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Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Critic of Vatican Orthodoxy, Dies at 95

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Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, a liberal critic of Vatican orthodoxy who led the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee for 25 years but resigned on the eve of retirement in a scandal over a long-secret love affair with a man, died on Monday at his home in Clement Manot, a retirement community in Greenfield, Wis.

He was 95. His death was announced by the archdiocese. An intellectual touchstone for progressive Catholic reformers, Archbishop Weakland, over the course of a distinguished if often controversial half-century career, was head of the worldwide order of Benedictine monks for a decade, presided in a rocky tenure over the Milwaukee archdiocese’s 700,000 Catholics, wrote many books and was an influential voice among the nation’s Catholic bishops.

But after an ecclesiastical life that lifted him from poverty in a Pennsylvania coal town to one step below the College of Cardinals — he was the recipient of more than 35 honorary degrees, international acclaim as a voice for change, and even talk that he might someday be the first American pope — Archbishop Weakland was disgraced in May 2002 as he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

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