Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 20, 1954
NUMBER 3, PAGE 1,5-6

"My Break With Roman Catholicism" -- (Concluded)

Emmett McLoughlin, Phoenix, Arizona

Roman Catholics accused me, as they do every ex-priest of having deserted God. Actually reaching that decision and carrying it out brought me closer to God than I had ever been before. In rejecting Roman Catholicism I had not rejected God or religion. I had merely shed the idolatrous and money-making trappings that the hierarchy had built around the concept of God and religion.

I read the Bible more than I ever had before. Roman Catholicism pushes God so far into heaven with His infiniteness, His omnipresence, His omniscience that Catholics can't reach Him. They are content with the saints and Mary and the sacred heart of Jesus.

But Jesus himself was not distant and God was not distant. "The kingdom of God is within you." God could be reached only through man. "For all the law is fulfilled in one word. Even in this. 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'." "And what you have done to one of these 'my least brethren, ye have done it to me."

And with this closer contact with God came a sudden appreciation of Protestantism. I had been taught that non-Catholics were not only largely to be consigned to hell in the next world, but that on earth they were constantly disagreeing, dividing, disintegrating and were united only on one point — opposition to Roman Catholicism.

I came to the realization that the differences of non-Catholics though doctrinal, are superficial and nonessential. Their unity is greater than their divergency.

Whether Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, or Unitarians, they agree on two common principles.

The first is the personal, private, independent interpretation of the Bible.

The second flows from their intimacy with Jesus which the Bible provides — that thing called "fellowship," an intelligent, helpful love of all men — a love of neighbor which is not maudlin, but a concern for him and understanding, a respect and a desire and effort for his physical, moral, religious and intellectual development. That "fellowship" among Protestants is something that Roman Catholics simply do not understand.

To me American democracy with its material, intellectual and cultural accomplishments and its human and humanitarian pre-eminence are the ultimate blossoming of these two principles.

It is impossible for me to portray in a few words the America that I discovered when I broke out of the physical prison of Roman Catholicism.

It is difficult for me to express my personal appraisal of American democracy without perhaps appearing to the critical intellectual mind to be maudlin and sentimental. I am sentimental about it. Before leaving Romanism I scorned the displaced Pole or German or Yugoslav who, when granted American citizenship, passionately clutched the American flag, kissed it, and openly wept. But I do not scorn him now. I feel just as passionate. Now I know what he left and what he has received. For the tyranny of totalitarianism is not confined to political states, and the emotional appreciation of America is not reserved only to those who reject a nationality to become its citizens.

Now I was an adult, examining for the first time, the nation that was my own and marveling, not only at its physical make up and resources, but at its moral, intellectual and spiritual resources. I was consumed with an insatiable curiosity that wanted to know everything about everything. I read almanacs. I analyzed articles and books on every aspect of America. I studied road maps. And on vacations and weekends I drove to small towns and asked questions in cotton camps, country churches, and cross road bars. America — its greatness, its resources, its love — became my heritage also.

But my friends that heritage will surely be destroyed and that great love will die unless the principle of freedom of the Bible, freedom of thought, freedom of worship, freedom of speech, are preserved.

These freedoms are in real danger of being destroyed and that danger comes from within this country not from without.

Let me tell you just a few of the attacks in the cold war that the Catholic Church has waged against me in the five years since I exercised my American privilege of freedom of thought and freedom of worship and dared to leave the priesthood.

I received more than ten thousand letters and I still receive them. A few were friendly and congratulatory but the bulk of them, even from bishops and priests, condemned me so severely and in many instances in such vile language that if they were opened by the postal authorities their writers could have been arrested for sending obscene matter through the mails. Some invoked the wrath of God, some wished me dead and some prayed that I would be stricken with an incurable disease.

Malicious rumors were deliberately spread by the Catholic clergy. I was said to be spending all my time in taverns; I was being "kept" by four women of the Phoenix Country Club. God, they said, had punished me with heart trouble and paralysis. Outside of Arizona rumors were circulated that I had deserted my wife, lost my job, was doing penance and begging for readmission to the Roman Catholic Church.

The hierarchy, through Catholic members of the Board of Directors, tried to throw me out of the hospital I had built. While a priest I had been a leader to Catholics. Now I was untrustworthy, dishonest, and inefficient. I had foreseen this move and had been replacing Catholics with Protestants as Board members.

When the Catholics could not run me out of the hospital they tried to wreck the hospital and are still trying to do it. The clergy told their people to boycott it, which to a great extent they have unless they are so poor that the sisters will not take them in. Nuns in Phoenix schools told children of our nurses that I was a sinful man and that they should tell their mothers not to work for me. Catholic doctors tried to coax even non-Catholics away from our institution.

Roman Catholicism will stoop to the lowest depths to crush its opposition. The hierarchy can no longer burn at the stake. But one of its devout subjects did try to choke me to death as a traitor to Rome. Another tried to kill my wife.

A Catholic woman swore before a Catholic judge in San Mateo, California, that I was the father of her child. It was the charge of bastardy. The Catholic district attorney had the Catholic chief of police (O'Brien) call me and demand that I surrender for trial or be extradited. My wife and Phoenix friends had to sign affidavits that I was at home in Phoenix when the Catholic conspirators said I was near San Francisco. The record of this frame up is in the Phoenix police department.

This opposition has continued up to the present time. The night I left Phoenix to begin this trip two members of the hospital Board of Trustees tried to force my dismissal on the grounds that I was causing religious dissension in Phoenix by speaking in Protestant churches and by writing the book, "Peoples Padre" which the Beacon Press will release in March. The majority of that Board stood solidly behind me so the dissatisfied members resigned.

A few days later a Phoenix resident wired the Beacon Press suggesting that the publication of my book be dropped.

Yesterday, I received a condemning letter from an anonymous priest here in Washington.

This afternoon, hours before this speech was released, the Knights of Columbus issued a statement to the press calling me another Judas and a traitor to Christ.


The Roman Catholic Church wants to make America Catholic. If it does, the things that it has done to me will be the pattern of our land. To the extent that it is succeeding in spreading Catholic power our freedom ,is now being attacked and in some places destroyed. The Catholic Church believes that it alone has the truth, that all of its teachings are true, that all men have an obligation of accepting the truth and therefore must accept its doctrines and practice its morals. It believes that all other religions are false and have no right to freedom or even existence.

It teaches that canon law should be respected and observed in all countries including the United States.

The Catholic bishops of America in the third council of Baltimore issued this statement, "It is obvious in countries like our own where from rudimentary beginnings our organizations is only gradually advancing towards perfection the full application of these (Roman Catholic) laws is impracticable; but in proportion as they become practicable, it is our desire not less than that of the Holy See, that they should go into effect."

We would not object if the Catholic hierarchy tried to force its laws and its beliefs only on American Catholics. But if we are to survive we must fight back when the hierarchy tries to force its laws and its beliefs on non-Catholic Americans. That is what it is trying to do. That is what in many respects it is succeeding in doing.

There is no need tonight for me to tell you of the encroachments of the Catholic Hierarchy on our freedoms through control of school boards in many cities, through lobbies in Congress and State Legislatures, through the influence of the Index of Forbidden Books on our libraries, through the Catholic code of Medical Ethics in Sisters Hospitals, through Catholic laws on marriage, through threats of and the actual imposition of boycotts on the nations newspapers, radios, magazines and theaters.

You as friends and members of Protestants and Other Americans United are well aware of all these violations of Americanism. Yours is our country's most effective organization in resisting this creeping foreign paralysis.

About a month ago I had lunch with a judge of one of our local American superior courts. We were discussing the Catholic code of hospital ethics and Catholic restrictions of marriage. He had been interested in a young man, whose marriage was ruined by the war. The boy was in love with a Catholic girl. Her church forbad the marriage.

The judge touched the heart of the Catholic problem:

"When an old man sitting in Rome can tell my friend's son in Arizona that he can't marry the girl he loves or can condemn another friend to death by stopping an operation that would save her life — then why should we worry about the tyranny of communism — America has already surrendered to the tyranny of Rome."


Yes, the threat of Roman Catholic power is seriously great — fortunately the power of American freedom is still greater. This has been proven by my successful open break from the Catholic priesthood and by the fact that, in spite of everything the hierarchy has done, or threatened, I have been able to continue to live in that same city as an accepted citizen and have been backed up by the twenty members of the Board of Trustees of Memorial Hospital in my administration of that institution.

I would like to summarize those experiences in the words of the epilogue of the "PEOPLES PADRE" — the book I have written on my story and which will be released on March 22.

Five years have passed since the eventful evening when I stood in the rectory of St. Mary's Church in Phoenix and offered farewell to my fellow Franciscan priests. They have been the happiest years of my life, years of struggle, of work, of relaxation and of love in an unbelievably happy marriage.

Many sincere Roman Catholics are perturbed about their church. It is their birthright and they want to be proud of it. But (secretly or among their, close friends) they deplore its financial rapacity, its political alliances, its archaic moral doctrines which they either ignore or permit to ruin their lives and their marriages. They continue to hope that it will change, that it may become more charitable, less aggressive and more realistic in faith and morals.

I have shown that thousands of priests and millions of the laity, realizing the futility of a change for the better have done the only thing they could do. They have regretfully taken their hands from the plow and have looked back.

I have pictured the tyranny of fear that binds Catholic priests to their religious posts long after they have become disillusioned and yearn for the freedom and normal life of America. I have tried also to show the miasmic, medieval, mental blanket, which the hierarchy has spread over Roman Catholics who blindly follow them, stifling their freedom of thought, of worship and in medico-moral aspects, freedom of action and of life itself. I contend that this foreign thing is far more subtle, far less forthright but just as inimical to the American concept of life as Communism itself. It is the indirect cause of Communism by keeping whole nations in ignorance and poverty and by developing the techniques of fear, indoctrination and mental tyranny which the Kremlin has used so successfully. Its hierarchical and Spanish inquisitions with but a change of centuries, of weapons and of inquisitors, are being continued today in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia.

For my own personal self, putting the thoughts of recent years on paper has proven a mental catharsis. Looking back, my years in the priesthood and in the seminary seem like time spent in a dungeon, a prison whose floor was the burning, seething fire of hell, whose walls and roof were made of the stones of mental rigidity, and whose air was not light and free but heavy and foul with the musty stagnation of medievalism.

The past five years have been those of a free man, a man restored to his birthright of American liberties, liberties which in his 41 years of life under the American flag, he had never been permitted to enjoy.

It became almost a childlike pleasure to shop in a grocery store, to help plan a meal, to have a home, to paint a window, to sleep late on Sunday, to plant a shrub in one's own yard, to choose one's clothes without restriction, to entertain friends without consulting a superior, and to love and to be loved.

I am an American again, not a foreign subject on American soil.

I can work and struggle with the healthy hardships of competitive business. I can love America and without asking a bishop or a provincial I can enjoy her mountains and streams, her noisy cities and quiet prairies, and especially the sea, natures own symbol of freedom.

I can also love God and continue with freedom in the service of my fellow man. For that freedom is now my heritage also. It is the freedom of America, the freedom that I, too, with all free men must guard. Like Thomas Jefferson, I "have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."