Paterno statue gone from Penn State; when will Weakland’s turn come?
Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee)
Today, in a simple and obvious gesture of decency and justice to victims of child rape and sexual assault by Jerry Sandusky, Penn State officials removed coach Joe Paterno’s statue from university grounds.
Removing the statue is not simply some nice gesture to victims. It was done because Penn State officials realize that if they are going to rehabilitate the honor of their institution and make it worthy of respect and support, they cannot deliberately display a statue of a man who, for whatever contributions he has made to the university, failed to protect children when he could have easily done so. Paterno didn’t because he was more concerned about the school’s reputation than about the school’s actual moral integrity.
For years survivors of rape, sexual assault and abuse by scores of Milwaukee priests under the supervision of former Archbishop Rembert Weakland have begged the current Archbishop Jerome Listecki to remove from the Milwaukee Cathedral a prominent bronze relief of Weakland depicting himself in the place of Jesus protecting little children. Weakland concealed and transferred so many sex offender clerics that Joe Paterno’s actions at Penn State seem almost trivial in comparison in their scope and consequences.
But the real reason Listecki must remove Weakland’s bronze honor to himself, which Catholics are forced to pray and worship in the presence of, is not for the sake of survivors and our feelings about Weakland. It’s for the sake of what honor and decency the Catholic Church in Milwaukee might still stand for, especially as Listecki demands the indulgence of the federal bankruptcy court to shield Weakland and others from the consequences of decades of cover-ups.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPnetwork.org and SNAPwisconsin.com.