Sed Contra: The White Flag of Surrender

Deal W. Hudson
December 1, 2003

During the November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, D.C., the president of Call to Action presented the bishops with a letter from 6,000 Catholics asking that celibacy become optional for the priesthood. Their motivation, as quoted in USA Today, was to make the Eucharist more widely available. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Of course, anyone who knows the ways dissenters sell their wares will sense a pig in a poke.

For the past two years, false reform groups like Voice of the Faithful have been pointing the finger at celibacy as a cause of the sex-abuse scandal. The celibacy requirement, they argue, attracts emotionally immature men to the priesthood (tell that to the 65,000 priests serving in our country). If the Church allowed married men—or even women—into the priesthood, there would be a lower incidence of sexual abuse.

Besides being a blanket insult to all Catholic priests of the past millennium, the argument is baseless. When a group of Milwaukee priests issued a public letter supporting optional celibacy to their ordinary, Archbishop Timothy Dolan refused to be intimidated, and Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the USCCB, backed him up with a strong statement saying that the celibacy requirement would not be reconsidered.

So using the scandal to undermine the priesthood has not worked, and the dissenters are going back to their pre-scandal argument that the growing shortage of priests requires opening the priesthood to married men. This is what I call the “marketing” argument, and it’s a poor one. Yes, we need more priests, but there are good and bad ways of multiplying vocations.

Vocations are discovered in the midst of charity, devotion, and sanctity. Where have vocations been coming from for the past 20 years? From those families, parishes, communities, and dioceses most devoted to the orthodox teaching of the Church and its earnest practice. Communities of dissent have not produced vocations, although they have succeeded in leading people to doubt the relevance of the Church to their suffering. Who would heed the call to serve such a Church? Not I, not you.

Last month, I visited the remarkable St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas. Led by Rev. Mike Sis, this community has produced more vocations to the priesthood and the religious life than any other comparable community in the nation. How do they do it? College Station is a Protestant outpost in a largely Protestant state, in spite of its Mexican Catholic roots. But even the occasional visitor, like myself, passing through the church and the eucharistic chapel will marvel at the number of students on their knees in prayer and adoration.

Father Sis and his associates have created a place where Catholic students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to worship, learn, and praise without embarrassment or self-consciousness. It was a privilege for me to speak there, and the questions afterward—especially from the blue-shirted apologetics team—manifested a refreshing enthusiasm for the truths of our Faith. No wonder young men and women hear the voice of God in College Station.

The day before I went to Texas A & M, I spoke at my alma mater, the University of Texas, where I became a Christian as a junior and president of the Baptist Student Union as a senior. I didn’t have the same privilege of speaking at the University Catholic Center, run by the Paulist Fathers, in Austin. The students who asked permission for me to speak were told that I was too “controversial” and that I would only be allowed to come if some other speaker was put on the program for “balance.” In spite of this, I met an impressive group of Longhorn Catholics there; sadly, they just didn’t have the kind of leadership evident in Aggieland.

I doubt very much if Father Sis would have had this success by teaching the Catholic faith at the margins of dissent, as is so often the case on college campuses and in many parishes. He teaches and preaches Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and the fruit it bears speaks for itself.

Making celibacy optional is exactly the opposite of what encourages vocations. It’s wrong both in theory and practice. It changes the unique nature of our priesthood and sends out the message that celibacy was too difficult a burden for our priests to bear. For the Church to wave a white flag of surrender in the face of a sexually saturated culture would dispirit Catholics for generations to come.

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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