MILWAUKEE ― The names of former Milwaukee archbishops William E. Cousins and Rembert G. Weakland will be removed from buildings as part of the Catholic Church’s continuing response to the clergy sexual abuse of minors, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said in a news release Tuesday.
The sign for the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center is scheduled to be taken down at noon Tuesday. The center was named after Cousins in 1983, when the archdiocesan offices were consolidated into the location of the former DeSales Preparatory High School. The high school closed in 1979.
The new name will be announced at 10 a.m. Friday with the installation of a temporary sign.
The Weakland Center, which is north of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee, houses parish offices and outreach initiatives. It was named after Weakland after the Cathedral Project, which renovated the cathedral and the surrounding block in 2000.
The cathedral parish offices are being moved, and the Weakland Center space will be used to house parish and other social outreach initiatives in the community.
“We hope that changing the names of these two buildings will continue to bring healing to abuse survivors and their families,” Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki said in the release. “For a number of years, there has been talk of changing these names. As the Church continues to restore trust in its response to clergy sexual abuse, the timing seemed right to do so now.”
In the last year, bishops’ decisions have come under closer scrutiny throughout the nation. Catholics and law enforcement have questioned decision-making that left priest-perpetrators in active ministry despite allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
"We hope that changing the names of these two buildings will continue to bring healing to abuse survivors and their families.” —Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki
Archdiocesan records show that Cousins and Weakland reassigned priests after substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor were received.
“It is easy to criticize decisions made decades ago, through the lens of today,” Listecki said. “Whether it be clericalism, a misguided intent to protect the institutional church or the desire to avoid scandal, regard for priest-offenders often trumped care for victims. For this, I apologize to abuse survivors and to the faithful of this archdiocese.
“Our motivation is not to heap judgment on those decisions,” Listecki said, “but rather to simply acknowledge the pain incurred by abuse survivors. If making this small change can aid healing and reconciliation, then I want to move forward.”