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the interesting career of Bishop Sklba

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 25, 2006

Thanks to Dom for the heads-up on Terrence Berres's post concerning the flim-flam by which Rembert Weakland slimed Richard Sklba into his current job as auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee. Berres quotes from Paul Wilkes's sycophantic profile The Education of an Archbishop (1992). Weakland -- then at the peak of his prestige, remember -- is here reminiscing in his hot-tub, telling ecclesiastical war stories in which he emerges triumphant:

"Take the appointment of Bishop Sklba. The Wisconsin province had recommended Father Richard Sklba as an auxiliary bishop for the Milwaukee archdiocese, and in 1979 the word came down that he was about to be named. ... Then, between the time of the announcement and the date of his consecration, I got a phone call: The Vatican was going to cancel the appointment.

"Not long before, Sklba had chaired a Catholic Biblical Association committee that was charged with examining whether Holy Scripture precluded the ordination of women. In his rather lengthy report was a line or two stating that Scripture in fact did not preclude women priests, and pointing out that the fact that the Apostles were all men couldn't in itself be used to defend an all-male clergy. ...

"I couldn't let that [cancellation] happen. ... Cardinal Casaroli, [Pope John Paul II's] secretary of state ... asked us to draft some sort of statement, acceptable to the Pope, that would in essence have Sklba back down from his position. We drafted something -- not a backing down but an attempt to put Sklba's statement in the context of church teaching -- and the word came back that the Pope said no. We drafted another statement and waited. Dick was to be consecrated on a Wednesday. ... Finally, late Saturday night, we got word that the Pope had approved, but with the stipulation that the statement appear in the Milwaukee papers on Tuesday, the day before Sklba's consecration. Well, the papers not only didn't play the statement as Sklba backing down but gave it the angle that he stood behind what he had originally written. We sent the articles on to Rome, but, fortunately, it being the pre-fax era, they didn't arrive in time for Rome to respond. So, while Sklba's career was certainly stalemated right off the bat, he was consecrated a bishop."

Cute. And perfectly in character.

Weakland's service to the Church was distinguished by the attentions he devoted to his protégée and gay lover Paul Marcoux. Ultimately these attentions included $450,000 in hush money, which the Archdiocese of Milwaukee paid to Weakland's rent-boy for the privilege of keeping Weakland himself in the archepiscopal saddle. Yet Weakland's present of Sklba to the Archdiocese turned out to be a gift that keeps on giving, in its own way as edifying as that of Master Marcoux.

In a May 2002 editorial, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel rightly understood that Weakland's paying-off his catamite couldn't be chalked up to a "slip":

It was not a mistake; it was not a stumble; it was not yielding to temptation. It was a very deliberate betrayal to ensure that his own reputation would not be smeared. And it came during a time when Weakland's archdiocese not only refused to pay real victims of pedophile priests, but even turned around and countersued one to recapture the church's legal fees.

The Journal Sentinel likewise understood the, ahem, loyalty that Weakland had purchased with his successful swindle of the Holy See in '79:

Weakland also had help. Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba and archdiocesan financial officer Wayne Schneider knew of the payment. Did they raise questions about it, or did their loyalty to Weakland outweigh their loyalty to the church and its parishioners? And what does this episode say about Sklba's ability to lead the archdiocese until the Vatican appoints Weakland's successor?

With the exception, perhaps, of Paul Wilkes, we can now answer the final question definitively.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: fisherman129 - Oct. 26, 2006 7:11 PM ET USA

    How sad to toss this scandal around. Paul says in Ephesians... don't let evil talk pass your lips. This might be true, but why air it? It tears down the body of Christ. Just give the info to the Vat and let them take care of it. Of course, you probably think the Vat is in it up to their ears... that's called paranoia.

  • Posted by: placidus - Oct. 26, 2006 8:26 AM ET USA

    Note that the Journal Sentinel refers to the sex scandal of Weakland as "struggle with celibacy". What Weakland had was struggle with pederasty. But to say that would offend the gay lobby, and that no self-respecting mainstream media would ever do. To MJS what Weakland did was due to the fact that the Church enforces celibacy, and not to the fact that Weakland was struggling with homosexuality. If his real problem was celibacy, the red light district would offer a much cheaper solution.

  • Posted by: opraem - Oct. 25, 2006 10:23 PM ET USA

    how many other boy toys were bought off with parishioners' money? do you really believe this was a one time event? will bishop sklba ever tell? will there ever be an accounting of how the archdiocse spent its money under weakland? and the bishops wonder why the laity doesn't pay, pray and obey like they ask.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 25, 2006 1:12 PM ET USA

    Deus autem non faciet vindictam electorum suorum clamantium ad se die ac nocte et patientiam habebit in illis Dico vobis quia cito faciet vindictam illorum verumtamen Filius hominis veniens putas inveniet fidem in terra Luke 18:7-8

  • Posted by: - Oct. 25, 2006 12:39 PM ET USA

    I continue to fail to understand why Weakland is not in jail. I thought that embezzling that much money constituted a felony.

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