News & Views
Monday, June 17, 2002 11:32 a.m. responds to
Culture Wars' review of Goodbye, Good Men

Editors' note: Many people have asked us to respond to the review of Goodbye, Good Men which appeared in the June issue of Culture Wars. The review was written by Father Robert J. Johansen of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Response by Michael S. Rose
Mr. Rose is author of Goodbye, Good Men and editor of

Response by Jay McNally
Mr. McNally is former editor of The Michigan Catholic, Archdiocese of Detroit

Response by Father Andrew Walter
Fr. Walter is a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn.


Response by Michael S. Rose
Please note: this response was written for publication in the June/July issue of Culture Wars. Editor E. Michael Jones says he will be publishing this letter to the editor in the July, 2002 issue of Culture Wars. However, due to the editorial policy of Culture Wars Dr. Jones would not post this response at the Culture Wars website. Because Fr. Johansen's article is posted online and has been circulating via email, I found it necessary and fair that this response be made available immediately in electronic form.

Dear E. Michael Jones,

It’s not everyday that a periodical is willing to run a five-page review of one of my books. Culture Wars found my book, , so compelling and important that it did just that ("The Roots of the Vocations Crisis," May 2002). I rarely quibble with reviewers of my books, but this review, written by Father Robert J. Johansen, requires a response due to his misleading and untrue statements and assumptions, not merely about the book but about my personal character. Though Fr. Johansen admits that my thesis is true, he impeaches my journalistic integrity: "Rose… can be shown not to have checked his facts in some instances," he writes. And further, "Rose’s tendency to play fast and loose with the facts, to use dubious sources, and to stick with stories which have shown false undermines his credibility."

In order to back up these blanket criticisms, which are intended to destroy my credibility, he uses one example—one quote from one seminarian in my 368-page book. Jason Dull, he says, isn’t credible. And he spends two pages dwelling on points that are never even mentioned in the book. In fact, he critiques not the book but an interview with Dull that I published two years ago in St. Catherine Review. In that interview Dull discussed what he witnessed and what he endured at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit.

Fr. Johansen then provides a skewed secondhand presentation of how I dealt with criticisms of the Dull interview. Let me set the record straight: I traveled to Detroit and met in person with two harsh critics of that interview who were at the time Sacred Heart seminarians (now priests for the Diocese of Lansing: Fr. Gerry Gawronski and Fr. David Huggins). It is from these two priests that Fr. Johansen eventually obtained his secondhand information. Both Gawronski and Huggins took issue with some of the statements made by Dull in the St. Catherine Review interview. Our conversation was cordial, and I think they understood my sincerity in meeting with them. They made some very good points.

But I must be clear about this: Gawronski and Huggins did not discredit Jason Dull. They gave me their side of the story, and we agreed that some of the things that Dull told me in the interview were not independently verifiable. (How could I really prove that his spiritual director advised him to lift weights all the time instead of pray, or that a seminary confessor blabbed about one of his confessed sins to a fellow faculty member). At the same time Gawronski and Huggins agreed that some of what Dull said was independently verifiable and in fact true.

During the time of the conversation I asked about several faculty members, including Monsignor John Zens and Father Halfpenny, two Detroit priests that are typically described as avowed liberals about whom complaints from Sacred Heart seminarians are consistently rendered. Gawronski and Huggins were quite adamant that they did not want to discuss individual personalities at the seminary. I’m not sure why, but they felt that was irrelevant.

(Interestingly, I later contacted Fr. Johansen—the reviewer of my book—about Monsignor Zens and Fr. Halfpenny. He was more forthcoming, and admitted in an email: "I am quite familiar with Msgr. Zenz, and I am aware that he is widely (and probably accurately) held by orthodox Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit to be a significant locus of the heterodoxy and dissent which plagues the Archdiocese. However, from at least 1998 on he has only had an adjunct position at [Sacred Heart]… He does have the ability to ‘make or break’ Detroit seminarians, but that is due to his position in the Archdiocese, not the seminary… I am also very familiar with Fr. Halfpenny. He was my formation mentor during my years at [Sacred Heart]. I am aware of some of his faults, among them a tendency to micro-manage and to make mountains out of some molehills.")

Johansen also criticizes my editing of a letter to the editor by Gawronski and Huggins that was published in St. Catherine Review. Although I did edit the letter, their meaning was not distorted in any way. My edits consisted of removing the personal attack against the person of Jason Dull. The material was libelous on a personal level, i.e., it served to damage that person's reputation in a malicious way.

Furthermore, after my meeting with Gawronski and Huggins, I also spoke with others at Sacred Heart Seminary and outside the seminary about both Jason Dull and some of the happenings and goings-on at Sacred Heart in the mid to late-1990's. Frankly, the further accounts I heard were much more in line with Dull's account of his seminary days than the image presented to me by Gawronski and Huggins. One student, who is now a seminarian elsewhere, in fact, gave me extremely detailed information that was quite damaging to some of the faculty members there. All seemed to agree however that the rector was a very good man who was trying to set the seminary on the right track, and was doing a good job of it--and still is, presumably. Yet, even so, they could not understand why the rector, Bishop Allen Vigneron, keeps subordinates who are the "locus of heterodoxy and dissent" in influential positions at Sacred Heart Seminary.

Based on all that information, I felt like I had reached a stalemate of sorts. Who to believe? Why the conflicting reports? And so on. Therefore I decided it would be best to write a follow-up editorial, not to satisfy any one person or group of people, but I thought--after much prayer and consultation with others--that this was the best and most honest course of action to take. In the editorial I stated that "obviously [Dull’s] impression of the institution was colored by his own experience there and the interview was ‘one-sided’ as interviews tend to be." And furthermore: "We agree with our critics [of the Dull interview] that the interview format was not the best way to introduce this sensitive subject. A wider treatment was necessary."

Obviously, Goodbye, Good Men as published two years after that interview was this necessary "wider treatment." Nothing that Jason Dull said that was not independently verifiable or that was contested by anyone else was ever published in my book.

A few months after that follow-up editorial was published in SCR I received additional information that corroborated even more what Jason Dull had said in his published interview. Again, I was surprised that the image painted of Sacred Heart was so very different than what Gawronski and Huggins had told me. Of course, I do realize that they were trying to emphasize the positive points, while others were perhaps emphasizing the faults. Again all agreed that Bishop Vigneron was trying to set the seminary on the right track, even though some continued to fault him for keeping certain faculty members aboard.

In the end, I included very little about Detroit’s Sacred Heart in Goodbye, Good Men (in fact, not including any of the new damaging revelations given to me by several independent sources). I mention Sacred Heart only briefly. The first time is in regard to the spiritually impoverished "vocation weekends" offered for potential seminarians. This information came from three different sources—one being Dull, the others being men who are now ordained. In a later passage, I addressed issues about Sacred Heart prior to the mid-1990's.

I then addressed the fact that the homosexual problem at Sacred Heart in Detroit is allegedly all cleaned up, but at the same time that priests (many priests, I add) in the Archdiocese of Detroit continue to be concerned about the "holdovers" from what we might call the "old" Sacred Heart (prior to Bishop Vigneron’s tenure as rector), which was a swamp of problems.

The only quote I included from Dull is that about psychological counseling being abused at SH. That doesn't deny that some orthodox seminarians may require psychological counseling for legitimate reasons, as I mention in Goodbye, Good Men. The fact remains, however, that psychological counseling is much overused and abused at many seminaries. Consider this review of Goodbye, Good Men that is posted on by a Sacred Heart seminarian:

"Most books on controversial subject matter embody a certain element of overkill to prove their point but Michael Rose is 'shockingly on the mark' with, Good Bye, Good Men. Many in Detroit have lived through what Mr. Rose describes in his book. A close friend was subjected to professional psychological counseling for a year (at his own expense) and needed none. The final report read, ‘This client did not need counseling and has no sign of pathology or abnormality.’ Basically, he was just too Catholic. The current sexual crisis in Holy Mother Church clearly shows what the Liberalism of 1960-1985 produced. This brand of misguided and unholy leadership never results in reform or progress. Through the concerted efforts of current Rector, Bishop Allen Vigneron, Sacred Heart Seminary is healing from what I call "Metastatic Liberalism" and today continues to heal and grow in Grace and in Favor with God and Man. Glory to God!.....a student."

Another review posted on (May 5, 2002) from Detroit isn’t as subtle in its criticisms of Sacred Heart: "This book is great but it demands a sequel!!!! This book is excellent as far as it goes but it could have gone further. Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit is featured prominently in these pages but much more could have been said…" And then the reviewer goes on to relate alleged recent scandals at the seminary which I shan’t repeat here.

What my book does is tell the stories of men who, until now, had no recourse to justice, and who were humiliated and silenced by leaders of their beloved Church. Fr. Johansen will forgive them if they’re a bit too emotional about this, and if their collected stories amount to a "catalog of horrors," similar to the constant stream of horrors recounted in the news every day involving the predatory homosexual abuse by Catholic priests. I do present the seminarian’s side of the story; we’ve received the "official" side of the story for years, over and over again—denial after denial. Why do we need to hear it again?

I think my favorite line in Fr. Johansen’s review of Goodbye, Good Men is this one, which demonstrates his level of awareness: "If a book like Goodbye, Good Men had been written ten years ago, it would have been timely, provocative, and maybe even prophetic. But why, at a time when many people acknowledge that things are improving, does Rose choose now to bring out this catalogue of horrors from the past?" Untimely? (Need I remind anyone of the relevance of my book to the current scandals?) The fact is, if a book like Goodbye, Good Men had been published ten years ago, it would have been studiously ignored.

If Fr. Johansen had his way, we lay faithful would just leave it to the bishops to resolve the problems on their own—no need for any exposé pieces that shed light on why each day we read that yet another priest or bishop has been accused of sexual assault or molestation. But I think most readers of Culture Wars are aware that the bishops have shown a singular lack of resolve to make any significant changes, at least before the Boston Globe put the Church under its spotlight.

One last contention must be addressed. Fr. Johansen claims that most of my accounts date from more than 20 years ago. Yet, anyone reading the book could verify that the majority of the incidents reported date from the 1990’s. And while certain seminaries have made marked improvements, as duly noted in Goodbye, Good Men, the same old problems of the gay subculture, twisted theology, radical feminism, psychological abuse, and wacky liturgical training are still blatantly manifest at many seminaries. Consider, for example, this letter sent to me by a current seminarian’s mother:

"My son is in a seminary doing his Theologate. He's in one of the seminaries referred to in Goodbye, Good Men, which is why I can't be quoted because it could lead back to him. I would like to share a few thoughts with you which you might find interesting if I can be assured of confidentiality from you. My son is so close to ordination and it's been such a grueling journey for him that his protection must come first, at least with me…"

…and personal details followed regarding persecution for orthodoxy.

For anyone who would like further details and evidence that the problems continue to this day in some seminaries, browse through the reader feedback section of or read through the dozens of reader reviews at

Obviously I didn’t write the book that Fr. Johansen wanted written. Goodbye, Good Men was never meant to be a "state of the seminaries" evaluation (Sr. Katarina Schuth wrote that book in 1999, and concluded that the current crop of seminarians are ignorant and maladjusted). My book was written to demonstrate the systematic, ideological discrimination of orthodox candidates to the priesthood—how two generations of vocations were turned away from the priesthood. And while reasoned criticism, however harsh, of any book’s contents is always fair game and expected, Fr. Johansen’s review of Goodbye, Good Men is an ad hominem attack on the author, using specious reasoning, reporting erroneous secondhand information, and drawing conclusions that are at best dishonest and illogical.

I think it is ironic that Fr. Johansen criticizes me for not taking due care before reporting "facts" and yet he turns right around and does this very thing in his review of the book he’s criticizing. By chance, I happened to be shown a pre-publication version of the review, in which Fr. Johansen went even further in his ad hominem attack, going so far as to impute untrue motives to my work. He thereafter edited out the worst of it, but left in many baseless accusations. Who then is playing "fast and loose with the facts?"

Response by Jay McNally
Mr. McNally is former editor of The Michigan Catholic, Archdiocese of Detroit

Dear E. Michael Jones,

As a long-time Detroit-area journalist whose has written extensively about the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit (including during a 4.5 year stint as editor in the 1990s of the archdiocesan weekly newspaper, The Michigan Catholic), I am compelled to let readers of Culture Wars know that Fr. Robert Johansen too often veers way off the mark in his schizophrenic review of Michael Rose's book, Goodbye, Good Men.

Long-time readers of Culture Wars won't be much surprised at what Rose reveals. The kinds of accounts Rose cites in his book as examples of the systematic effort used nationwide to limit vocations have been long known to anyone who is paying attention, as Fr. Johansen himself readily admits. Indeed he even reveals that he was the victim of the very process Rose details so well: "I know many priests and seminarians who were subjected to harassment similar to that which Rose describes. I personally was turned away by a midwestern seminary in the mid-1980's for being `rigid', `doctrinaire', and `lacking in pastoral sensitivity.' "

Much of Fr. Johansen's review is given to an unrelenting ad hominum attack against Jason Dull, a former young seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary who Rose interviewed for the magazine he used to edit. It offends Fr. Johansen's sensibilities that Dull's opinion was even allowed in Rose's book. So Johansen launches into an overwrought broadside against Dull, claiming over and again that Dull's credibility was "thoroughly demolished" by those who disagreed with Dull's complaints about SHS.  Fr. Johansen also argues with passion in defense of Sacred Heart Seminary, his own alma mater.

For the record, Mr. Dull's credibility has not been "thoroughly demolished" in the eyes of the conservatives in Detroit who overall agree with Michael Rose and his analysis. For more than 30 years many Catholics in the Detroit area have been deeply distressed at the fundamentally liberal and often dissident goings-on in the archdiocese. It is not unusual for those who complain about the archdiocese to be attacked personally. Conservatives are well aware that there are ALWAYS buried in the shrill denunciation of critics and outright denials of any problems some acknowledgment that certain parts of the complaint are actually correct: For example, a well-known orthodox SHS professor recently said in defense of SHS that it was spectacular news  and a huge improvement  that now "65 percent of our staff is orthodox": He was apparently oblivious of the problem with this statistic. The SHS apologists would do well to stick to argue the point and skip the ad hominum attacks.

The story of the Church in Detroit is actually quite complex and not given to easy analysis in a letter to the editor. It is true certain elements of Sacred Heart Seminary are truly exceptional. Fr. Joseph Fessio said at a Call to Holiness conference it was one of the best seminaries in the country, and many are deeply impressed at the caliber of some of the professors, like Janet Smith. One, however, cannot get around the fact that the Archdiocese of Detroit ordained exactly two men last year, one a recent refugee from Albania. That means seven years into the tenure of the current rector, and 11 years in the reign of Cardinal Adam Maida they could produce only one priest from a Catholic population of 1.4 million who attend more than 300 parishes and are mentored by more than 800 priests. Meanwhile, there are LOTS of men born and raised in Detroit being ordained for other dioceses and religious orders outside this area.  Michael Rose and Jason Dull have had nothing to do with this sorry fact. Something is very seriously broken in Detroit.  If Michael Rose has not revealed the substance of the problem in places like Detroit we await Fr. Johansen and his associates to let us in on the real story.

--Jay McNally
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Response by Father Andrew Walter
Fr. Walter is a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn.

Dear E. Michael Jones,

Thank you so much for receiving my call some days back. I hope it did not come at an inconvenient time. I just wanted to send this follow up letter to let you know, again, that I very much take umbrage with Fr. Johansen's review of Michael Rose's book, Goodbye, Good Men.  While Fr. Johansen is very much entitled to his opinion, I think it very uninformed and petulant. One would also be very hard-pressed to find reasons why Fr. Johansen would attach himself to such an endeavor, since his own credibility, at least in my own eyes, is very much in question.

There again: what has he to do with the scenarios described in the book anyway?  Has he written this review on his own volition or at the behest of others?

I also very much take exception to the fact that he has not only impugned the integrity of Michael Rose, but also his sources like myself and the likes of Fr. John Trigilio of the Diocese of Harrisburg.  As for Jason Dull, whom I do not know, he was recommended to Michael by none other than Fr. John Hardon S.J., of happy memory, among other stalwart priests and laity in Detroit.  The deficit of credibility seems to lay at the feet of Fr. Johansen.

As for myself, please do check my references.  Fr. Kenneth Baker of the HPR and Fr. Joseph Fessio of the Igantius Press, both of whom are substantial friends of mine should suffice.

In closing, I wish to again remind you that I have never said anything to anyone in the past 15 sorry years that I could not substantiate or have others corroborate. The truth is chilling enough without the use of hyperbolic language or tattletale; whether for truth's sake or the advancement of one's own confused agenda and personal narcissism.

--Fr. Andrew Walter
Diocese of Bridgeport

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