A Question of Integrity: Michael Rose and the American College of Louvain

It’s a sickening story. In one section of Goodbye, Good Men (pp. 73-78 of the Regnery Press edition), author Michael S. Rose pulls the curtain back on the moral corruption at the American College of Louvain, a U.S.-run seminary associated with the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

Here’s the gist of it: In 1999, a seminarian named Joseph Kellenyi transferred to Louvain from Mundelein Seminary in Illinois at the request of his bishop. There, he came into contact with the homosexual subculture that dominates many seminaries. Kellenyi, estimating that half of the theology seminarians were homosexual, immediately felt like an outsider. But things soon took a turn for the worse. One of the seminarians—unnamed by Rose—made numerous homosexual advances toward Kellenyi. When those were rebuffed, the gay seminarian was enraged, doing everything he could to make his target’s life miserable.

Kellenyi complained to then-rector Rev. David Windsor, but his concerns were ignored. In fact, Father Windsor proceeded to give the homosexual seminarian unofficial charge over Kellenyi’s priestly formation. As Kellenyi told Rose, “The relationship I was expected to have with him entailed him being my best friend, mentor, formation advisor, academic advisor, and quasi-spiritual director, all rolled into one.”

But it didn’t end there. According to Rose, “After Kellenyi tried his best to keep his distance from this man, the senior seminarian informed him that if he was not willing to enter into a ‘relationship’ with him, he and Father Windsor would make him want to leave the seminary.”

In the end, Kellenyi didn’t leave; he was expelled. Rose wrote, “Judging from Kellenyi’s ‘Theology I Evaluation,’ assembled by the rector and dated April 25, 2000, one can conclude that the major issue of concern that led to his dismissal was his refusal to engage the senior seminarian in a close relationship.” At the same time, the homosexual seminarian went on to ordination and serves today as a priest in an American parish.

And so Rose ends his harrowing tale—just one more proof that American seminaries are under the sway of a homosexual conspiracy. There’s just one problem with the story: It doesn’t appear to be true.

Rose makes very serious charges in Goodbye, Good Men, both about Louvain and Father Windsor. One would think that in the course of his investigation, he would have checked every side of the story to make sure his allegations were well-founded. But one would be wrong. Rose relied almost exclusively on the word of Kellenyi alone. While Rose did tell me he talked to “a couple guys who are off-the-record right now,” their anonymity makes their stories impossible to verify. Anonymous sources are notoriously unreliable, since they have nothing to lose by fabricating a story in order to settle a grudge. When I asked Rose if the two anonymous sources corroborated the claim that the senior seminarian was a homosexual who tried to pressure Kellenyi into an intimate relationship, Rose replied, “All I would say is this: What’s in the book was more or less corroborated by those two.”

But doesn’t “more or less” mean “no”? Since the two sources are neither quoted nor even alluded to in the section, it’s unlikely they agreed with Kellenyi’s claim. After all, Rose uses anonymous quotes throughout the rest of the book. If the two really had offered support for the charges against Louvain, why wouldn’t Rose have used their statements?

In the end, we’re forced to conclude that Rose based this entire section on the testimony of one named individual—an expelled seminarian who clearly had an axe to grind. Rose never talked to Father Windsor, current rector Rev. Kevin Codd, or any representative of the seminary. And he certainly never talked to Rev. Pat Van Durme, the then-seminarian Rose accused of being a homosexual (though again, he did not name him). Now a priest in New York, Father Van Durme is going public with his outrage at Rose’s allegations.

So, what would Rose have learned if he had contacted the accused parties? A great deal, actually.

The Whole Story

Rose claims that when Kellenyi arrived at Louvain, he discovered a seminary overrun with a homosexual subculture. However, Kellenyi seems to be alone in this view. Former seminarian and classmate Wolfgang Dietrich was firm on the point: “I was involved in both the university and the college and I can tell you without hesitation that there was nothing like that going on.”

Rev. Joe Marcoux, who was another of Kellenyi’s classmates, agrees: “I certainly never experienced a gay subculture at Louvain. I never saw anything like that.”

For Father Windsor, the idea of an active gay community at Louvain is unthinkable. “I’d heard of the problems at Louvain in the past. But in my time there, a gay subculture didn’t exist at the college—we wouldn’t have allowed it to exist. It was very clear from us that such a thing would not be tolerated. It’s destructive—it separates people. And obviously, it’s just not fitting for a seminary to have a gay community. Period.”

Indeed, in several recent student evaluations of Louvain, the seminarians there remarked on the absence of a homosexual subculture. If an active gay community was present at Louvain in the 1999-2000 school year, Kellenyi seems to be the only person who noticed it.

But what about Father Van Durme, the alleged homosexual seminarian? Dietrich is amazed by the claim. “It’s ludicrous. Of all the people I knew in seminary, Pat Van Durme was the one guy who was without a doubt clearly heterosexual. Just the idea that he’d be in a homosexual relationship with someone is so far-fetched. Anyone who knows him knows that this is completely insane.”

Another former Kellenyi classmate, German Jimenez-Montalban, agrees. “In my two years of knowing Pat, I saw absolutely no signs of homosexuality. To the contrary, in fact. There was nothing in his behavior that would lead one to believe that.”

“I’ve known Pat Van Durme since I was 15,” Father Marcoux adds. “There’s no one who I could possibly think of who is more heterosexual. Nobody. To accuse Pat of that is hysterical. And his ex-fiancé would tell you the same thing.”

Ex-fiancé?

“Yes,” Father Van Durme says, “I was once engaged. I got within a few months of getting married. We went out for a couple years and were engaged for just over one year.” In the course of his life, he had numerous girlfriends, including a five-year relationship he broke off when he felt God calling him to the priesthood.

So, is Father Van Durme gay?

“No, I’m certainly not gay, and I agree with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality: Love the person but not the activity.”

But if Father Van Durme isn’t gay, then Kellenyi’s story falls apart—and with it, much of what Rose has written about Louvain. All of this could have been cleared up with a couple phone calls.

A Negligent Rector?

In his book, Rose claims that “repeated written complaints [from Kellenyi] to Windsor and the formation faculty met with no palpable response.”

“Not true at all,” Father Windsor says. “Joe first brought his complaints to [then vice-rector] Father Codd, then to me. I talked to Van Durme and then members of the faculty. I also talked to other seminarians who had witnessed [Kellenyi and Van Durme’s] interactions. Balancing both sides, Father Codd and I agreed that there wasn’t anything to the charges.”

At that point, Father Windsor and Father Codd arranged a mediation between Kellenyi and Van Durme, hoping to find some middle ground between them. “After the meeting,” Father Windsor says, “I had the impression there was some kind of resolution.”

Kellenyi and Rose may not be happy with the way Father Windsor and the Louvain faculty responded to the accusations, but they did respond.

Expelling Kellenyi

At the end of the 1999-2000 school year, Kellenyi was asked to leave Louvain. Rose writes that Kellenyi “was expelled from the American College at Louvain after refusing to submit to an ‘intimate relationship’ that was demanded by a senior seminarian.”‘ The evidence, however, shows otherwise. Despite Father Windsor’s hopes, the mediation meeting with Van Durme and Kellenyi did not put an end to Kellenyi’s charges. He continued to complain—writing letters to the entire faculty detailing his ever-growing claims. “Throughout the year,” Father Marcoux says, “[Kellenyi] really held the rest of the seminary hostage—in how he would treat people, and the stories he would tell. We have a small seminary and that kind of behavior is unacceptable. He was a loose cannon who could blow at any moment.”

Dietrich agrees. “As the year went on, [Kellenyi] got this complex—almost like paranoia. Everyone was out to get him. He would tell me that people were spying on him—people I knew. And I knew they weren’t doing anything like that, so I started to wonder about him. As the year continued, he got progressively worse, and he saw all these conspiracies everywhere.”

It should be noted that Rose only focused on one of Kellenyi’s claims: that Van Durme was a homosexual trying to use his influence to force Kellenyi into a relationship. Rose doesn’t mention Kellenyi’s other accusations. Most seriously, the ex-seminarian charges that Van Durme and Father Windsor were themselves having a homosexual affair. Bishop Edward Braxton, chairman of the board of directors for Louvain, later investigated the charges and found “no evidence whatsoever to support these allegations, which seem to have been fabricated by Mr. Kellenyi as an expression of anger at the negative evaluation he received from the College Faculty.” In response, Kellenyi accused Bishop Braxton himself of being gay and possibly part of a larger homosexual conspiracy.

Again, as with his other stories, none of the other seminarians or faculty takes the charges seriously. “No one else ever said anything remotely like that [about Father Windsor and Van Durme],” Dietrich says. “Joe was the only one. And it was a story that came along after he was kicked out of the seminary. Father David kept a healthy distance between himself and the students. That was one of the problems in previous years at the seminary, and when he came to ACL, that was one of the things he worked to correct.”

Marcus Mudd, a former college seminarian and then- friend of Kellenyi’s, agrees. “Joe seems to have a vendetta, and he’s out to ruin some people. He doesn’t seem to mind who he drags down in the process. Father Windsor is a great man, and I get along with him very well.”

“I found no evidence of any sort of an affair between the rector and Father Van Durme,” classmate Luke Melcher insists. “They were gentlemen and men of integrity.”

So, was Kellenyi expelled because he refused to submit to a relationship with a gay fellow seminarian?

“Not at all,” Father Windsor says. “His dismissal from the seminary by the full vote of the formation faculty had nothing to do with any personal relationship—real or imagined. Rather, it was prompted by Joe’s own attitude inside and outside the seminary, his twisting of statements and observations contrary to all official documents, his apparent lack of interest in priestly formation (i.e., learning proper ritual, proper proclamation techniques for the Word, etc.), and his inappropriate behavior outside the community for one who aspired to be a priest. These are all public observations.”

Indeed, Kellenyi’s peer/faculty review bears this out. Contrary to the claims in Goodbye, Good Men, the evaluation does not lead one to conclude “that the major issue of concern that led to [Kellenyi’s] dismissal was his refusal to engage the senior seminarian in a close relationship.” In Kellenyi’s “Theology I Assessment,” the faculty listed eleven points that Kellenyi needed to correct if he wished to return to Louvain the following year. Several of the points speak directly to the claims he had been making (e.g., the faculty recommended that Kellenyi acknowledge his habits of rushing to judgments and making unsupported and damaging accusations).

Other points, however, have nothing to do with the controversy: The faculty recommended that Kellenyi end his “late-night carousing” and dress more respectfully for Mass.

The Peer Reviews

But if the faculty and fellow seminarians had such problems with Kellenyi, what about the two positive peer reviews Rose quotes in his book? Actually, though Rose describes them as coming from two separate seminarians, they were actually part of a single peer review written by Wolfgang Dietrich.

Dietrich’s review is indeed generally positive, calling Kellenyi “brilliant” as well as “friendly, knowledgeable and engaging.”

“I wrote [the evaluation] midway through the year,” Dietrich explains. “A lot hadn’t come to the surface at that time. I wanted to write a positive evaluation, because I knew a lot of people didn’t think very highly of Joe. I thought it would be nice if someone affirmed his good points as well.”

But, according to Dietrich, Kellenyi’s behavior declined as the year progressed. “When he left [the seminary], it got even worse,” he said. “He just kept making up more things. It’s really disturbing. When people realize that he can lie like that with a straight face—it’s just fantastically disturbing.”

But Dietrich says Rose never called him about the evaluation. “I had no idea he was going to use it,” Dietrich said. “I was really shocked to see my evaluation in [the book]. That really upset me.”

Rose also puts great emphasis on Van Durme’s written evaluation of Kellenyi—an evaluation he describes as “rambling and often incoherent.” (It is neither.) After assembling a block-quote collage of Van Durme’s comments, Rose concludes, “In general, the senior seminarian’s evaluation of Kellenyi did nothing more than express his frustration and jealousy that Kellenyi was able to form friendships with others inside and outside of the seminary, while personally rejecting his own ‘advances.’ ”

However, an objective reading of the entire evaluation—as opposed to the selective quotations Rose presents—leaves one with a very different picture. Van Durme does criticize the amount of time Kellenyi spent with people outside the seminary—particularly with those much younger than the 40-year-old seminarian. And he makes additional note of the fact that Kellenyi seemed closed off from the life of the college. But these criticisms were shared by the faculty as well as his fellow seminarians.

“Joe was kind of absent—he had his own schedule. He disappeared whenever he wanted to disappear,” Jimenez-Montalban says.

Father Marcoux agrees: “There was very little interaction between Joe and the community. I lived next door to him on the fifth floor, and he’d always shut and lock his door when he was in his room. That was strange, since most of us kept our doors open. He was difficult to live around. His demeanor, his refusal to listen to anyone else, the way he treated people—he made me very uncomfortable.”

Another classmate, now Rev. Bill Cau, says the same thing: “Joseph didn’t involve himself much in our seminary community. He did his own thing—his own activities.”

In fairness to Rose, one of the criticisms leveled against the Louvain section of Goodbye, Good Men has proven untrue. It appeared at first that Rose had changed some of the words in his quotation of Van Durme’s evaluation. When I asked him about this on the phone, Rose pointed out that he was using an earlier draft of the review and had simply made a mistake in the footnote for it.

A Final Report?

In writing his section on Louvain, Rose appeared to rely heavily on a March 2001 document titled, “Final Report to the Committee for the American College of Louvain: On the issue of Sexual Misconduct in regards to the Rector, Rev. David Windsor.”

In Kellenyi’s first e-mail to me, he described this document as “an official report” and said it included both sides of the story. He didn’t mention that the impressively named “Final Report” was written by none other than Joseph Kellenyi. The report is not official (Kellenyi penned it in its entirety), or balanced, or in any way final. Indeed, the “Final Report” is simply a 29-page elaboration of Kellenyi’s claims.

What passes for evidence in the pages of the “Report” is a bizarre string of shaky inferences and unfounded conclusions. The following is one example:

I told [Father Windsor] that student X claimed to have an improper relationship with him, and that I did not believe he was lying…. After this, David told my bishop, and then me, that I had made a sexual allegation against him in regards to student X. Of course, I had not. But the moment he raised the issue, I realized I had stumbled upon something. Therefore I let him know that “yes” I thought sexual misconduct was an issue.

In other words, Kellenyi accuses Father Windsor of having an “improper relationship” with a seminarian; Father Windsor takes that to be an accusation of sexual impropriety; but since Kellenyi says he wasn’t making a sexual charge, Father Windsor must be having an affair. Q.E.D.

The argument—one of Kellenyi’s linchpins—is ridiculous. A priest who is accused of having an “improper relationship” with a seminarian will naturally take that to mean a sexual relationship. That reasonable assumption doesn’t prove he is guilty of anything.

Kellenyi’s other staple argument is similarly flawed. Throughout his report, he claims that Father Windsor never denied the sexual allegations Kellenyi made against him. This is simply untrue. Shortly after they were made, Father Windsor denied the claims in no uncertain terms to the faculty, the bishop’s committee overseeing the seminary, and the advisory board. And when Bishop Braxton conducted his investigation after the close of the school year, Father Windsor denied the charges to him as well.

The “Final Report” is littered with such distortions and inaccuracies. Kellenyi, nevertheless, continues to promote it as undeniable evidence of his claims. He has made the report available online (www.AmericanCollegeScandal.com). When I interviewed him, he asked me to provide the Web site address for Crisis readers, “to be fair.” I happily do so, as an objective reading of the report provides some of the clearest evidence for the weakness of Kellenyi’s case.

Integrity in Journalism

Rose’s book is under fire—and from an unexpected source. As I was researching his material on Louvain, other Catholic publications began printing strong criticisms of sections in Goodbye, Good Men. In the May issue of Culture Wars, Rev. Rob Johansen took Rose to task for inaccuracies in his treatment of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. In June, the National Catholic Register printed an op-ed criticizing Rose’s treatment of the diocesan vocations recruiter for the Diocese of Providence. And in July, Our Sunday Visitor reported some of the basic problems with the book’s description of Louvain.

Surprising as it may be, the harshest criticisms of Goodbye, Good Men have come from conservative, orthodox publications. How is it that those who agree wholeheartedly with Rose’s central thesis could have such grave problems with his book?

The answer is an important one for Catholic journalists: The facts matter. While Rose’s defenders have fallen over themselves claiming that Culture Wars, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor are denying the problem of homosexuals in the priesthood, they’ve missed the point completely. The debate here isn’t whether or not there’s a gay subculture in the priesthood—there is, and all those publications acknowledge the problem. The real issue is one of journalistic integrity.

In the case of Louvain, Rose made very serious accusations against the seminary and its former rector. He based all his charges on the claims of one person. He never called the seminary, the rector, or any of the other principals involved. His use of Kellenyi’s theological evaluation and Dietrich and Van Durme’s peer reviews was, at best, careless.

In short, Rose failed to do his research, and that failure has cast suspicion on his entire book. Undoubtedly, many of the stories in Goodbye, Good Men are true. But which ones?

How can we trust and promote a book so grievously flawed in some sections, even if the central thesis is one we believe to be true?

To simply waive these details away is cavalier and unscrupulous. The tacit argument of those who choose to overlook Rose’s lapse of judgment is that when you have the Truth on your side, the facts don’t much matter. That is, the ends do justify the means.

I have a proposal for Michael Rosean olive branch, if you will. The Church needs a book like Goodbye, Good Men. But it needs that book to be unassailable. Rose should rework the book-remove the sections that are either doubtful or, as in the case of Louvain, almost certainly untrue. Yes, the book may be a bit shorter, but it’ll be stronger for having the wheat separated from the chaff.

If Rose chooses this course, Crisis will happily and enthusiastically support him. All of us would benefit from a strong and heavily researched exposé of the problems in our seminaries-especially in this time of Church crisis. But in the meantime, Rose has some apologizing to do to Father Windsor, Father Van Durme, and the American College of Louvain.

There’s no shame in admitting error. The real crime is in standing by it.

Author

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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