Fr. Martin P. O’Loghlen interviewed my parents and me months before I entered my freshman year at Damien High School in LaVerne. We were not Catholics and I remember Fr. O reassuring us there were “many roads to get to the same place” – a reminder that even Lutherans can get to heaven, I suppose. We did have to pay more, however, than Catholic families.
My mom supplemented my dad’s income by making custom dresses at home. Her clientele put me through parochial schools from K-12. By the time I reached my senior year at Damien, I had developed a love of writing. I was the editor in chief of the Laconian, our weekly high school newspaper.
One Friday, Neil turned in an op-ed piece on why non-Catholics, like he and a few dozen others, should not have to attend Wednesday mass in the gym. He had left for the week before I got to it, so it fell to me to title it. I pasted (yes, literally pasted) “Mass-o-chist” across the top and sent the galleys to the printer.
Immediately after the following Monday morning’s pledge of allegiance and Hail Mary, Fr. O summoned Neil, another student named Jack and me to his office. Neil and Jack had no idea why we were there. I suspected.
Fr. O’loghlen sat in front of hundreds of bound copies of the newspaper. “These are not going out,” he told us. He went on to say we were off the newspaper and should be ashamed of ourselves.
Well, Jack had nothing to do with this, but he was a troublemaker of sorts, so he was off the staff. Neil was dismissed for writing the piece; I was kicked off for giving it its title. We were threatened with expulsion and sent to homeroom with an assignment: a term paper on Journalistic Integrity and Its Responsibilities.
I took the assignment seriously and interviewed professional newspapermen at the Progress Bulletin, the Pomona Valley’s then-premiere regional newspaper. I remember pouring a lot of time and soul into the piece, quoting true pros about journalism and ethics.
It came back with a D-minus grade and a note from the homeroom teacher: “I will not allow you to use this assignment as a sounding board against Damien High School.” My mom saw this and grew even more nervous about my graduating.
The clock ticked away, June came and went, and I got my diploma along with Neil, Jack and a 150 other young men. Some of us are still friends and have been lighting up Facebook with this weekend’s announcement that Fr. O’Loghlen has been dismissed over his ethical choices: he had an ongoing sexual relationship with a female high school student at Bishop Amat in the 1960s, a decade before he questioned our integrity.
Here’s the New York Times story that led to his dismissal.