On Being Divisive

By Deal W. Hudson

Every group has its code words. These words serve an important social function they enable the members of the group to deliver a harsh judgment on others without accountability. In the Catholic world, when someone is called “divisive,” it means he is too conservative to be trusted. Those who are “divisive” threaten the “unity of the Church” by raising questions about the loyalty of its leaders to its teachings. Strange, isn’t it?

Not everyone understands the code, but not everyone is supposed to. The code serves to protect those who don’t want to be troubled by troubling questions. The code kept Church leaders from answering questions about the growing influence of active homosexuals in the priesthood. When Catholic publications such as Crisis raised this question, they were labeled “divisive.”

If Church unity must be protected from the Church’s teaching, then what kind of unity do we have? It is the kind of unity that keeps priests from reminding their parishioners of the Church’s position on birth control or homosexuality, the kind that allows a college to call itself Catholic while its faculty consistently misrepresent the Church’s teachings.

This arrangement may be appropriate for a big-tent political coalition. Parties form coalitions in order to achieve a majority vote; if they excluded everyone who doesn’t affirm every plank in the platform, they’d lose. But is this the kind of unity the Church should be seeking—a unity preoccupied with numbers? Such is the pseudounity of those leaders who don’t want the “divisive” influence of sound Church teaching to embarrass cafeteria Catholics.

Some will say, quite rightly, that the unity of the Church is first of all a unity in Christ—a person, not a principle. They will argue that faith is a personal journey rather than the intellectual acceptance of a creed and moral teachings. “Pastoral care” thus requires that Catholics should not be made to feel less Catholic for the rejection of this or that teaching.

Some, in fact, may use pastoral care as an excuse to ignore the content of the faith, but the moral dimension of the spiritual life cannot be dismissed. The question remains whether we will continue calling all Catholics to a full recognition of Catholic teaching. This type of evangelism—an evangelism directed to those already in the Church—risks the very divisiveness that most of the present leadership abhors. Dissent is so often encountered and so rarely challenged that is has been normalized. It begins to look imprudent—that is, divisive—even to remark on it. At least those who dissent within a political coalition are more honest about it. And political leadership rarely fears invoking the platform to pull coalition members into line.

Looming very large for our bishops is the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood. This issue will test their willingness to discuss the real causes of the sex-abuse scandal. Whether they are ready to meditate seriously on the intersection of homosexual orientation as an “objective disorder,” homosexual acts as morally evil, and the vocation of the celibate priesthood remains to be seen.

Given the obvious state of affairs in our priesthood, anyone who pushes these questions will likely be shoved aside as a divider. To borrow a phrase from St. Thomas Aquinas, now is the time to distinguish in order to unite. There is no real unity in the Church as long as its people are deceived and its teaching ignored.

Published in Crisis Magazine, September 1, 2002

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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