Sed Contra: Better Late Than Never

Deal W. Hudson
October 1, 2002

Representatives of a group called Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) started appearing in the media—mainly the Boston Globe—in the months following the revelations about sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. Initially, the group appeared credible. I know many faithful Catholics added themselves to the organization’s mailing list, hoping the lay group would challenge the bishops to stop ignoring the deeply rooted problems that led to the scandal. Close inspection of VOTF’s Web site, however, gave me serious doubts about the sincerity of its “centrist” label. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, and the folks at the helm of VOTF have created a huge smoke screen for their dissenting agenda.

My doubts about VOTF were confirmed when I saw the roster of speakers invited to its first conference, which took place in Boston on July 20. As I noted in our August 8 e-mail special report, “When Wolves Dress Like Sheep,” the conference participants were Call-to-Action types who espouse everything from women’s ordination to the creation of an American Catholic Church.

Our e-letter evidently hit a nerve with VOTF—its next newsletter responded to our charges by apologizing for its conference invitation to the former head of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States and by affirming its loyalty to the teaching of the Church. (Sadly, its response didn’t address the many other points we made.)

Incidentally, our special report also elicited a number of e-mails from VOTF members—some of whom attended the Boston conference—corroborating our view that VOTF’s declaration of fidelity is a ruse. We read stories from VOTF members who felt unwelcome after they raised questions about the loyalty of the conference speakers. The questions themselves were met with evasion and hostility.

Sound familiar? Anyone who has entered a room full of dissenters is familiar with the experience. These bait-and-switch tactics have been used by Catholic dissenters for decades. I don’t understand why they can’t be more straightforward. Why must they feign fidelity and dupe fellow Catholics into supporting their crusade to change the teachings of the Church?

Of course, their answer to this is always “dialogue.” Dialogue, they say, is integral to Catholic teaching, and their only agenda is to foster “open discussion.” But why call for dialogue about teachings that the Church says cannot be changed? A call for dialogue on settled issues is itself a symptom of dissent.

What’s needed now isn’t dialogue but teaching. Bishops and priests need to address this crisis in the Church by explaining to Catholics in the pews the nature of the priesthood and the reasons for its tradition of celibacy. If the average Catholic heard this preached from the pulpit on a regular basis, then groups like VOTF would be seen for what they are.

Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, has courageously acted to bar VOTF from using Church property for their meetings; other bishops will surely follow suit. In the meantime, some priests are inviting VOTF into their parishes. Have they been fooled, or are they, like VOTF, taking advantage of the present confusion to undermine Church teaching? What happens when the laity, without the backing of the bishops, challenge the decisions of priests who invite VOTF into their parishes? Not much.

It certainly doesn’t help that the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invited former White House Chief-of-Staff Leon Panetta to sit on the Keating Commission, which oversees the implementation of the policies on sexual abuse adopted in Dallas. Panetta was firmly in favor of former president Bill Clinton’s vetoes of the bill outlawing partial-birth abortion. The message Bishop Wilton Gregory sends with this appointment is that someone like Panetta is considered a Catholic in good standing in spite of his refusal to protect unborn life.

No wonder Catholics are confused and dispirited. No wonder they fall under the influence of vigorous and loud groups like VOTF: Such groups promise leadership where there’s a leadership vacuum. It’s time for the bishops to fill it.

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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