[This review was published in the Spring, 2003 issue of The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, pp. 112-115.] 

 

Book Review 

 

Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church

Michael S. Rose

Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2002 

 

            When the media in the United States get onto a story, such as they have recently with the sexual abuse of children in general and, more particularly, the sexual abuse of minors committed by Catholic priests, one is tempted to think that the issue is being blown out of proportion.  The faddish nature of these temporarily white-hot issues seems almost a guarantee of that.  We live in a time when much is either overblown or ignored, so that "proportion" is essential to understanding the world around us.

            It is interesting and important, then, to find that, despite the superficialities of media coverage, the problem of sexual misbehavior in the Catholic Church in the United States is actually considerably more extensive in fact, and more profound in implication, than the press and television accounts have led the public to believe.  Far from being exaggerated, the problem has been seriously understated and involves facets that few of us know.

            From time to time during the recent crisis within American Catholicism, it has been suggested that the problem is broader than pedophilia, which is the way the media see it.  Those with a deeper insight see it as a problem of widespread homosexuality among priests.

            But even this, according to Michael Rose's book, is too narrow.  It is true, he says, that homosexuality has come to dominate the modern Jesuits and is militantly present within many seminaries.  In fact, he cites chapter and verse about that.  The homosexual presence, though, is a subset of something larger: an assumption of power in much (though not all) of the Church in the United States by a non-orthodox, secular, "politically correct" (i.e., fashionably leftist) form of Catholicism that places itself at odds with the traditions and teachings of the Church.  There is a desire to "reenvision" the Church, overturning the self-sacrificing spirit that has so long been central to the priesthood and substituting a much more secular and "human potentials" orientation.  This includes a drive for women priests, an affirmation of "gay" life, lay-run parishes and a lay ministry, soft doctrine, a desacralized worship, and the abandonment of priestly celibacy.

            Rose doesn't put it quite in these terms, but one way to see all this is that the Left has to a significant degree included the American Catholic Church in its "march through the institutions."  The Left now dominates virtually all opinion-forming sectors in American life.  The forces at work stem most immediately from the generation of the '60s, now aged into senior status.  Somewhat further back, we can see the work of Gramsci, who gave the "march through the institutions" its name, and the rest of the Frankfurt School from Germany of the 1920s.  And beyond that, we see the longterm presence since the early nineteenth century in Europe and America of an intelligentsia at war with the predominant culture.  So far as the move away from Catholic orthodoxy is concerned, it is sensible to take even one further step back and see the role of the Enlightenment and modern secularism and science.  (These are not the same things as the Left, even though the Left, which arose later, embraced some parts of them.)

            There are several layers to Goodbye, Good Men.  Most pertinent to the sexual-abuse scandals is its detailing the homosexual presence within America's priesthood today.  Rose reveals what most outsiders will never have suspected: sex workshops, graphically explicit films, and a seminary textbook showing oral sex.

            An aspect of particular importance is his telling how young men who are both non-homosexual and who believe in traditional Catholicism are weeded out of the seminaries and barred from becoming priests.  The new orthodoxy isn't passive; instead, it actively screens out those who don't fit its mold.  The existence of this ostracism is perhaps the main thrust of his book.

            In recent years, there has been much discussion of a "crisis" from a shortage of young men wanting to become priests.  Many have blamed the Church's insistence upon vows of celibacy, arguing that it turns young men away from priestly life in an age of sexual liberation.  To Rose, however, the problem does not stem from this at all.  A life of self-sacrificing commitment continues to appeal strongly to many where it is allowed to flourish.  The "shortage" occurs where men of orthodox beliefs are barred or become disillusioned in a seminary by the degeneracy they see around them.        

             Not only is celibacy wrongly made the scapegoat for the shortage of priests (and for the rampant pedophilia), he says; it is also made the pretext for much more.  Because celibacy is said to cause these problems, there are many who argue for a married priesthood and the ordination of women.

            For Catholic readers, all of this will be relevant to vital concerns.  For others, much of it will necessarily seem intramural to the Catholic faith.  Both types of readers will, however, find much that is significant in Rose's description of the ideological, cultural and sexual aspects of today's Church, since they have implications for the society in general.  The scandal over priests' sexual abuse of children is, as Rose tells us, much broader than it appears. 

 

                                                                                               Dwight D. Murphey