Why Does a Catholic Diocese Provide Syringes?

Deal W. Hudson
April 25, 2016

While I was the publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine, I chronicled the plight of the Albany Diocese in Upstate, NY under the former leadership of now Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard. His stewardship of the diocese was a test case in the failures of the progressive policies of many churchmen during the seventies and eighties that left dioceses throughout the country beset by dwindling Mass attendance, little or no vocations to the priestly and religious life and sex scandals which metastasized into a full-blown scandal in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Things were so awful under Hubbard and his Chancery staff that in 2013, Albany, NY was ranked as #1 among the most “post-Christian” cities in the U.S. by the Barna Group.

Enter in 2014, Bishop Edward B. Schafenberger, on the surface he had the perfect curriculum vitae that the more orthodox faithful were looking for to restore some of what had been lost under the Hubbard regime. “Monsignor Ed,” as his parishioners at St. Matthias in Queens called him, did stints in the diocesan curia there serving in many roles, culminating in 2013 when he was named Episcopal Vicar for Queens. The Brooklyn native seemed born for the role; his father was a salesman of church goods.

Upon his arrival in Albany, Bishop Scharfenberger burnished his credentials with the pro-life community by participating in lay initiatives like the Rosary Walk for Life that he did around the State Capital and joining them at local Planned Parenthoods for Prayer Vigils. These were important steps to take because Bishop Hubbard had all but ignored the pro-life community for years choosing rather focus on social justice issues.

But in perusing the Albany Diocese website, I was shocked to find one of the signature programs of Hubbard’s agenda is still in place: a needle exchange program called “Operation Safe Point” is still being administered under Albany’s Catholic Charities. Under the heading of Chronic Disease Management & HIV Help section of their website, it states that they provide “syringe disposal, access/exchange services.”

Operation Safe Point was deemed “controversial” by the National Catholic Register in February 2010 and eminent canon lawyer Edward Peters weighed in extensively about the matter. Dr. Peters in his blog at the time, “In Light of the Law,” rightly stated,

“I think that one who supplies, without a physician’s prescription, needles/syringes (nb: devices with only one practical use) to people whom one reasonably believes will use those devices to inject illegal drugs into their own bodies and/or the bodies of others, encourages those people to practices that are gravely contrary to the moral law, rendering thereby, it seems to me, direct assistance to their commission of an objectively gravely evil act while intending precisely to help them accomplish that act. This conclusion is not contingent on whether the needles are clean, or are merely exchanged, or on any other accidental aspect of the program. The only question is whether giving a syringe to a drug abuser abets his or her injection of illegal drugs. If it does, then giving a drug user a needle formally cooperates with the specific evil of his or her taking those illegal drugs.” (Emphasis added)

The continuation of this program is even more baffling because Bishop Scharfenberger is a canon lawyer himself and should know better than the continuation of such a program causes scandal to his flock and hurts drug users with its false message of mercy.

In my past reporting of the situation in Albany, which is New York’s State Capitol, I learned that its main commerce is state government with all its machinations. Bishop Hubbard, whose episcopacy lasted from 1977-2014, learned well from Albany technocrats and built a vast bureaucracy similar to the bloated New York State government dedicated to spreading his progressive form of Catholicism.

This is the culture that Bishop Scharfenberger inherited, but by allowing this program to continue he is tacitly approving both the policy of providing syringes and his predecessor’s failed agenda. In fact, Bishop Hubbard is still ever present, having an office at the Chancery, he still writes occasionally for the diocesan newspaper, The Evangelist, which was a bullhorn for his progressive agenda and lobbies for liberal interest groups in the halls of the State Capitol.

Too often, we see this exact scenario being played out in dioceses across the nation. Liberal chanceries built by previous progressive bishops, perpetuating themselves and their constituencies groups at the determinant of faithful Catholics while the new bishops
‘go along to get along.’

However, many bishops have been named over the past several decades whose minds and spirituality were formed as priests under the historic pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Now that these priests have become bishops, it can only help them to be reminded that Saint John Paul II often said, “Be not afraid!” We encourage Bishop Scharfenberger to finally rid his diocese of Operation Safe Point, a scandalous remnant of failed leadership.

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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