MILWAUKEE - Archbishop Rembert Weakland acknowledged yesterday that he paid a settlement to a man who accused him of sexual assault more than 22 years ago. Weakland denied ever molesting anyone, but asked the Vatican to expedite the resignation he submitted this year.
The archbishop's accuser, Paul Marcoux, received $450,000. He said he was drunk when Weakland attempted to assault him in October 1979, but did not go to police because two priests advised him not to.
Marcoux, now 53, was a Marquette University theology student at the time. He said Weakland seemed infatuated with him and made sexual advances, which he brushed aside.
Weakland, 75, denied the allegations. "I have never abused anyone. I have not seen Paul Marcoux for more than 20 years," he said in a statement.
Weakland's words came after ABC News reported that he agreed in 1998 to pay Marcoux under a legal settlement, though Marcoux had not sued him.
Weakland, who recently adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward abusive priests, has been archbishop since 1977 and is considered the leading liberal voice among American church leaders. He reached mandatory retirement age in April and is awaiting the Vatican's appointment of a new leader.
In his statement, he said the accusation would be a distraction and asked Rome to replace him as soon as possible.
In an interview, Marcoux said he met Weakland in September 1979 at a dinner organized by a local Catholic leader. Marcoux said he later called the archbishop to discuss the priesthood.
Marcoux said that on Oct. 11, 1979, he and Weakland had cocktails and wine with dinner, then drove to Weakland's home, where Weakland tried to rape him. He said Weakland made lesser advances three to five times during the next year.
Marcoux said he continued spending time with Weakland because he was interested in becoming a priest in Milwaukee.
"It was flattering to have the archbishop of Milwaukee - regarded as a progressive, intelligent bishop - interested in me," Marcoux said. "I realized how much in love he was and how obsessed he was with me ... but I was not interested in a romantic relationship with him."
Ultimately, Marcoux said, he sought advice from a cousin and a friend, both priests. But they advised him not to go the police. Marcoux said he now regrets that he did not do so.
Marcoux produced a letter, posted on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Web site, in which Weakland said he could not give more than $14,000 to Marcoux for a business project.
"I should not put down on paper what I would not want the whole world to read," the letter said. "I felt like the world's worst hypocrite. So gradually I came back to the importance of celibacy in my life. ... Paul, I really have given you all I personally possess - the $14,000 is really my personal limit."
The letter expressed Weakland's angst at not being able to maintain a relationship with Marcoux. The letter said Weakland felt he was not being honest with God and that he cried as he wrote it.