Sed Contra: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Bishops

Deal W. Hudson
June 1, 2002

The April 24 communiqué from the meeting of the U.S. cardinals at the Vatican is really an agenda for the June meeting of the U.S. bishops in Dallas. Although the communiqué failed to spell out a “zero tolerance” policy for first-time sex abusers, its intent is clear: The communiqué, along with the public statements of several cardinals, calls for a complete overhaul of priestly discipline in regard to homosexuality.

Will the U.S. bishops take action? If so, how decisively? And will addressing homosexuality in the priesthood be enough to right the wrong that has been done?

The bishops’ June meeting should be a day of reckoning for the Catholic Church in the United States. If the bishops appear blasé and plead for a “long view” of the issues, the cause will be set back years more than it already has been.

To rebuild the trust of U.S. Catholics in the Church and its leaders and to make reparations to the victims left in the wake of this scandal, the bishops need to address several points at their June meeting:

1. The bishops should make it clear that this is a crisis and that they are not conducting business as usual. Powerful men don’t want to admit their mistakes; they often resort to wiggle words such as “oversight” and “misunderstanding” to explain their actions instead of risking blunt honesty. But without honesty, there can be no trust.

2. The bishops should adopt a penitential posture rather than exhibit the predictable solidarity of mutual denial. Powerful men never want to start over; they want to be seen as building on their accomplishments rather than admitting that an entire set of policies has to be ripped up and replaced.

3. The bishops should publicly acknowledge in unambiguous language that seminaries have graduated actively homosexual priests who prey on minors. The communiqué recognized this fact but did not use the word “homosexuality”: “Even if the cases of true pedophilia on the part of priests and religious are few…almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true pedophilia.” To uncover and eliminate the homosexual subcultures that have flourished over the past 40 years, the communiqué courageously called for an immediate “Apostolic Visitation” of the seminaries.

4. The bishops should not be intimidated by the charge that they are “scape-goating” homosexuals. All they have to do is a point to the nature of the sex abuse that predominates in the news accounts. One habit that the bishops must change is the unwillingness to challenge dissent. Dissent on matters of sexual morality goes hand-in-hand with the toleration of homosexual activity.

5. The bishops should instruct their priests, in the words of the April communiqué, to “reprimand” dissenters openly, especially on issues of sexual morality and orientation. The risk is great, but it must be taken. A media firestorm broke out when Msgr. Eugene V. Clark spoke openly about the problem of active homosexuals in the priesthood from the pulpit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. So what? Catholics deserve to hear from their priests the truth that they are taught to believe in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

6. The bishops should invite laypeople with the sound expertise to help with the psychological formation and management of priests. It is understandable that the bishops should want to consolidate and protect their power. But when the clergy create a monopoly on information and influence, this is called “clericalism.” Vatican II supposedly put an end to clericalism by calling on laymen and -women to use their expertise in communications, teaching, finance, and management in service of the body of Christ.

The trouble with this, of course, is that dissenters are saying the same thing. But the solution is simple: Bishops need not include among their lay advisers those who dissent from Church teaching and want to use their access to change doctrine. Laypersons can offer the benefit of their expertise without challenging the bishops’ prerogative over matters of faith and morals.

7. The most important thing the bishops can do is to apologize to the victims of sex abuse and to ask for their forgiveness. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sexually abused Catholics whose main image of the Church is a leering and groping priest. Clearly, the bishops must make a special effort to mend their wounds.

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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