On September 22, a giant of Catholic journalism died—and genuine Catholic journalism might well have died with him.
Paul Likoudis was a crack reporter for The Wanderer, America’s oldest national Catholic newspaper—founded in 1867, published in German until 1954, and banned by Hitler in the 1930’s.
Likoudis joined the paper in 1986 and immediately began breaking major stories that took “mainstream” journalism decades to catch up with. He irritated many a bishop as he reported on the rot that dissent, heresy, and feminism had wrought within the Church. Yes, hierarchs often raged—not because the rot was there, but because Paul revealed it.
The only prelates who welcomed Paul’s work lived in Rome, where many considered him an antidote to the happy talk that was being fed them through official channels.
Among Paul’s most groundbreaking work was his reporting on the clerical abuse crisis. Already in the 1980’s he was revealing the cover-ups, tracing the scandal’s roots to the infestation of the priesthood by active homosexuals and their enablers. Like most whistle-blowers, his warnings were ignored, often spitefully, by an ungrateful hierarchy, and now we know why: Only in 2002 did an enraged public discover that a majority of American bishops had aided, abetted, and protected abusers for years. Refusing to resign, these shepherds defiantly circled the wagons. Having driven millions of sheep from the pews, they intensified their lobbying efforts to import a more docile flock from south of the border, one that could be cared for at taxpayer expense by the Church’s NGOs.
No, these misguided malefactors were not Paul Likoudis’s fans. After all, he chronicled not only their capitulation to the culture of carnality, but the profanation of the liturgy over which so many of them complaisantly presided. Yes, some were forced to walk back such abuses when The Wanderer brought them to light, but others brazenly defied the faithful, and a bitter few even upped the ante. Unfortunately, the heterodox “Spirit of Vatican II” had unleashed on America the worst generation of bishops in her history, and we are still paying the price.
Paul’s interests ranged far beyond clerical crimes. His brilliant History of the Wanderer covers the paper’s first 60 years, a tumultuous time for American Catholics. That era’s conflict between Catholics and their hostile Protestant neighbors raged alongside the equally significant battle within the Church between those who wanted to appease the often secular anti-Catholicism so rampant in the country and those who wanted to confront it.
“In the post-Civil War era, when German migration to the United States was at its peak,” Likoudis writes, “the Germans were firmly convinced that the most efficacious way of preserving the Catholic faith of German-American immigrants was to preserve their German language and culture, and to resist the tendency towards assimilation into WASP America.”
This raised the ire of James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, who was so devoted to the Americanist cause of assimilation that he went all the way to Rome to prohibit the German language from being spoken in the pulpit. He won. (Imagine an American Catholic bishop anywhere today banning Spanish Masses!)
Gibbons emerges later as an ardent advocate of Woodrow Wilson’s war. On election night 100 years ago, my father, a Catholic University student at the time, was leading the cheers outside the DNC: “We want Wilson, one time more. We want peace, we don’t want war!” Little did Dad know that Gibbons—fearful of Catholics being branded as anti-American—had promised Wilson that not only would Catholics not oppose the war, they would welcome it.
Thus began the alliance of Catholic bishops and the Democrats that persists to this day.
“When Pope Benedict XV issued his Peace Proposal in August 1917, calling for an [early] end to the war,” Likoudis writes, Gibbons and most of the American hierarchy opposed it—but The Wanderer supported it.
Apparently, those nasty Germans were the original supporters of America First!
Paul’s interests ranged far and wide—from FDR’s battles with Father Coughlin to the work of Hilaire Belloc and the Church’s social teaching (so poisoned by today’s “Social Justice” hacks). First and last, of course, he was a faithful and devoted Catholic, father, and husband, working out of his home in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York.
Paul Likoudis nobly represented the virtues of a trenchant and inspired Catholic journalism of years gone by. With his departure, the stage is empty.