Sed Contra: The Sound of Desperation

Deal W. Hudson
September 1, 2003

“Letting Hudson define Catholicism is like letting Osama define Islam.” Thus columnist Ellen Goodman opined in the Boston Globe on August 3. Normally, I wince when I read criticism about myself in print, but this made me smile. It’s an encouraging sign when an important leader of the opposition, a leading journalist, for example, begins to sound desperate.

One reason that the liberal pro-aborts like Goodman have been winning the culture wars over the past two decades is the geniality of their public temperament. They usually come off as the ones united against human suffering, making their commitment to rulelessness sounds like the solution to all problems of hatred, violence, and prejudice. (Little is made of the fact that unborn children die as a result of their compassion.)

But nowadays Goodman and her cohorts are sounding a bit unhinged.

Take Goodman’s comparison of me to Osama bin Laden. Just for the record, I have never planned or participated in any terrorist plots to blow up liberal or dissenting Catholic institutions. I believe that I am significantly closer to both the letter and the spirit of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church than bin Laden is to the Koran. (Of course, Islam has no Magisterium or Catechism, and that’s part of the problem.)

But Goodman’s willingness to stretch her hyperbolic license this far suggests her crowd is getting really upset. Goodman is afraid that the tide is getting ready to turn, that things are no longer going her way. For example, the sex-abuse scandal that erupted in her city of Boston ignited the hopes among liberals, dissenters, and anti-Catholics alike that the Church would have to change its commitment to celibacy, the male priesthood, and homosexuality. Voice of the Faithful has carried this message cleverly packed under the banner of “structural change” but ran into the roadblock of bishops willing to deny it approval to meet on parish property. The scandal will, in time, lead to an examination of the real causes of the problem: active homosexuals among the clergy, the spread of dissent, and the downturn in Mass attendance and confession.

Goodman knows that it’s the responsibility of every Catholic to follow the Church’s teachings as closely as possible. What she fears is a genuine renewal of the Church in the wake of its tribulation. She fears Catholic politicians who will stand up publicly for life, marriage, and the family. She fears an alliance of faithful Catholics with lawmakers and a president willing to articulate these values as public policy.

Thus far Goodman’s greatest allies have been the likes of Senators John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, and Patrick Leahy. Their behavior empties the idea of being Catholic of all moral content and makes the screed of Ellen Goodman seem superficially plausible. Leadership is always more influential than the printed word. Average Catholics need to be reminded what Scripture, the Catechism, and papal encyclicals say, but they also need the inspiration of public leadership. Pope John Paul II has provided this afar for nearly 25 years, but American Catholics have watched as a parade of politicians, jurists, and celebrities ignore the fundamental moral teaching of their Faith.

Goodman and her allies have made Catholicism so wimpy over the years that they are shocked when faithful Catholics make a sound that gets public attention. But the leadership of in-name-only Catholics is crumbling, and a new generation has set a new agenda—Bill Donohue, Mother Angelica, Scott Hahn, Senator Rick Santorum, George Weigel, and others. Goodman ought to be worried; she can no longer count on notable Catholics to do the bidding of the liberal elites.

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