summer Paprika Elf (@paprika_elf) August 23, 2022
Both my friends and myself have done MANY "sinful" things, but one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that we never raped any kids or adults, and we are certainly not confused as to whether or not child sexual abuse is a crime.
— Virgil Noctem (@ComradeVirgil) August 23, 2022
My friends are sinful. I am sinful. But I'll tell you something we've never done.
We've never shredded evidence of child molestation.
Why are you downplaying this?
Why are you excusing this?
What are you even doing? https://t.co/C0rMj3MmUo
— Dave. (@subnet_masks) August 23, 2022
Forgive me, Father Martin, but WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?! https://t.co/yJft7ZLcCq
— Rene Albert ☕️✟ (@coffeencrucifix) August 23, 2022
What. The. Entire. Fuck. Father. Martin??!! https://t.co/mbvWUJKrUB
— ms. dani, christa fan (🏳️⚧️| 🏳️🌈| ACAB) (@WanderingJoy071) August 23, 2022
Absolutely, yes, the reason why the church has been marred by abuse scandals is because shitty people like James Martin pass it off as "just a sin that should be forgiven", letting pedophiles go scot free while he gloats about his sainthood online. Disgusting behaviour. pic.twitter.com/pYHfZDfoFi
— Venom Rach – Immigration Woes Arc🇻 (@SocialNomadRach) August 23, 2022
I used to like James Martin. But the more time I spent following him the more insufferable I found him. Now he makes terrible statements like this. pic.twitter.com/Vmpm1ov7Wm
— Kameron Mazurek (@KameronMazurek) August 23, 2022
James Martin is a groomer who wants to see innocence stolen from children. He shouldn’t be in ministry, but in prison. https://t.co/9P2VPU1fuj
— JJJ (@Heretohelp188) August 23, 2022
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.