Amchurch Comes out, by Paul Likoudas -- Book Review by Father Joseph Wilson
The Coming-out Party -- Unpacking the Mystery
By Joseph F. Wilson
Downloaded January 3, 2004
Likoudis, Paul. Amchurch Comes Out: The U.S. Bishops, Pedophile Scandals and the Homosexual Agenda. Petersburg, IL: The Roman Catholic Faithful, 2002.
"I would like you to read my book, let me know what you think." It was a brief phone call, and a simple request. I must tell you, I did not see what was coming at all.
Later that afternoon I downloaded the file and printed out the text of the book, punching holes in the pages and binding them in a ring binder. It was a huge thing, a daunting read printed out in hundreds of pages as it sat there on my desk, and the decision to put of starting it until the next day was an easy one. As it turned out, it was a wise one as well, for had I started in that evening I would have been reading all night. Paul Likoudis’ book "Amchurch Comes Out: The U.S. Bishops, Pedophile Scandals and the Homosexual Agenda" is not the sort of book one closes until one has finished it, and once one has finished, it does not go up on the shelf; it demands another look-through, if not another thorough reading.
Here, a caveat to the reader. When I had finished, I phoned Paul and told him that I had liked it very much, and what I had liked about it. When I was done, he said, "Good. Glad to hear it. Write the Foreword." And, after a moment of silence, I said, "Well, I never really wanted to be a monsignor anyway." And -- not for the first time, by any means -- he and I shared a long, ironic laugh. The reader is forewarned, therefore: this is not a proper book review, as I’ve already done the Foreword and am not an unbiased reviewer. It’s just one of my usual rants.
I was still in the college seminary when a remarkable book came out, in the wake of the election of Pope John Paul II. Msgr George Kelly chose the right moment for "The Battle for the American Church," a season of renewed hope for those who had grieved at the rampaging dissent sweeping through the Church in the latter years of Paul VI. Regnery published it in an elegant hardcover edition, with the prow of a Viking ship on the front cover. The book was a call to arms with the election of the new Pope, the announcement of a moment of decision, and a careful description of the state of the Church in 1979. Msgr Kelly devoted each chapter to an aspect of the situation: the battle for the liturgy, the family, the seminaries, religious life,
Catholic higher education, catechetics. Copiously footnoted with references to books, newspaper articles and other sources, it was an impressive sketch of the various facets of an institution adrift, of a challenge to be faced.
As vividly as I remember that season of hope, I am all the more aware of the sad contrast with today. Twenty-three years later, one must look back at the intervening years as a time when, by every measurable standard, the institutional vitality of our Church has continued to decline. Initiatives and directives from the Holy See and even from the Holy Father himself have not been missing, but neither have they been effective.
These past four decades have been quite a ride. We went through a liturgical reform which was to have renewed the Church; a sixty percent decline in Mass attendance over thirty years resulted. There was a catechetical revolution, myriad new textbooks, methods, programs and approaches replacing the tried and true Catechism: forty years later religious ignorance abounds to such an extent that two-thirds of Mass-going Catholics cannot identify the Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist when it is presented to them. The Religious communities which were such a vibrant part of the Catholic scene before the Council underwent "renewal" and have been staggering towards the grave ever since. Even if one were willing to concede that the Catholic Church of the 1940s and 1950s could not possibly have been as solid as it had seemed given the turmoil which swept through it beginning in the 1960s, the turmoil and decline since the Council has been stunning, and there has been an unfathomable aspect to it as well: the aspect of the denial of reality. Why has it been that the leadership of the American Church has stubbornly continued to speak and act as though we were in an age of renewal even in the face of this disaster? Why is it that, even after forty years, there has not been an attempt at an honest, thorough re-assessment of the path we have trod?
And how to explain the fact that, although the details of the situation were so clear back in 1979 that Msgr Kelly’s book could be written, things have only deteriorated since? Why is it that every intervention and directive issued by the Holy Father or the Holy See for the correcting of the situation has been without effect? Can it be that, carefully as Msgr Kelly chronicled the problems, there is something far deeper wrong with the Church -- that as serious as were the irregularities and scandals he described, they were but the symptom of something far more serious?
Over the course of a couple of weeks, as I prepared to write the Foreword Paul had requested, I re-read the draft of the book several times, and I was conscious of two distinct reactions within myself. On the one hand, it was genuinely appalling to see the material he had assembled. For page after page, he recounts irregularity after irregularity, scandal after scandal occurring in different parts of the American Church over the last fifty years. To find such a chronicle assembled between two covers of a book is a disturbing experience.
But on the other hand, there was a reaction even more disturbing -- recognition. Most of this book cannot be classified as expose, because most of the stories set forth here are already known, and have been for years. They have all appeared in print. Paul relies upon his own reporting in his years as news editor of the Wanderer, and he relies upon the reporting in secular and church media. I have been a Wanderer reader for decades, and most of these stories I had seen before. As appalling as the stories are, as disturbing as it is to see them gathered in one place, far more appalling is it to realize that these things have all been known, have seen the light of day for years, even decades. And nothing has been done.
What sort of story does the reader encounter here?
One reads, for example, of the Bishop who agreeably gave a professor of a secular university an absolutely free hand to come into the Catholic elementary schools of his diocese and conduct a sexuality study designed to modify the children’s attitudes towards homosexuality, with a view towards studying the impact this would have on their parents. In the grant proposal the professor presented to the National Institutes of Health, he stressed that this was a valuable and unique opportunity, as he was being provided with access to a "hitherto shielded sample" of the population (Catholic elementary school children!!), and given "the freedom to employ treatments as progressive as any used anywhere in the country, in any type of school system, public or parochial." And he was quite correct -- in fact, the study he would carry out would have been illegal in the state’s public schools.
Yet the diocesan bishop had committed himself not only to allowing the program to run its full three-year course, but to exercising no veto over the subject matter. Parents, it soon became clear, had at best the vaguest idea of the content of this program, which had been presented as an "AIDS curriculum." As a result, eighth graders were learning about anal sex and bestiality in their Catholic school classrooms! And, as the full dimensions of the situation dawned on the parents, they found the diocese extremely unwilling to listen to their objections.
Now, undoubtedly, that story will sound utterly bizarre to you, and you will be thinking, "But, good Lord, that must be a total aberration." This is why you need to read "Amchurch Comes Out." I believe that, in its two hundred sixty pages, Paul has offered a compelling, credible answer to the mystery of the past forty years. Why have the multiple crises in the Church’s life been so studiously ignored? Why have laity so often found it impossible to obtain a hearing from the hierarchy over abuses? What is really wrong here?
The answer Paul offers confirms the suspicion that the abuses chronicled by Msgr Kelly in 1979 were indeed merely symptoms, not the disease. The disease is much deeper.
Paul contends that in the decade from the mid-1950s through the 1960s, there were promoted to the episcopate and other leadership positions within the Church a number of highly unsuitable candidates, unsuitable because of their perverse sexuality. From the mid-1960s on, the establishment of the bishops’ conference and the mushrooming growth of its bureaucracy offered all the more opportunity for such persons to move into administrative positions. Once entrenched, these men naturally sought to further the careers of others of like mind, and furthered as well a revolution in sexual attitudes which most Catholics never saw coming. In 1992, Paul Likoudis coined the phrase, "Amchurch," as a shorthand referring to a deeply entrenched, dissident faction within the American Church’s hierarchy and its bureaucracy. This book describes how Amchurch ‘came out.’
Those whose immediate reaction to this thesis is to dismiss it need to stop and consider carefully what we have been through in these five decades. Why is it that it was so important to completely revamp religious instruction, the liturgy, the structures of Religious life, and then, when the experimentation had disastrous results, why was no attempt made to correct the situation?
As I was writing the preface to "Amchurch Comes Out," a lay theologian offered a thought on this subject which I found so illuminating in its simplicity, I asked his permission to quote him. He said, "Years of watching the situation carefully have convinced me that it really IS all about sexual autonomy. People don’t turn institutions upside down because they’d rather hear the Mass in English. You can do that without destroying buildings and the structure of religious life, and catechesis. You turn institutions upside down to support a ‘complete change in teleological purpose’ in your life -- and eliminate unpleasant reminders that maybe your new purpose, sexual autonomy, isn’t such a great idea."
And the more I thought about it, the more sense that made. Perhaps you’d prefer to say simply, "personal autonomy," rather than "sexual autonomy" -- although you might revisit that after reading Paul’s book. But I think my theologian friend hit a bull’s-eye. If sexual autonomy is one’s goal, one will not want the traditional Mass as the central symbol of the Faith, for the very form it takes will always seem a reproach: one will want a pliable liturgy, something one can shape to one’s whims. One will obviously want to deconstruct Religious Life as well, that living image of the words of the Lord Jesus, "Seek first the Kingdom of God." And as for catechesis: well, why else would one promulgate religion textbooks that avoided subjects such as commandments, precepts of the Church, original sin; why else would one find situation ethics attractive -- unless one were anxious to usher in a new religion, one much more amenable to one’s whims.
The elimination of everything which reproaches our constant search for gratification goes a long way to explaining the postconciliar crises.
Paul’s book is the most comprehensive, compelling and plausible explanation for the battering of our Catholic Church over these forty years. It is a disturbing interpretation of disturbing facts, but those who love the Church need to consider these things. As copiously illustrated as it is with examples of the perverse Amchurch agenda -- incidents which grew ever more brazen as the years passed -- the book offers a still greater service by tracing the interconnected clerical careers of the architects of this ecclesiastical train wreck.
As troubling as the public finds the stories of priests accused of sexual abuse, many are unaware of the extent to which such incidents have directly touched the American hierarchy. In recent years, we have seen the Archbishops of Atlanta and Santa Fe resign their sees due to affairs with women; two bishops of Palm Beach in succession resign under accusation of having abused young men; a bishop in Santa Rosa CA resign after credible accusations of having sexually abused one of his priests, and having bankrupted his diocese; a bishop in Springfield IL resign under accusations of homosexual promiscuity; an auxiliary bishop of New York die of AIDS after years of intermittent drug rehab; another auxiliary bishop of New York resign after admitting to affairs with women; an Archbishop of Milwaukee resign suddenly after a $450,000 payoff to a younger man came to light; a bishop of St Petersburg concede that a $100,000 settlement was made to an employee who had accused him of sexual harassment (and that bishop is still in office). I typed these cases out from memory, without referring to notes; obviously, there are others.
If you stop for a few moments and quietly ponder the fact that the percentage of bishops whose names have been linked with sexual incidents is appreciably larger than the percentage of priests, it begins to seem less mysterious that so many sexual offenders in the priesthood were tolerated by their bishops.
And, with all of these things to worry about, there remains a fact about which I am convinced we cannot possibly pray, think, and speak too much: the clergy sexual abuse problem is not an isolated cross we bear. We don’t have ONE crisis: we have at least TWELVE of the damned things, and we have had them for FORTY YEARS, and no one seems to be doing a blessed thing about them. Our Liturgy is a risible shambles in most places; our catechesis woefully inadequate; religious life, seminary formation, family life, moral theology, scriptural studies... Crisis after crisis after crisis. Why is it that, over the years, the persistent cry of the Faithful about these things has gone unheeded?
The current state of the Catholic Church in the United States of America is rendered much less mysterious by a careful reading and pondering of this book, by which Paul Likoudis has rendered a signal service to us all. To order it you do things like going online at www.rcf.org. Do NOT pass up the book figuring that you’ll see the movie when it comes out -- your Mom won’t let you see this movie in a million years.
Get the book. It's $24.95.
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