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Listecki faces challenges as archbishop


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:2010 Jan 07; Section:Opinion; Page Number: 8A

Listecki faces challenges as archbishop

The Milwaukee Archdiocese is blessed with another archbishop. As Jerome Listecki was installed as archbishop of Milwaukee at St. John’s Cathedral in Milwaukee on Monday, he must have wondered if some of the challenges facing him were right in the room.

Disgraced former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland was there. Not all past problems could be traced back to Weakland, and not all of the problems caused by Weakland are safely in the past.

What is past, Weakland’s relationship with Paul Marcoux, resulted in a raid upon the archdiocese’s finances for hush money. When that was not enough, Marcoux went public, and Weakland’s personal disgrace turned into a very public fall.

In the past but still with us, Weakland was guilty of shuffling priests around who were guilty of targeting the young for sexual abuse in their pastoral care. That problem continues in the form of a lawsuit that threatens a much larger financial calamity than the Marcoux payoff.

Beyond the scandals there are the direct challenges to the Catholic Church’s teachings.

Weakland’s tolerance, even encouragement, of the questioning of the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality, abortion and the ordination of women, still remains an influence in many parishes in the archdiocese. Listecki will find himself at odds with priests and lay people who want to move the church in a more liberal direction like Weakland.

Also in the room was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, candidate for governor, a Catholic and in favor of legalized abortion. Listecki has not been shy in the past about publicly taking on politicians over the abortion issue. In 2008, Listecki sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi correcting her on statements she made regarding the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion.

In a few days, Listecki will make his appearance at Christ King in Wauwatosa, where another Catholic Democratic politician, Jim Sullivan, serves as state senator. Sullivan, too, is in favor of legalized abortion, including in the third trimester.

Can the archbishop remain silent when public leaders who are Catholic continue to lead on such an important issue in direct opposition to the Catholic Church’s teachings?

Then there is a new group calling itself Young Catholics for Choice, which has dedicated itself to being in direct opposition to the Catholic Church on contraception and abortion issues. Listecki has already said that by promoting such views the group is “tragically distancing themselves from that communion with the church to which they are called.”

Unfortunately, Young Catholics for Choice is a small part in the larger effort by members of the Legislature to impose their beliefs upon the Catholic Church. From issues of homosexuality to abortion to contraception, will the Catholic Church be forced to betray its principles as it operates schools and hospitals?

Near to the cathedral is Marquette University. Listecki will face challenges there, too. Theology professor Dan Maguire was effectively banned from speaking at local parishes, with Archbishop Timothy Dolan saying it “would be a grave scandal and a cause of disunity in the Church.”

Listecki was one of the bishops who called on Notre Dame University to rescind its invitation to President Barack Obama to give last year’s commencement address. Two years ago, Marquette asked Vel Phillips to speak at commencement despite her support for legalized gay marriage and her role in pro-abortion congresswoman Gwen Moore’s political campaign. What will Listecki’s reaction be when Marquette University confers an honorary degree on another politician who is directly opposed to the Catholic Church’s teachings?

Finally, Listecki may have been grateful for the full pews at his installment. Hopefully he receives an equally warm welcome at St. William’s Catholic Church in Waukesha this evening.

But, church attendance is declining. While his predecessor was able to increase the number of candidates to become priests, that is not the overall national trend.

With all of the scandals, problems and challenges, Listecki may feel himself besieged. If so, the model of how to bear the burden was also present at his installation, his predecessor Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Let’s pray that Listecki has many years of success leading our church.

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