Sed Contra: That Privacy Thing

Deal W. Hudson
November 1, 1998

The Bible says that in the last days our sins will be shouted from the rooftops. Well, a millennium of sorts has already arrived for some Washington politicians, both friend, and foe. The brave new world of the media, fed relentlessly by the Internet and 24-hour cable news, has made that scenario almost literally possible.

I suspect that as more and more lives are turned inside out Catholics should be better prepared than most to sort out the resultant confusion. Why? Catholics, I think, have a different view of privacy from other people. The regular practice of confession, the habit of making your sins public, even if it is only to a priest, makes these revelations less of a shock.

This is not to say that Catholics have come to expect less of their leaders, but that their attitudes are informed by a moral realism born in the crucible of penance. Confession breaks down the walls we put up around the self, and eventually destroys the false distinction between public and private life. Character is destiny; this is part of the truth that keeps us going back to the confessional.

This understanding of privacy, however, leads Catholics to expect more, not less, of our leaders. Case in point—a recent swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. At the oath of allegiance to their commander-in-chief, all six new recruits doubled over in laughter! The academy commandant had to remind them of their proper dignity and ask them to maintain military bearing.

The president has the power of life and death over every man and woman in the U.S. military—they must be prepared to give their lives if he deems it necessary for the common good. When they consider the character of the man who can place their lives in harm’s way, all facile distinctions between private and public judgment appear ridiculous.

More personal revelations are expected the closer we get to impeachment hearings. The White House “scorched earth” policy reinforces the sense of an apocalypse fast approaching. The net effect has been to make us less mindful of last things and more mindful than before of the inevitable tinge of eroticism that attaches itself to power. This addresses another aspect of Catholic moral realism implicit in the wisdom of retaining a celibate clergy. The vow of celibacy provides both priest and layperson the clear sense of boundaries they need in vulnerable situations.

Over and over again, we hear on the talk shows that we shouldn’t hold the president to a “higher standard.” I would argue quite the opposite. Leaders are by definition leaders of people. Leaders, whether they be priests or presidents, have life-changing influence on those who follow them. Our well-being depends upon their judgment and actions. Those who are not willing to bear the burden of these higher standards should not seek office.

In the past few months, the media and their audience—all of us—have conspired to become a nation of voyeurs. What we are seeing and hearing every day, hour after hour, is poisoning the moral imagination of this nation. After we have stripped away all idealism from offices that bind our culture together—president, father, husband—what will be left for us to aspire to? Who will want to sacrifice personal desires for public responsibilities?

For years now the baby boomer generation has tried to lecture the so-called Generation X on the importance of public service. Boomers have been appalled at the lack of respect they have for the adult world and its treasured institutions. We can be sure our best arguments will be met with scoffing by teenagers who can’t see past the spectacle of hypocrisy.

The fabric of the republic has been rent apart by something far worse than a sex scandal at the White House. It has been torn by a man who came into office talking about vision and quoting the Old Testament prophets. There is little doubt that any one of those fire-breathing prophets of old would have to say about the Man who refuses to repent.

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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