'Deserves no honor or praise': Survivors, advocates for clergy abuse survivors protest funeral of former Milwaukee archbishop

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Survivors, advocates and a former priest were among those protesting the funeral of former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland and encouraging members of the clergy to not attend the service.

Weakland was the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from 1977 until his retirement in 2002. He died last week at the age of 95, and will be having a funeral service held for him in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

"Archbishop Rembert Weakland deserves no honor or praise," said Father James Connell, a retired priest and former vice chancellor for the archdiocese. "Doing so would put salt in the wounds of victim survivors of clergy sexual abuse."

It has been discovered Weakland knowingly reassigned priests who had allegedly sexually abused minors during his time as archbishop. Weakland also admitted to misusing $450,000 in church funds to cover up an affair he had with another man.

"Do not come to the funeral," Father Connell said in a message to other members of the church. "Your absence from the funeral will provide support for all who suffer in any way because of Weakland's evil."

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee provided CBS 58 with a statement Monday regarding the funeral that is set to take place Tuesday. It reads:

"A funeral Mass is not a glorification of a person's life, but rather an act of mercy for the dead during which we pray that, despite any failings in life, they may be received by a merciful God. We pray for all sexual abuse survivors and hope they can find healing and peace."

Peter Isely is the program director of Nate's Mission, an organization working to pave the way to stop sexual abuse and cover-ups from happening within the church. He calls that statement a lie.

"They're going to be praising Archbishop Weakland," Isely said. "There's going to be eulogies. There's going to be praise. There's going to be celebration. We're going to hear all about the things he did."

Father Connell says it's a "scandal" a funeral Mass is being held in Milwaukee, adding it would have been more appropriate to host the Mass in Pennsylvania where the former archbishop will be buried.

"Having this ceremony tomorrow creates scandal in our community," Father Connell said. "Archbishop Listecki has the authority, the power. He could stop this from being here."

The funeral is set to take place at The Cathedral Saint John the Evangelist at 4:30 Tuesday afternoon.

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