Sed Contra: Investigating the Seminaries

Deal W. Hudson
February 1, 2003

With a decision on a plenary council put indefinitely on hold, the next major step in addressing the causes of the sexual abuse crisis is the upcoming apostolic visitation to our nation’s Catholic seminaries. Questions will be asked—as they should be—about how much Catholics can trust that the seminaries will undergo truly zealous scrutiny.

The breakdown of priestly discipline combined with an evident lack of commitment to papal leadership and the Church’s moral teaching (see “Sed Contra,” January 2003) points directly to the priestly formation in general and seminary education in particular.

The proposed apostolic visitation must be more than a public-relations exercise to calm a shell-shocked Catholic public; a major new poll Crisis has conducted shows that 39 percent of Catholics now have less confidence in the moral teaching of the Church, and 65 percent think that acts causing the scandal are still occurring. (Next month, we’ll give you the full poll results.)

Several years ago, Crisis ran a multi-article analysis of the state of Catholic seminaries. We found, not surprisingly, fundamental weaknesses in many seminary curricula and formation programs. Too often seminarians were not finishing the two years of philosophy mandated by canon law, Latin was ignored, and the requirements of pastoral training were minimizing the hours devoted to Church history and theology. The spiritual formation itself was often turned into peer-enforced exercises in political correctness with the aid of aggressively administered psychological testing.

Seminary administrations, with a few notable exceptions, didn’t appreciate Crisis putting its nose into their business. One bishop who heads a midwestern seminary asked me point-blank, “What business is it of Crisis to criticize seminaries?” When faced with such outrageous clericalism, the only response is to reply—as I did—that the health of those institutions that train our priests is the concern of all Catholics.

The question then arises whether or not the method and findings of the apostolic visitation will be made known to the Catholic public. Surely the bishops’ national review board for clergy sex abuse will have an oversight role to play. But will the laity be told who will conduct the visits, what they will be looking for, and how the evaluations will be tabulated? Most importantly, will we be given the results?

Catholic laity, even those who donate big money to educational institutions, know nearly nothing about what goes on inside them. They believe what they’re told—that the Faith is being taught with vigor and without apology. I suppose that’s why so many Catholic colleges and universities fought so strenuously against Ex Corde Ecclesiae and why only a handful of theology professors have asked for a mandatum (and it is more than a year past the deadline for that request).

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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