Friday, August 30, 2002

A Question of Integrity: Crisis Magazine Opens New Round in The War of Rose

The September issue of Crisis Magazine takes on the accuracy and journalistic integrity of Michael Rose and his book, Goodbye! Good Men. This is the latest round of criticism of Rose’s controversial book: The first round was opened by Amy Welborn in a review she wrote for Our Sunday Visitor. Her relatively restrained criticisms were of the overall tone and overreaching claims of the book, and the fact that Rose relied heavily on pseudonymous sources. Next I wrote a review for Culture Wars, in which I took Rose to task for relying, in his book, on a source which he had acknowledged to be "seriously flawed". I recognized that Rose’s overall thesis contained a large amount of truth, but pointed out that the truth of some of Rose’s claims did not give him the right to make poorly substantiated charges which could harm the reputation of innocent people. For daring to criticize him, Rose and his supporters labeled me "schizophrenic", "dishonest", of dubious character, and a protector of priest-abusers and those who enabled them. Later this summer, National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor weighed in with further criticisms which were narrower in scope, but furthered the case that Goodbye! Good Men is marred by errors and inaccuracies.

Now Brian Saint-Paul, the senior editor of Crisis, shows that Rose’s claims regarding the American College of Louvain (the American seminary at the University of Louvain in Belgium) are highly problematic, beset, as they are, with evidence of poor fact-checking. Rose’s account revolves around the claims made by Joseph Kellenyi, an ex-seminarian. This ex-seminarian claims that he was subjected to homosexual advances from another seminarian, and that that same seminarian was later entrusted by the Rector of the seminary with a supervisory role over Kellenyi. Saint-Paul shows that Rose’s claims, far from being "carefully researched", as Rose and his supporters contend, rely solely on Kellenyi’s testimony, and that testimony is dubious indeed.

Kellenyi’s account of the events in question can be found in his official sounding "Final Report to the Committee", available at AmericanCollegeScandal.com. The probative value of this so-called "Final Report" lessens dramatically, though, once the reader realizes that it is the composition of none other than Kellenyi himself. And this "report" is a towering monument of unsubstantiated assertion and circular reasoning. One piece of "evidence" that Kellenyi adduces on several points is the fact that the then-Rector of the Louvain, Fr. David Windsor, never launched a formal investigation of his claims. That no-one else, including other members of the seminary faculty, found his allegations credible or worthy of investigation never seems to have crossed Kellenyi’s mind. But Kellenyi nevertheless asserts that his "report" is the "final and authoritative word on this matter." The most priceless example of Kellenyi’s circular reasoning comes at the end of his report, when he asserts that his account of things is "a matter of record". And why is it a matter of record? Because Michael Rose documents these allegations in his book. And what is the source of Rose’s documentation? Nothing other than Joseph Kellenyi’s claims.

Kellenyi’s claims, far from being corroborated by other seminarians at Louvain, are strenuously denied. Saint-Paul, in his Crisis article, quotes seminarian after seminarian who say that nothing like the "gay subculture" Kellenyi and Rose portray existed. But Rose seems not to have taken the time to find out about those other opinions: As the Rector of the Louvain, Fr. Kevin Codd, stated on the College’s website earlier this summer:

> Mr. Rose never contacted The American College to authenticate
> his documentation, to seek further documentation, or to give us
> our rightful opportunity to respond to the accusations made in his
> book. Mr. Rose has never visited The American College and does
> not personally know any of our students or faculty members about
> whom he repeats these egregious accusations.

To those who have read my review in Culture Wars, this will sound very familiar. For Mr. Rose, in assembling the information he used in making his attack on Sacred Heart Major Seminary, never interviewed the Rector of the seminary, Bishop Allen Vigneron, nor any current faculty there, nor did he give anyone there an opportunity to provide another perspective on his claims before he went into print. Furthermore, seminarians enrolled at other institutions, such as Mundelein, have reported that their experience is at wide variance to the allegations Rose makes against them. Is this the "careful" research that Rose claims to have performed?

Rose’s case against the Louvain hinges on the testimony of Joseph Kellenyi, and his allegations of being subjected to the unwanted advances of a homosexual seminarian, whom, Kellenyi laments, was later ordained. Kellenyi does not name this person, designating him as "seminarian X". But Brian Saint-Paul discovered the identity of this seminarian: now-Father Pat Van Durme. Fr. Van Durme has come forward and made his outrage at Rose’s allegations known. Fr. Van Durme apparently not only never made advances on Kellenyi, he isn’t even homosexual. Not homosexual? That’s right, as several of his friends, ex-girlfriends, and Van Durme’s ex-fiancee have readily testified. That Rose could rely upon accusations of homosexual misconduct against a man whose heterosexual identity is well known and easily verifiable would be laughable, if the accusations weren't so grave. But, in showing the patent falsity of Kellenyi’s charges, Saint-Paul calls into question the accuracy Rose’s account.

There is much more in Saint-Paul’s article that I could discuss: Kellenyi’s broadening of his accusations against Van Durme to include charges of a homosexual affair between Van Durme and the Rector, and even Bishop Ed Braxton of Lake Charles, Louisiana. But I’ll leave you to read about it in Crisis. The September issue is out and has hit the stands, and the article should be available on-line next week.

When I published my review in May, Michael Rose and some other critics dismissed my review as focusing on "just one" example. Of course, my criticisms were broader than that. In my rebuttal to Rose’s "response", published in the July/August issue of Culture Wars, I gave further evidence of problems in Rose's account. National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor have adduced other examples of Rose’s spotty approach. And now Brian Saint-Paul uncovers yet another example of problems with Goodbye! Good Men. If "just one" example isn’t enough to show that Rose’s claims are flawed, what about 2? Or 3? Aren’t six enough? And these aren’t just "little" errors. They involve grave accusations made against real people. Michael Rose has published claims that are potentially damaging to the character and reputations of real people. That’s not a little thing.

As Brian Saint-Paul points out, the criticisms of Goodbye! Good Men have come from a surprising quarter: journals such as National Catholic Register and Culture Wars, which are known as being orthodox, “conservative” Catholic publications. But rather than encouraging self-examination or moderation of claims, these criticisms have provoked from Rose's supporters increasingly strident attempts at justification and vilification of their opponents. In the on-line tabloid Diocese Report, the writer all-but links OSV, NCR, and Culture Wars in a conspiracy of "individuals who seem bent on destroying the creditability of the book and of Rose." I suppose they’ll have to add Crisis to the conspiracy now. A “grand conspiracy” certainly will make for sensational reading, and it has the added benefit of preserving the putative victim(s) of that conspiracy from self-examination.