Sed Contra: Where’s the Hope?

Deal W. Hudson
October 1, 2003

Before e-mail, I could have never received personal messages from hundreds of people in a single day. But as our weekly e-mail newsletter has grown, so has the number of readers who take the time to respond (and, yes, I read them all). Most of the messages are positive in tone, and some contain useful criticism, which we take to heart. But there is always a handful that is downright mean and cynical.

I mentioned this to Fox News commentator Fred Barnes, and he said that he stopped responding to e-mail because people were so vicious. I told him that I expect bad manners from those we criticize, but I’m always surprised when it comes from our allies.

Flannery O’Connor is famous for talking about the mysterious dimension of manners. In the case of rude e-mails, I fear that what’s really being expressed is simply a lack of hope. I never hear from these folks when we send out bad news, but try sharing some good news—such as our September 8 meeting with Bishop Wilton Gregory, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, three other bishops, and staff from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)—and the naysayers get online in a hurry.

“What’s the use of talking to the bishops?” they ask. “Why are you wasting your time?” they wonder. Actually, the messages get a lot more vitriolic than this (and a lot more personal). Fine. It’s my job to hear what’s being said. But from my vantage point, I wonder if some people have completely given up on—or forgotten about—the supernatural body of the Church. This mystical reality trumps whatever has happened in history, and it trumps the human failings of our bishops, priests, and laity.

A few weeks ago, my conversion story, An American Conversion: One Man’s Quest for Beauty and Truth in a Time of Crisis, was published by Crossroad Publishing. At the center of the book is a chapter, titled “A Letter from St. Louis,” about an epistle I received from Dr. James Hitchcock, the well-known historian of the Church. I had written to him after reading his book, Catholicism, and Modernity, in which he lamented the gradual Protestantization of the Church in the years following Vatican II. He wrote back to me a magnificent letter most of which I printed in my book—explaining that being Catholic means believing in the mystical reality of the Church that always lies behind its historical appearances.

Our September 8 meeting with the bishops was an act of hope, grounded in the grace that undergirds our common life in the Church. Catholics who have grown grouchy from the years of disappointment in Church affairs need to remind themselves that priests and bishops hold offices consecrated and linked directly to the priesthood of Jesus Christ and His apostles.

To those who scoff at such a meeting, I ask a simple question: Where else do we as lay Catholics go when we have deep concerns about the future of the Church? Who else is there to talk to? A Protestant sensibility would lead us to create a small, select group of the pure few, separate ourselves from the corrupt and defiled many, and nail our list of grievances to the door of the USCCB.

As you probably know I am an ex-Baptist minister. As a convert, I am always conscientiously aware that the church I chose 20 years ago thrives and flourishes because of the Holy Spirit and not because of human wisdom and expertise. (Though these qualities can help along the way.) Several speakers at the September 8 meeting reminded those present that we were meeting with the successors to Christ’s apostles. I take this statement to be more than mere rhetoric, mere words intended in only an honorific fashion.

The day after our meeting, the USCCB announced its official support of a federal marriage amendment that would make marriage between a man and a woman the law in all 50 states. In doing so, the bishops displayed their moral leadership, and we should all thank them. Their action demonstrated in a visible concrete way that the hope we placed in them on September 8 was not in vain.

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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