U.S. Catholic Editor Chides My ‘Clumsy Argument’

Deal W. Hudson
December 31, 2009

Bryan Cones, the managing editor at U.S. Catholic, is upset that I used the word “fake” to describe Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Two weeks ago, I criticized those organizations for supporting the Senate health-care bill containing abortion funding.

At the Huffington PostCones calls me out:

Hudson appoints himself the arbiter of what is Catholic, and if you support health care reform that in any way might lead to an abortion paid for with public funds, you are not one.

Cones stresses his disagreement with me in a lively style: “If he wants to have a debate about whether I’m a Catholic, I say: Bring it, Deal.” You have to love that spirit, but Cones misses the point. I’m not interested in arguing over whether he is a Catholic, but whether it is “Catholic” to support health-care reform containing federal funding for abortion.

I argue that if the health-care bill contains federal funding for abortion – no matter what’s contained in the rest of the bill – Catholics in the Congress must oppose it. To support such a bill constitutes a direct cooperation with this serious moral evil (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2270; Evangelium Vitae 74).

Why? Because there is no doubt that federal funding would lead to an increase of 200,000 or more abortions each year. According to a 2007 Guttmacher study, “18-35 percent of women who would have had an abortion continued their pregnancies after Medicaid funding was cut off.” This is taken from studies published over the past 20 years.

But Cones finds a way around these hard facts, arguing:

Catholics are free to hold different positions on how the right to life should be pursued in the public sphere. Our common goal is no abortions; our paths can differ.

True enough: The paths may differ. But at some point, they must merge – that point being the certainty that more children will die as a result of a specific piece of legislation, i.e., the Senate health-care bill.

Cones’ view of the facts on the ground about abortion is tenuous. He claims, without citing any sources, “There is plenty of evidence that making abortion illegal actually does little to prevent it.” I wonder, then, how he explains the explosion in the abortion rate since Roe v. Wade, if legalization was not a factor.

Cones simply ignores the impact of abortion funding: “Catholics who argue that access to affordable health care and other progressive social policies will reduce abortion are on the solid moral ground.” Whatever truth that may contain will surely be offset by the findings of the Guttmacher study – namely, a significant number of women will not give birth to their children if the government pays for abortions.

Cones, not surprisingly, cites the agreement of the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious with his position: “I’m not the only Catholic who is willing to do the difficult moral math and judge health care reform worth the difficulty surrounding abortion funding.”

Cones mistakenly think the “moral math” of the health-care bill is “difficult,” which it is not. Perhaps his insistence on inserting complexity into the argument is the reason he hasn’t come to the right conclusion. But there is a deeper problem with the way Cones thinks about the issue. He considers my position on abortion – that it is a “make-or-break issue” – the “clumsiest of moral arguments.” By clumsy, I assume Cones means my position is one-sided, out of balance with his perspective. This is due to the fact that Cones, evidently, does not recognize a hierarchy of values, nor the weight of non-negotiable issues. It’s not a question of balance but of priorities.

Cones make the same mistake when he pits the human “right” or “access to health care” against the right to life. “Catholic teaching has long recognized access to health care as a human (not merely civil) right.” These “rights” are in no way comparable, especially in a health-care bill that treats abortion as “preventative care.” Indeed, the Senate health-care bill doesn’t recognize the right to life at all – doesn’t that bother Bryan Cones?

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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