Sed Contra: Delivering Bad News

Deal W. Hudson
October 1, 2002

Some Crisis readers may be startled by the lead story in this issue, “The Price of Priestly Pederasty.” They might argue that such a story damages the Church’s reputation and hurts the Church’s evangelical outreach. While such arguments are plausible, they also can undermine Catholic journalism and its benefits if they are used to discourage serious reporting.

As publisher and editor of a Catholic monthly, I don’t enjoy telling stories like this month’s main feature. The pattern of pedophilia among Catholic clergy may not be statistically greater than among any other group of adult males, but its presence in the Church, along with its financial and spiritual impact, should not be ignored. Why? Because it has to stop. We hope our overview of this unhappy chapter in recent Church history will encourage religious and lay leaders to take whatever measures are necessary to minimize these occurrences.

An independent Catholic monthly has a different response to its readers than a diocesan newspaper. A diocesan newspaper is owned by an archdiocese and is managed by an archbishop. A diocesan paper prints Catholic news but, as the house organ of a diocese, cannot report on episodes embarrassing to the bishop and his diocese.

Independent Catholic magazines and newspapers like Crisis have more journalistic latitude, which should be used for the benefit of the Church and its readership. The Church encourages Catholic journalists who do not work directly for a bishop to report and opine on events that cause all of our discomforts.

Having been part of a movement that decries the influence of the liberal media, I am surprised to find myself asserting the rights and prerogatives of a journalist to publish bad news about the Church. We have come to expect regular Catholic-bashing in the secular media. Perhaps this is one reason why many Catholic journalists have shied away from controversial stories in the past: Their initial impulse is to offset the negative bias of the mainstream media.

Good news inspires, but the lesson it teaches is rarely remembered for very long. Bad news, like the pain of a pulled tooth, burrows more deeply into our consciousness. Call it penitential, if you like.

Independent Catholic magazines and newspapers should demand more from their editors and reporters. Armchair musings on the state of the Church do little to encourage positive change in the Church and its various institutions. How many times are we going to be subjected to large-scale critiques of the Church from G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis wanna-bes? I hate to say it, but we need more reporters and fewer philosophers in our business.

My one reluctance in publishing this story is my sympathy for our bishops. Our bishops are held responsible for every mishap that occurs within the parishes, schools, hospitals, and social service organizations of their dioceses. Not only do they have to manage hundreds, if not thousands, of personnel; they also have to run a large nonprofit enterprise that makes payroll every week. Thus, bishops and their staff are expected to be experts in business practices in addition to theology, morality, politics, liturgy, and even architecture.

Our cover story sends a message to all diocesan administrators that the screening of future priests and their seminary formation must be monitored more closely. It must be recognized from the outset that pedophilia is a disorder different from homosexuality and, according to present evidence, much more difficult to alter or control. Pedophilia cannot be “managed” just by placing someone in a new environment.

There are those who argue that in certain dioceses a laxness toward certain “lifestyles” has caused this situation. If there is indeed a general climate of sexual permissiveness among the clergy, this will only aggravate any inclination toward pedophilia.

Looking forward, the situation must be remedied and—to judge from all the evidence I’ve seen—is being remedied. Some dioceses have longstanding procedures regarding screening and treatment; others have learned the hard way.

We can all hope that the worst of this story is in our past and pray that a lesson has been learned.

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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