The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has defended itself against the recent uproar caused by a sculpture in the diocese cathedral which bears the image of a controversial former archbishop, saying the piece was “commissioned to represent the archdiocese” at an earlier time than now.
Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, whose resignation Pope John Paul II accepted in 2002 when he reached the age of 75, was found to have had a homosexual relationship with an adult male seminarian who he paid to keep quiet about their involvement. The former archbishop has also admitted to moving pedophile priests around to different parishes, FOX 6 TV reports.
Although his misdeeds took place years ago, a new bronze relief pedastal that portrays the former archbishop alongside images of the Virgin Mary, St. John and various other figures including children is now causing a stir.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has decried the piece of art and expressed in a statement Wednesday a desire to know why the former archbishop is being “pictured in the biblical scene of Jesus protecting the little children” as Archbishop Weakland has also faced accusations in the past of covering up priestly abuse in his diocese.
SNAP has also claimed that Weakland himself commissioned the piece and used charitable funds.
In response to this, Julie Wolf, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, told CNA that the bronze relief was commissioned in 2000, which was before the allegations against Weakland began to surface.
“It was commissioned to represent the archdiocese at that point in time, when Archbishop Weakland was archbishop, when Fr. Carl Last was the rector of the Cathedral and he still is,” said Wolf, who continued to tell CNA that the piece is intended “also to represent the people who make up the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, including children and adults and various ethnic groups.”
A statement issued by the archdiocese on Wednesday also explained the content of the bronze relief, saying that the image of Rembert Weakland “is shown kneeling in reverence to Mother, Mary, who as Mother of the Church and Mother of us all, is depicted as protector of not only children, but all of us.”
“The artists’ represented both cathedral and archdiocesan leadership at the time of the artwork’s commission and its dedication,” the statement added.
Wolf has also denied the claim that the former archbishop ordered the piece himself, saying that it was the initiative of an art sub-committee, which was part of the larger multi-year St. John the Evangelist Cathedral renovation effort.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee emphasized that, “Our priority remains to work toward healing and resolution. Identifying ongoing sources of pain is important to that process. We acknowledge that much has been accomplished these past eight years and much more remains to be done."