Emmett McLoughlin (February 3, 1907 – October 9, 1970) was a Catholic priest of the Franciscan order who became known in the 1930s as an advocate for low-income housing in Phoenix, Arizona. He left the priesthood in 1948 in order to remain superintendent of St Monicas (later Phoenix Memorial) Hospital (Time, 1948), and wrote a number of books, including his autobiography People's Padre. Time magazine (1970) called him "America's best-known ex-priest".
Born John Patrick McLoughlin. He grew up in Sacramento, California, and entered St. Anthony's seminary in Santa Barbara, California. He took the name Emmett during his novitiate in the Franciscan Order.
After his ordination in 1933 he was assigned a parish in Phoenix, Arizona, and began work there that would last for 14 years. Time magazine (1948) said that "soon young Father McLoughlin began to be almost as well known in Phoenix as the mayor." During that time he founded and directed St. Monica's Hospital, organized a slum clearance campaign, was instrumental in applying for federal funds for the Matthew Henson public housing projects (opened in 1940), was appointed as the first chairman of the Phoenix Housing Authority in 1939, and served as secretary of the state Board of Health.
His Franciscan superiors charged him with neglect of his priestly duties and ordered him to resign as superintendent of the hospital. McLoughlin decided that his work for the hospital and urban renewal was more important than his vow of obedience. He resigned as a member of the Catholic priesthood on December 1, 1948 to remain head of the hospital with the support of its board of directors, many of whom were Catholic. On August 13, 1949 he married Mary Davis (Time, 1949). He met her when she came to work at Phoenix Memorial Hospital working in the Medical Records Department. Friar Emmett was already disillusioned about the church hierarchy. He reports in his book, "People's Padre",that he did not lose faith in God, after leaving the priesthood/Romanism/Catholicism, but found he read more of the Bible and religious periodicals. He achieved more national prominence with the publication of his autobiography, 'People's Padre' in 1954.
He has been criticized in orthodox Catholic circles for not following the vow of obedience to the Church that he had taken as a Franciscan. McLoughlin, on the contrary, criticized the Church for requiring young men to take such a vow, often without having experience of life outside school and seminary. He also criticized the Catholic parochial school system, and alleged that a Roman Catholic plot had existed to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, criticisms which fed anti-Catholicism in America in the 1950s and 1960s.
McLoughlin moved to Oklahoma where he died on October 9, 1970. He is buried in Berwyn Cemetery, Gene Autry, Carter County in Oklahoma.
The city of Phoenix named the Emmett McLoughlin Community Training & Education Center in his honor ("City Dedicates", 2006).
- People's Padre: an Autobiography (Boston : Beacon Press, 1954).
- American Culture and Catholic Schools (New York: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1960).
- Crime and Immorality in the Catholic Church (New York: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1962).
- An Inquiry in the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1963).
- Letters to an ex-priest (New York: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1965).
- Famous Ex-Priests (New York: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1968).
- Too Material. (December 13, 1948) Time.
- Notes (August 22, 1949) Time.
- Priests and Nuns: Going Their Way (February 23, 1970) Time
- City Dedicates Building in Honor of Community Activist (June 13, 2006) Phoenix.gov.