Sunday, February 02, 2014

Emmett McLoughlin

by Edd Doerr

Emmett McLoughlin (1907-1970) was a Catholic priest and hospital administrator in Phoenix. After  church superiors accused him of neglecting his "priestly duties" he left the priesthood and the church in 1948 and continued his hospital work. His book People's Padre was published in 1954 by Beacon Press (the Unitarian publisher) and became a bestseller. His 5 other books between 1960 and 1968,
published by Lyle Stuart, were very critical of the Catholic church. I have a copy of his 288-page 1965 book, Letters to an Ex-Priest, signed by McLoughlin thus, "To Edd Doerr,  Long live heresy! Emmett McLoughlin, July 30, 1966".

"Letters" is interesting for historical reasons. Much has happened since McLoughlin was bitterly attacked for his published critiques, all of which may look a bit quaint today while still meriting reading. People's Padre was published before the following occurred: The election of a Catholic President in 1960 who staunchly supported church-state separation; The 1962-63 Supreme Court rulings on school prayer that ended  the residual Protestant hegemony in many public schools; The 1962-65 Second Vatican Council that liberalized Catholicism to a degree; The sharp decline of Catholic private school enrollment from 5.5 million in 1965 to two million now; The 1968 Vatican condemnation of contraception that triggered massive resistance and opposition among Catholics worldwide; The 27 state referendum elections between 1966 and 2012 in which voters from coast to coast voted against diversion on public funds to Catholic and other private schools by an average margin of two to one (especially in heavily Catholic states like New York and Massachusetts); The 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade acknowledging a constitutional right to abortion, a ruling largely based on the thinking of Catholic Justice William Brennan; the shift of Catholic lay opinion to support for contraception, abortion rights, same sex marriage, women priests, and ending mandatory clerical celibacy; majority Catholic voter support for Obama in 2008 and 2012; the crushing defeat in 1971 in the House of a school prayer amendment by a Democratic Catholic-Jewish-Unitarian majority led largely by Rep Robert Drinan (D-MA) a Catholic priest. And that is only part of a very large and complex picture.

I will sell my mint condition copy of the "Letters" book for $25 to the first person who contacts me about it at


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