Good News! Cousins’ and Weakland’s Names Are Coming Down!
Updated: Mar 21, 2019
(I can’t tell you how good it feels to type that title. I have been in serious need of some good news recently.)
Update 3/20/19 - If you're happy about this good news, please join me in a community action emailing Archbishop Listecki to thank him for taking this positive step. All you need is 5 minutes and a computer!
Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee just released a statement about the Archdiocesan response to the clergy abuse crisis. In this statement, he announced that Archbishop Cousins’ name will be removed from the Archdiocesan central office building and Archbishop Weakland’s name will be removed from the Cathedral’s parish center downtown.
This is the best news article I have found so far, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Archdiocese of Milwaukee to drop names from Cousins, Weakland centers. (Note that the bas relief art depicting Weakland with a group of children has also been removed from the Cathedral.)
This is big news! It’s a small step, but a meaningful one. This change communicates to our community that we will no longer honor men who enabled child sex abuse in our Church. We won’t ask abuse victims to walk into buildings that are named after men who made their abuse possible. We won’t try to forget or cover up what these men did and the harm that they caused.
This development also demonstrates that church leaders are listening to the concerns of the people of God. I don’t know why it took so long for this change to happen, but I’m glad it has happened at last.
Here’s what I do know:
- At the Archbishop’s listening session back in October, the need to remove Weakland’s name and image from the Cathedral was a consistent theme in the comments made by participants. (I’m glad that the Archdiocese went a step farther to also remove Archbishop Cousins’ name. His faults may feel more distant today, but the same concerns apply to both men.)
- Several people, myself included, have had meetings with Archbishop Listecki and with Bishop Jeff Haines (who is rector of the Cathedral), calling on these leaders to take the important symbolic step of removing these names.
- I was told back in December that the name removal was going to happen soon. I felt encouraged by this promise, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up until I saw a public announcement.
- This change was among the suggestions I listed in my letter to Archbishop Listecki back in February. (“Stop Honoring The Guilty: Direct all parishes in the Archdiocese to stop honoring church leaders who have been complicit in covering up sexual abuse, including Archbishop William Cousins and Archbishop Rembert Weakland. As their names are removed from buildings and their images from displays, state with clarity the reason for the change and consider honoring abuse survivors in their place.”)
I also know that this is just one small step. Changing the names on a few buildings was, in many ways, the “low-hanging fruit” - the action that seems so obvious that it’s hard to believe it took so long to take place.
There is still much work to be done, and I plan to keep fighting. But now I have just a little glimmer of hope that our efforts really will make a difference. Will you join me?
(Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to subscribe for notifications to this blog to stay up to date on these efforts, and feel free to contact me any time with comments, feedback, or ideas.)
PS: There are actually some other hints of good news in the Archbishop’s letter. I’ll write a separate post about that later, but for now, you can read his whole letter here for more information: Love One Another Letter by Archbishop Listecki. It’s the first statement from my Archbishop on this issue that has made me feel hopeful rather than frustrated, so that’s a positive step!
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
- Luke 1:46-55