The Warrior staff sat down with Milwaukee’s new Archbishop, Jerome Listecki. Listecki is replacing the ever-popular Archbishop Dolan, who was appointed Archbishop of New York. Listecki, a Chicago native, was an auxiliary bishop there until he was appointed to the Diocese of La Crosse. The new Archbishop appears to be a very kind and amicable man but at the same time an ardent defender of the Faith Given it is not the place of the laity to judge him, the Archbishop was quick and ready to respond to all of the questions we gave him.
Q: Could you give us a list of your top five priorities in Milwaukee?
A. Top five priorities in Milwaukee… I don’t have a top five, but I have a top priority. My priority, and I think I share this with every bishop who occupies the position, [is] that literally I would consider myself successful as an archbishop in terms of my leadership if I help people to grow in holiness. Because everything we do is rooted in that, holiness. That is the vocation that all of us are called to, whether you’re priests or religious or lay or married or whatever, you’re called to a vocation of holiness. And if I don’t understand that as my single priority, then I really shouldn’t be occupying the position. So basically it’s a call to holiness. Now within that context of course I have certain obligations to do: I want to grow vocations to the priesthood and religious life, I want to make our schools strong, I want to help our social issues, you know I know that within the urban area you’re talking about 26.6 [percent] unemployment. All those things I want to address, I want to do in the context of religious leadership. But everything has to be seen as helping us build to that aspect of holiness. You know, I don’t know what your ultimate goals are in life, but your ultimate, ultimate goal should be to be with our Lord in Heaven. That’s what it is. And that’s the ultimate, ultimate goal for all of us here.
Q: What are your thoughts on Wisconsin’s new bill, which mandates that schools which teach sex education must teach students to use contraceptives?
A: Well I think the bill from my perspective is missing something, it’s missing that the primary educator of children are basically their parents and sometimes when there is a usurpation on the part [of parents] the government says, “Well, we know best.” Without the consultation of the local communities, without the consultation of parents, you know then suddenly you’ve taken away something which is basically a natural right that parents have. The second thing is as a religious leader, especially as a Catholic leader, I’m disturbed by the fact that educators would say this is the only way to be able to teach sex education, and sex education without values is just [license?]. It doesn’t have the respect [of] the dignity of the person, it doesn’t necessarily have those things. There’s kind of an inherent aspect well, kids are going to do this so therefore we should just make sure… I have a little more respect for our kids than that. So I would hope that educators would come to understand it could be approached in different ways, supported by the community in different manners, and pull in the parents who are primary educators to understand that.
Q: Former Archbishop Weakland has been a lightning rod on many issues in this archdiocese for years, ranging from his payment of hush money to a former lover, to his responses to child sexual assault by priests, to his writing of a book that celebrates his homosexuality. Many Catholics believe he has brought scandal to the faithful, and are confused as to why he was permitted to be a concelebrant at your installation Mass. By allowing Weakland to be so publicly on display in this archdiocese, are you not advancing his agenda and continuing to confuse Catholics in this archdiocese?
A: No, I hope not. My predecessor was not Archbishop Weakland, my predecessor was Archbishop Dolan. People who want to [jump over, leapfrog,] and go back because of some hurtful issues they’ve experienced, as far as being, you say, allowed. He is the former, if you want to say for better or for worse, he is the former Archbishop of Milwaukee, so his presence there would have been conspicuous whether he was there or he wasn’t there. So basically he was there. But hopefully people are concentrating on this being a new moment in relationship to Archbishop Dolan, and those who want to pull it back I think they do a disservice to Archbishop Dolan, they’re kind of saying like he wasn’t here for 6 years. Well, I’ve been to about 7 communities right now, and I can tell you archbishop Dolan has been here, and his relationship to the community and to the people is such where they have a great sense of…they loved him, they loved his persona. And that’s basically what I’m following, that’s what I’m building. And there is, as far as the agenda, I have one agenda and that agenda is to follow the church and be faithful to the church. And that’s in all of the teachings of the church, every aspect of it.
Q: What would your response be if Marquette University followed the example of Notre Dame and awarded Obama, who is publicly pro-abortion, an honorary degree at the commencement ceremonies in May?
A: Well first of all, I hope and I’ve said this already on the Charlie Sykes show, I think Father Wild would be too smart. I want to hear back from both of you to tell me that this Jesuit priest would not be smart enough to understand he should consult with the local ordinary before inviting and giving a platform to somebody. Now you tell me, do you think that Father Wild would be that ignorant of that fact that he would do that?
“I am not sure.”
-You’re not sure, how about you?
You’re not sure? Well I have a little more confidence in him than that. I would think he would consult. And that issue was… that’s exactly what happened. That Notre Dame decided as if they were an independent entity, you know that didn’t have any responsibility to anyone. This is church and you’re in communion when you’re in church, it means you’re in a relationship and the position of the bishop if you study your theology and study your ecclesiology that the position of the bishop is like literally representing one of the 12 apostles, the call of the apostolic succession is found there. So you know it’s very hard when an institution is so large like Notre Dame, obviously Marquette shares in that situation, where it sees itself apart from the relationship of its own identity, where it belongs, that there’s a problem and in the Notre Dame situation there was that problem, they did not consult with basically the local ordinary, the common courtesy to talk to them about what would that do to the community, what would that represent? It flew in the face of the USCCB (US Conference of Catholic Bishops), who said you don’t give platforms to individuals who have contrary positions or honors to contrary positions. So both Cardinal George as well as Bishop D’Arcy spoke against that. My letter was in support of that because very basically it was[in] support of that communion that should exist and that has to exist if we’re going to represent ourselves as the Church. I would want to believe having met Father Wild that he seems like a fine man, that he would do that, that he would call me up and say this is what’s going to happen. “Listen, Archbishop, what do you think?” Sit down and we’d talk.
Q: How would you rate Marquette University as a Catholic institution of higher learning on a scale of 1-10 and why?
A: As an institution of higher learning, it’s one of the most noted universities. As far as Catholicity, that aspect has to be dealt with in terms of both an internal perspective as well as an external perspective. I can tell you that having come from the communities in Chicago, Marquette is sought after as a place to go. Obviously Chicago has a number of Jesuit institutions, St. Ignatius, Loyola Academy, that literally draw a number of students. Now I bet even some of your classmates are Chicagoans or from the Chicago archdiocese. The Jesuits are noted for their commitment to academic excellence. Marquette shares in that tradition as a Jesuit institution. But when I said, you have to take a look at externally and internally at the Catholicity that means that, I don’t know Marquette well enough to see internally how it adheres to Catholic identity, and how they make that Catholic identity known, but that’s why I hesitate to give you an answer on a 1-10, because it would be an ignorant answer. I could tell you externally it’s obviously looked upon as a Catholic institution, and I know there have been difficulties in the past with some faculty members who’ve maintained positions that challenged that. It’s an external and an internal question that basically has to be answered. And I probably could answer that better for you in 3 years than I can today, because I’m basically coming here just giving you my sense of Marquette
The Archbishop provided complete answers to each question we threw at him. He seems to be up front and honest with all his answers, merely hoping to impart the truth to his flock. Milwaukee could not have asked for a better Archbishop. Listecki seems poised to do great things for Milwaukee. His concern lies not with the passing things of this world but with the enduring things of the next, making his priority the faithful’s growth in holiness. We ask a lot from a new archbishop but trust that we’ll receive a great deal more than we expected. May God bless him in all his work.
by Adam Ryback