Matt C. Abbott
' go the way of Rod Dreher'
By Matt C. Abbott
April 15, 2009

I received the following (edited) e-mail from John C. Hathaway:

    'Thank you for taking up the cause of Robert Kumpel as you've previously taken up the cause of Father James Haley.

    'Providentially, I have been a parishioner at both St. John's Valdosta and St. Mary's Fredericksburg. I moved to Fredericksburg from Valdosta the same summer Father Haley was there. I don't know Robert Kumpel personally, but, in some ways, he picked up where I left off.

    'But what bothers me about this case is just what bothered me about St. Mary's. Whatever Father X may have been doing in private, which Father Haley got in trouble for blowing the whistle on, Father X's teachings were horribly scandalous and heretical. And the same goes for Father Y [who is deceased].

    'When I got engaged, I went to meet with Father Y. I asked him about natural family planning classes. He scoffed and said, 'Most people in the parish just use birth control. It's no big deal. But I think there are one or two couples in the parish who are into that sort of thing.'

    'In various conversations I had with him, he expressed contempt for Mother Angelica, Pope Pius IX, and Pope Pius XI. In one of his homilies, Father Y encouraged parents to take their kids to R-rated movies, 'And then you can explain afterwards what was wrong about it.'

    'My wife taught at St. John's school. The year before our marriage (we met online), she taught at a very orthodox school in northern Virginia. She obtained approval for me to come give a guest lecture on spirituality (I was studying to be a third order Carmelite at the time, a vocation which I have recently resumed). The talk went over great with her Diocese of Arlington students, and she said she wanted me to come back to all her future classes.

    'Well, at St. John's, the unit on prayer came early in the year, so she got permission for me to come in and give it again. One of the things I talked about was indulgences — this was 2000, the Jubilee Year, and I was trying to explain the importance of indulgences in Catholic spirituality. These kids had all been taught that indulgences were bad things. They had been taught that it is not necessary to go to Confession to have your sins forgiven. Whereas the Diocese of Arlington kids were right where I expected Catholic confirmandi to be, I spent the hour of my talk doing basic apologetics instead of high school level spirituality.

    'Afterwards, my talk was a cause of great scandal, since the students were horrified to hear that one would go to hell for unrepented mortal sin. The principal called my wife on the carpet and said, 'We teach love and forgiveness here.' Mary had also shown her religion class a Mother Angelica episode, and got in trouble for that, too.

    'I was a graduate student at the time, and, when St. John's had all-school Masses, I would attend with Mary and then go to class. One week, they did a 'Christian Unity' Mass. Father Y started his homily by saying, 'Does God want everyone to be Jewish?' The kids said, 'NO.' Father asked, 'Does God want everyone to be Baptist?' The kids yelled, 'NO!' Father then asked, 'Does God want everyone to be Catholic?' 'YES!' the kids yelled enthusiastically. 'NO!' Father Y yelled back.

    'I got up and left. Subsequently, the principal told my wife that I was not permitted on school grounds. As the Kumpels have said, the parish is run by a clique of very wealthy, very liberal Catholics — and even several ex-Catholics. We left Valdosta at the end of that school year and moved to Fredericksburg.

    'Sadly, my experience in my 32 short rules is that situations like Father Y and Father X seem to be the norm. My wife and I love our Faith, but we are so burnt out and alienated from the Church that we feel a strong urge to go the way of Rod Dreher [who left the Catholic Church to join the Orthodox Church].'

A reader wrote (edited):

    'Like you, I am very troubled by Father Jenkins' invitation to President Obama. It seems that some Catholic institutions have moved far from the goals and aspirations of their founders. Notre Dame is not the only Catholic institution that has followed this flawed path.

    'Recently I attended a wedding in the chapel at Fordham University. When John Cardinal O'Connor was fighting the good fight against abortion in the 1980s, it was downright disgusting to see the lack of support, and even downright hostility, from Fordham. Anyway, the chapel itself is a beautiful edifice. The vestibule lists the names of the Fordham men who died in the two World Wars.

    'I can just imagine those brave, young Catholic men taking an oath to 'uphold and defend the Constitution' and then going to their deaths. However, I wonder if the reasonable social and political consensus that allowed Catholic men to take that oath exists today. After all, we are now told abortion is a 'constitutional right.' It would seem that this is the consensus of the body politic. If in fact abortion is a constitutional right in this country, should a Catholic take an oath 'to uphold and defend'? I personally am inclined to think that a Catholic, like the early Christians' refusal to serve in the Roman army, would be on firm moral ground declining such an oath.'

What do you think, dear readers?

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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