The USCCB and Cultural Diversity

Bishops read material June 11 during the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in St. Louis. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review) See BISHOPS-ROUNDUP June 11, 2015.

Deal W. Hudson
September 8, 2010

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has set five goals to pursue until the end of 2011. They are:

  1. Strengthening marriage
  2. Faith formation focused on sacramental practice
  3. Priestly and religious vocations
  4. Life and dignity of the human person
  5. Recognition of cultural diversity
The USCCB Web site contains a link to a timeline for some of the "programs, events, and items coming from the five priority initiatives."

As I read through the goals, I was struck by how much the last – "recognition of cultural diversity" – differed from the first four. Cultural diversity seemed jarringly out of place when set beside the issues of marriage, faith formation, vocations, and respect for human life.

It was as if the guiding genera of Catholic faith and practice had decided to adopt a species from a completely different paradigm, one more rooted in modern politics and the debate over multiculturalism than the Catholic tradition.

So I decided to look through the material supplied at the USCCB Web site to find out just what made the "recognition of cultural diversity" so important as to be singled out as one of the five goals.

When I clicked on the link regarding future programs implementing these goals, I found a qualifier attached to the recognition of cultural diversity: "with special emphasis on Hispanic ministry in the spirit of Encuentro 2000."

Encuentro 2000 was a historic conference held in Los Angeles in the summer of 2000 "to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of the Church in the United States." Attended by 5,300 Catholic leaders from the United States and 162 nations, the conference was held with the hope that "by bringing together people from different cultural, ethnic, and linguistic groups in the United States as one Church, Encuentro 2000 [would be] a prophetic sign of unity."

With that principle in mind, I looked at the first of the programs slated to be implemented in 2010: "Cultural Competency Guidelines for building cultural competency for clergy and laity together with in-service programs on Models and Resources."

"Cultural competency guidelines" were completely new to me, so I searched the phrase on the Internet and found that programs under this name are being administered by groups such as the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The Minnesota DHS states, "An organization cannot be clinically or programmatically competent unless it is culturally competent." The Office of Minority Health at the Department of HHS has a detailed explanation of what is meant by "cultural competence" along with fourteen national standards for applying this competence to health care organizations.

It appears that something like a cultural competency standard is now being applied to the various ministries of the Church. In fact, for the past two years, there has been a Secretariat of Cultural Diversity at the USCCB with five subcommittees: Hispanic; African American; Native American; Asian Pacific; and Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers. This secretariat is already working on developing the cultural competency guidelines. It held a conference this past May at the University of Notre Dame, called the "Catholic Cultural Diversity Network Convocation," with more than 300 leaders to start formulating the document.

The USCCB press release for the Notre Dame conference contained a comment from the executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity, Rev. Allan F. Deck, S.J., that helped me to understand the reason behind this effort. Father Deck called the development of these guidelines vital, since "new leadership mostly of non-European descent is arising in the Church of the United States…. That leadership, however, is still largely focused on its own people and only vaguely aware of its role in relationship to the whole Church."

Father Deck's comment accurately describes the growing Hispanic presence in the U.S. Church, but it also adds a different dimension to the work of the secretariat. He talks about the importance of Hispanic leaders recognizing their relationship to the "whole Church," but the goal of recognizing cultural diversity is aimed at non-Hispanic and (presumably) now-assimilated U.S. Catholics, many from various European backgrounds.

The work of the secretariat appears to be implementing the cultural diversity goal by working in several directions at once. Hispanic leaders are to be brought into the mainstream of the Church, providing "Anglo" Catholics an understanding of their culture and practices that will form the basis of sharing a common community of worship and faith.

When the multicultural program was applied to this nation's educational system, the result was disastrous. The program was employed as a weapon to bash traditional curriculum and the teaching of basic skills. Having looked more closely at what the USCCB means by the "recognition of cultural diversity," I have come to conclude two things: First, the goal is poorly phrased because it looks like rank ideology. And second, it seems to have no purpose beyond teaching the commonsense lesson of "welcoming the stranger."

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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