Milwaukee Pope John Paul II accepted Archbishop Rembert Weakland's resignation Friday, and a spokesman said the cleric planned a public apology for his handling of a sexual misconduct claim against him that led to a $450,000 settlement.
Weakland, who had been archbishop for 25 years, is sorry for the pain he has caused the church, spokesman Jerry Topczewski said. The time and place of the apology was undetermined.
"He's remorseful for the strain and stress this brought on the archdiocese and the church," Topczewski said.
The Vatican cited Weakland's age as an explanation. He had submitted a resignation request in April when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 and asked the Vatican to expedite it this week after the settlement became public.
Weakland, one of the church's leading liberals, denied he ever abused anyone but acknowledged he reached a secret settlement four years ago with Paul J. Marcoux.
The money for the settlement came from the archdiocese's general budget, which includes income from sources such as investments and church-owned rental property, Topczewski said. No money from parish contributions or donations paid for the settlement, he said.
"The money was legitimately authorized and paid for this settlement," Topczewski said.
Weakland is the highest-ranking American churchman to acknowledge settling a sexual assault allegation against him.
Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba (pronounced SKIHL'-ba) will run the archdiocese until an interim administrator is selected, Topczewski said.
ABC News first reported Weakland agreed in 1998 to pay Marcoux under a legal settlement, although Marcoux had not sued the archbishop.
Marcoux, now 54, said he was drunk when Weakland tried to assault him in October 1979, but he did not go to police because two priests advised against it. Marcoux, then 30, was a Marquette University theology student.
Weakland, Sklba and the archdiocesan financial officer authorized the settlement, Topczewski said. The archdiocesan attorney and Milwaukee County Dist. Atty. E. Michael McCann also knew about the settlement negotiations, he said. The archbishop did not notify the Vatican.
The archbishop said fees he has turned over to the archdiocese for speaking engagements during the years more than covered the settlement amount.
McCann told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he had known for years Weakland had a troubling relationship in the past with a man.
The prosecutor told the newspaper he would not hesitate to call for an investigation into the settlement if warranted. He did not return calls Friday from The Associated Press.
The Madison-based Freedom from Religion Foundation called Friday for an investigation into the settlement and McCann's role in the negotiations.
Marcoux, who now lives in San Francisco, said he went public after several church leaders released victims from their confidentiality agreements.