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.
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.
Peter Isely, SNAP’s Midwest director, turned over the partial transcript, as well as portions of the logs to which Weakland was referring, to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and asked him to review them for any possible criminal violations. Chisholm accepted the records and promised a thorough review.
The 16-year-old deposition documents have come to light during the discovery process in more than a dozen civil fraud lawsuits filed against the Milwaukee archdiocese.
SNAP made the announcements at a news conference Thursday morning outside Chisholm’s office at the Milwaukee County courts complex.
Julie Wolf, communications director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said Thursday she had not seen the documents SNAP released and could make no comment on them for the archdiocese.
In the deposition, Weakland explains that he got copies of the weekly logs made by vicars in the archdiocese about ongoing problem priests. He said he would read them, then shred them because he didn’t want to keep them in his office. He would “try to remember anything that is quite serious and important,” and later discuss the matters with the vicar.
SNAP also released portions of logs kept on two abusive priests, Siegfried Widera and Franklyn Becker. Widera killed himself in 2003 after police cornered him in Mexico; Becker has been removed from the priesthood. Isely said not all portions of all vicar logs have been released yet as part of the civil litigation.
Isely said SNAP also will ask Archbishop-designate Jerome Listecki to censure and discipline Weakland and anyone else who may have been involved in covering up sex abuse by clergy. He said Listecki has refused to say whether he would review why the Diocese of La Crosse, where he is bishop, has cleared more clergy accused of abuse than most dioceses.
Listecki told Wisconsin Public Radio that he did not have enough time left in his term as bishop in La Crosse and that, besides, it was the holiday season.
By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 3, 2009