For the second time, Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland’s plans to return East to live in a monastery have fallen through.
In a call to the Catholic Herald Monday morning, Archbishop Weakland explained that while he had planned to move to the St. Vincent Archabbey, a community of Benedictine monks in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Sept. 1, he will instead remain in Milwaukee, at the request of Benedictine Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey and major superior of the community.
According to the archbishop, he and Archabbot Nowicki had a lengthy telephone conversation Friday, June 27, and the abbot “feels it’s not a good time for me to come so he wants me to postpone coming indefinitely – and I am 87 so it’s not indefinite – so I am going to stay on living here where I am, Milwaukee, and see how that goes.”
Since 2006, Archbishop Weakland has resided in an independent living apartment at Wilson Commons, an independent and assisted living facility on Milwaukee’s south side.
As he’s aged, he explained, his health has declined.
“I realize soon I will need more support in life,” he said, explaining the monastery has a “wonderful infirmary” had he needed medical attention.
As I get older, it’s harder to be in independent living taking care of myself,” Archbishop Weakland said, explaining his desire to move to St. Vincent.
During a visit last fall, he spoke with Archabbot Nowicki about moving to the abbey and the archbishop said the abbot readily agreed, but told him he needed a little time to work out a situation involving a former monk.
“He said the problem would need a little time to work over the results of the case and he expected to have that cleared up by the time I was ready to leave next September,” explained the archbishop.
Yet, it’s because of “the problem” that Archabbot Nowicki asked Archbishop Weakland not to come to the abbey to live.
As Archbishop Weakland explained, a monk, Mark Gruber, was dismissed from the priesthood and from the Benedictine order and is seeking revenge against the abbot and Benedictine community.
“On July 29, 2013, Rev. Mark Gruber received a copy of the decree of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) notifying him of the penalty of his dismissal from the clerical state and dispensing him from his monastic vows,” according to a press release posted on saintvincentarchabbey.org.
Gruber, a former anthropology professor at St. Vincent College, had initiated “an intense, defamatory campaign against numerous church and monastic officials, including a false allegation against the Archabbot of St. Vincent Monastery,” according to the release.
This highly public situation, where Gruber was seeking revenge against the community and abbot, left the community in need of healing, explained the archbishop, adding the archabbot felt his arrival might impede that healing.
About five years ago, Archbishop Weakland had made arrangements to move to another monastery, St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey, but those plans were changed when the move coincided with the publication of his memoir, “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church.”
According to the June 4, 2009 Catholic Herald, “Archbishop Weakland will continue to reside at Wilson Commons on Milwaukee’s south side as the Benedictines exercised the option in which he offered to ‘withdraw acceptance of their invitation to live with them,’ at St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey. After a May 14 New York Times article talked about the discovery of his homosexual orientation, Benedictine Abbot Giles Hayes addressed the issue in a letter to the archbishop and that it might pose problems for the monastery and Delbarton School, the preparatory school that the Benedictines operate near St. Mary.”
Archbishop Weakland admitted to the Catholic Herald he is disappointed he won’t be moving to Latrobe.
“Personally, I wanted to get back to the monastery and get back to the monastic routine. It’s always been a part of who I am, but it doesn’t seem as if it will work out,” he said.
“So many things in life we have no control over,” he added.
The archbishop noted, that while he won’t be moving, he will continue to enjoy his life at Wilson Commons.
“I love it there; the people have been great. That’s not the reason for leaving,” he said, explaining he feels like a country pastor at the retirement community, celebrating daily and Sunday Masses regularly for his “parishioners” who refer to him as Fr. Weakland. “I love the rooms I have and the management. It’s been wonderful here.”
“I am disappointed in one sense because I was looking forward to the monastery, but on the other hand, my strongest support group is here in Milwaukee, but also probably my bitterest enemies,” he said, describing the uplifting support he receives from laity and priests.