CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 What Catholicism Has Done to Catholics

 The fortuitous developments of the past two thousand years certainly gave the Church of Rome the unusual opportunity to become the greatest force for moral and religious good in the history of man.  Catholic scholars Insist that divine providence planned the course of modern civilization in that way.

The Caesars and their legions had conquered the world and forged it into one "federal" government, with all roads and shipping lanes verging on Rome .  Peoples of the civilized world, their own nations conquered and their independence crushed, looked to Rome for leadership.  They continued to look in that direction even when the Empire had broken into segments and the Caesars were gone.

The bishop of Rome , for want of any other leader, inherited the mantle of spiritual leadership of the world.  As the papacy naturally grew in power and influence, it could have become the greatest moral force for the salvation of man and for the progress of his earthly civilization.

 The newly-founded Christian Church was based on the Sermon on the Mount and the simple truths of the teachings of Jesus.  Built on the principle of love of God and of neighbor, the Church could have molded the characters not only of the pagans it inherited but of the peoples of still unexplored and undiscovered nations.

Instead its leaders turned its morality over to the theological dialecticians and themselves concentrated on the growth of power, wealth and pleasure.  The Church made its moral code so strict that observance was humanly impossible, and it then developed a heavenly guaranteed discount for cash.

Its law of celibacy was a failure, as it still is.  It deified its own laws and declared those of the state to be null and void.  It substituted a financially lubricated machine of ritualistic formulas for simple morality, restraint and self-discipline.  No wonder, then, that from the very dawn of Church history, Roman Catholics have rebelled against the Church's tyranny and immorality.

From the first centuries on, the smaller councils and later the ecumenical (Church-wide) councils have thundered against constantly rising resistance which the Vatican 's partisans called heresy.

Luther's Reformation in the sixteenth century was merely the successful climax of centuries of struggle of sincere millions who disagreed as much with the morals of Rome as they did with its doctrine.  If the soil were not ripe for revolt, the Reformation movement of the Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Methodists and others could not have spread so rapidly through the most progressive nations of Europe .  All of these peoples were Roman Catholics rejecting the crime and immorality of Rome , its pope and its clergy.  

It is more than a coincidence that the Christian peoples that rejected Rome became and still are the most moral and law-abiding in the world.  Norway , Sweden , Iceland , Denmark , Finland , England , Scotland and Switzerland are not good, as some modern Catholics say, because the cold climate freezes their blood or alters their personalities, thus lessening their tendencies to sex and crime.  They have learned to rely on God and their own will power, and not on confession, purgatory, indulgences, rosaries, medals and the like.

Even within the countries that have remained nominally and politically Catholic, the people have been in a constant state of revolt against the Church.  It is called "anticlericalism." This has been true for centuries in Sp i Portugal , Rumania , Mexico , the countries of South America , and particularly in France, the "eldest daughter of the Church," and in Italy , the traditional home of the papacy.  

The French Revolution was carried out by Roman Catholics, and against Roman Catholics.  The revolutionists dethroned the bishops, guillotined the priests and enthroned a prostitute as the "Goddess of Reason' on the main altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

In Italy , the patriots who fought and suffered in the battles against the Vatican for the unification of Italy were Roman Catholics.  The army that marched on Rome under Garibaldi in 1870 and tore the Papal States away from the pope was likewise Catholic.  And they were Catholics who ever since that date have preserved Italian sovereignty, while the pope pouted as the self-made prisoner of the Vatican ." Even after the concordat with Mussolini in 1929, when the "prisoner" released himself, the anticlericalism of the people continued to smolder with hatred like burning, embers.

The Italian people are traditionally and culturally Roman Catholic.  They love the beauty of their Church and the solemnity of its music and its rituals, but many of them will curse the priest even while he is ministering to them.  They hate him but believe him necessary to baptize their babies, marry their children and bury their dead.

The officials of the government of Haiti , who expelled their bishops in 1960 and 1961, are Roman Catholics and all have been excommunicated for their violation of Church law.

The citizens of Puerto Rico who defied Bishop James Davis and his associate, in spite of the threat of mortal sin and excommunication, and voted overwhelmingly for Mufioz in the election of 1960, are Roman Catholics.

The citizens of Cuba who march through the streets chanting " Cuba yes-priests no" are people who should know about priests.  They are Roman Catholics.  The hierarchy's press may label Fidel Castro a Communist, an anti-American, an enemy of the Church, but they cannot deny that that very same Church educated him in its Jesuit schools.

In America , the revolt among intelligent Roman Catholics quietly continues.  My maiden Irish aunt in San Francisco , complaining to my wife of my disgraceful defection, wrote more wisely than she knew: "The trouble with the Irish is that they come to America , get an education and then quit the Church."

No guillotines are clanging and no armies are marching, but millions of American Catholics have left the Church and millions upon millions of their children have grown up as Protestants or with no religion at all.  If only a fair number of the descendants of Roman Catholic immigrants had remained true to the faith, the hierarchy would have no need of the slogan "Make America Catholic." The job would have been accomplished by now.

Observers of the strange anachronism of a medieval oriented, monarchically-structured, completely dictatorial Church claiming phenomenal power and growth in a free democracy have noticed the steady accretion of a million or two every year to the figures of the Official Catholic Directory.  There, is never a loss.  When any Protestant or public report gives figures on the Catholic Church, it is always in agreement with the hierarchy's totals.  All the statistics come from the same source-P.  J. Kenedy & Sons, a publishing company located in New York .  The impressive statistics, bandied about constantly during the 1960 presidential campaign, show more than 40,000,000 Roman Catholics in America .  A high official stated that one of every three babies born in the United States is a Catholic.

Protestants believe all these frightening figures because they are honest in compiling their own.  They count their people, Catholic priests don't.  The pastors take a healthy guess at the size of their flocks, including the babies, the delinquents and the rebels.  The sum of these inflated lies is published annually as the current Catholic population of the nation.  Of course, there is a substantial increase every year-If the pastors don't report a gain each year, they are apt to lose their Plush parishes and be exiled by their bishops to the ecclesiastical hinterlands where the pickings, financial as well as social, are much slimmer.

In my previous book, American Culture and Catholic Schools, I divided the alleged Roman Catholics of America into four groups-good Catholics, Easter bird Catholics, nominal or "deathbed" Catholics and ex-Catholics.

Good Catholics are the "shock troopers of the hierarchy's "Church militant." They believe firmly in the exclusive divine origin of the Church, the infallibility of its doctrine, the unyielding obligation of its moral code, and in confession, purgatory, indulgences, heaven and especially in hell with its unquenchable fire.  The Church guides their reading and their thoughts so they are intellectually mediocre and produce no scientists, philosophers or outstanding educators.

Good Catholics constitute the small minority who do not practice birth control.  Frequently they are the broken down wives, physically wrecked with constant childbearing.  They are the broken-down husbands, financially wrecked with the responsibility of rearing, clothing and educating too many children in the modern world.

Good Catholics are the ones who often crack mentally under the Churches sexual code and provide the psychiatric case histories, inflating the Catholic population in our insane asylums.

Good Catholics are also the children who listen carefully to the difference between mortal and venial sin, who know how much they can steal and lie and cheat without risking the fires of hell.

   The following three letters arrived the same day ( March 3, 1961 ) and give a graphic picture of the thinking processes of good Catholics.  The first was from Buffalo , New York :

 I am writing this letter to tell you that I have not left the Church after all.  I have become more convinced than ever that it is The Church founded by Jesus Christ.

Of the many priests I know none of them would leave the Church if you gave them a million dollars.  Chastity is not hard to keep if you make use of God's grace.  Love of God is much more fulfilling than love of women.  If you don't believe it, visit a Trappist or any other monastery or talk to the diocesan priest I know....

Your ideas on imprisoned nuns aren't worth much.  I knew a group of thirty "imprisoned" German Benedictine nuns at the Archabbey in Latrobe , Pennsylvania .  They were the most cheerful and happiest group of women I have ever known.  They did all the cooking and worked hard all day.  The youngest was a very pretty German girl. instead of being imprisoned they have found true freedom.  I'm sure they are more dear to God than all the non-Christian humanitarians in the world....

Did you read the following in Claire Booth Luce's recent column in McCalrs: "I would like to see Margaret Sanger interview the entire Kennedy family in the White House." The Church certainly is right in her views on birth control and divorce.

I notice that the Church is not cracking up under your defection.  Catholics aren't leaving the Church in droves and non-prejudiced Protestants see your book for what it is.

At the end of the nineteenth century many people were prepared to predict the imminent collapse of the Church, but the twentieth century found her pursuing her historic mission with renewed vigor.  If the United States had freedom of education it would let parents give their school taxes to the school of their choice as Canada does.  People like you who worship America and the Constitution more than you do God axe trying to prevent educational freedom in the US ....

The reason I read your book was that I had a grievance against the Church.  However, I have come to my senses and know better than to blame the Church for my failings.

I hope you awake from your sleep.  You are welcome to come back to the Church.  Why let those superiors and bishops you feel bitter against help you lose your soul?  Don't let the evil forces win.  If you are too proud to come back to God, prepare for the eternal damnation.  Maybe you will meet some bishops and superiors in hell along with hypocritical Protestants and Catholics....

Catholic intellectuals are the foremost among intellectuals, Emmett, whether you will admit it or not.

Who knows if you won't say an Act of Contrition before you draw your last breath.  I can give you a rational reason for returning to the Church.  You can save your soul and help Mary to save hers by doing so.  She already has a better chance to save her soul than you do, since she does not know that the Church was founded by Jesus....

 The following was postmarked La Habra , California , and enclosed a printed excerpt from one of my articles:

Sir!  

This literature is lie upon lie and how a man supposed to be educated like yourself could be responsible for such trash is beyond the mind of this good Catholic, who has studied many different doctrines.

it is you and your kind who cause the Church to condemn.  I have heard about you and read about you in the paper and before you did what you did, so you're just fooling yourself in thinking you and your kind can blot out in your own mind the wrong you're doing and have done.  This literature was mailed to my home by mistake, I am sure, and before I put it aside as trash which it is.  Read it and have a more comfortable night's sleep.

 I would sign my name but could not bring myself to hear from the likes of you and the ones who sent this trash didn't have the guts to sign their name.

 The letter was unsigned.

The following is from an ex-Catholic woman in Portland , Oregon :

 I am one of nineteen children born to an English convert mother and an Irish Catholic father.  I shall riot attempt to tell you of the starvation, drudgery and hardships we children suffered so that our parents would not be guilty of using contraceptives to regulate a family, the size of which they could feed and educate.  I'm sure you know the story well, having seen so much of the same and having suffered so, much.

At the wee age of twelve, I questioned, doubted and prayed earnestly for faith.  We were brought up strictly in the Church and attended only parochial schools, but at the age of fifteen years I knew it was wrong for me to do the things I did not believe, so I left the Church.  Well, you know also that I could no longer remain at home.

My family never wrote to me and never came to see me.  I got very lonely.  I went back once.  My parents would not allow me to visit with my younger sisters or brothers.  They told me I was a bad influence on them, so I never went back.  I finished high school and then went back to St. Cloud to attend the State Teacher's College, working for room and board for nine months. . . .

There were times when I yearned to hear the Mass so a few times I went to a church where I wasn’t known but it was no, use.  It all looked like idolatry to me, and I could never believe a priest had the right to forgive sin.  I did not believe in purgatory.  I could not believe the host was the real body and blood of Christ.  But away from it, I always wondered if I could be wrong.

I am sixty-one years old now.  This is the first time in my life I have felt completely free of the fear that I would go to hell as the result of my unbelief.

Thank God for such as you.  I know now that I did the right thing....if I never hear from you or see you, I shall always thank God for you, Emmett McLoughlin, for lifting the fear from my tortured soul.

 Easterbird Catholics is the term used by the clergy for the "fringe" members who comply only with the minimum of going to confession and communion once a year.  They are not likely to become statistics in the insane asylums because they don't take the Church's sexual code seriously.  They have tasted the pleasures of the flesh and when hell did not swallow them up, they became callused to the thunderbolts from the Sunday pulpit.  They cannot shake Catholicism because they have been indoctrinated in it from childhood.  They keep up the formalities of their religion but don't let it interfere with their lives.  They are apt to forget, too, that venial sins, though minor, can become habitual and so easy that they add to the overbalanced proportion of Roman Catholics in reform schools and penitentiaries.

Deathbed Catholics are what Catholic writers say I am -the Catholic who is a traitor to the Church, and like me, might even have sunk to the lowest depths and become a thirty-second degree Mason and a Shriner.  But, the Church contends, either through the grace of God or the fear of hell, the deathbed Catholics come crawling back as the shadows lengthen, and they beg for absolution and anointing with holy oils to ease the slide over the line into  eternity.  They do not know that twice since I left the priesthood.

I have heard the nistle of the wings of the "Angel of Death" and both times I have warned the nurses that I wanted no part of priests and their bag of tricks.

But I very definitely fall into the category of ex-Catholics-those who have finally "risen from their sleep" and recognized the Church for what it is.  We see the historical untruths, spiritual and moral bankruptcy, destruction of whole nations and of individual souls-and we have rejected it completely, utterly and forever.  The ex-Catholic is one who thinks and reads; he observes what the Church does to the lives of Catholics-and what was done to his own.

The ex-priest sees even more.  He knows the rigidity of the indoctrination he experienced.  He knows the ignorance that at one time blinded him.  He knows the futility of celibacy and the corruption it has caused in the past and still causes throughout the world.

Many Protestants wonder why we ex-priests cannot get together and reform the Church.  They ask if there is any hope of the American hierarchy breaking with Rome and establishing an American Catholic Church-more honest, more realistic of human nature, more adaptable to the spirit of American democracy.

This is impossible.  The last gasp of the American spirit in Roman Catholicism took place in the nineteenth century in the struggle over " trusteeism." The Catholic laity fought to retain ownership of Church property and finances through trustees, as is done now in most Protestant churches.  The hierarchy won.  Now all the property is owned by the Church, and the priests count the collections.

 The "heretical" movements before the Reformation were attempts to reform the Church.  They failed completely.  Luther did not want to leave Rome .  He tried to cleanse it.  He fought for more than twenty years after his denunciation of indulgences in 1517 before he finally gave up.

Martin Luther's decision is the only path an honest,

disillusioned priest, a nun or a layman, can follow.  He is forced to the inexorable conclusion of Luther: "Here I stand-I cannot do otherwise.  God help me."

There is no way of knowing how many ex-Catholics -there are in America .  Many studious ex-priests think they @exceed the number of faithful Catholics.  I firmly believe so. They have written to me by the thousands.  I meet them in great numbers wherever I speak across America .

In a periodical published by the Catholic University

-of America Press, R. J. Gettelfinger discussed what he terms "the lapsed Catholic

 We Catholics build countless primary and secondary schools at great cost, and employ a vast army of priests, sisters, 'brothers and lay-teachers for the express purpose of saving the Catholic Faith for our children.  We have the Mission Crusade, other mission organizations, convert clubs and publish countless books, pamphlets and magazines for the purpose of making converts to the Faith.  For these reasons it seems all the more a mystery why there is no organized or sustained effort in the Church to bring the fallen-away Catholics back (and there are untold millions of them to say nothing of their children).  One estimate, recently made, puts their -number at 15,000,000 in the United States alone.,,

 In a recent interview, the noted Rev.  John A. O'Brien of Notre Dame University , in arguing for the recitation @of the Mass in the vernacular instead of Latin, disclosed similar information: 

 He said a return to use of popular Language would "revitalize the services in our churches, bring hundreds of millions back to regular Mass attendance, stem defections, stimulate religious vocations, help the ecumenical (Christian unity) movement. . . . and quicken the spiritual life of Catholics throughout the world .2

 However, even if a ritual, recited in a modern tongue rather than in slurred and unintelligible Latin, were to bring those "hundreds of millions" back to obedience, would it do any moral good?  Has not the Church drifted too far over the centuries from the purity of real religion to be able to influence more than a mere handful and prepare them in a truly spiritual life?  As stated so brilliantly by Henry Charles Lea:

 Step by step it has abandoned its function as the guardian of morality and has devoted itself to smoothing and broadening the steep and narrow path.  In each successive age it has claimed that the increasing wickedness of man renders impossible the maintenance of the old severity, and by condescending to that wickedness it has stimulated rather than repressed the evil. its effort has been, not to make men better, but to save them from the consequences of their sins.  The power which it claims as entrusted to it by God has been wielded to elude and not to vindicate the justice of God.  Deeming its mission to be the saving of souls, it has mattered little bow that end was attained in accordance with the artificial theories of scholastic theology as interpreted by the rules of moral theology. if the sinner cannot be induced to abandon his sin he can at least be kept in ignorance that he sins; his fear of hell can be removed by absolution, and of purgatory by an indulgence; his conscience can be soothed and be can be kept in obedience to the kindly Mother Church whose benignity thus assures him to heaven without imposing burdens on earth too heavy for his weakness-3

 Today, looking back over the Roman Catholic Church that I know, its past history, my forty years of membership in it, how it has tried to destroy the people, priests and laity, who have dared to reject it, how it has warped, deliberately or not, the morals of vast numbers of those who have remained within its fold, I can think only of the Christ and His condemnation of another priestly hierarchy who had prostituted a church that had been founded to make men holy:  

Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?  But you have made it a den of thieves.