How Will History Judge Catholics in the 2008 Election?

Deal W. Hudson
October 24, 2008

The Catholic Church is often accused of complicity in a variety of moral evils, including the institution of slavery, the rise of the Nazi Party, and even the horror of the Holocaust itself.

Historians differ on the degree of blame properly assigned to Catholics. But they all agree on one thing: These evils were the result of Church teaching being ignored by the laity and acquiescent bishops who should have said more and with a louder voice.

Will historians a century from now look back on this election as the moment when Catholics in America fully embraced another intrinsic moral evil – abortion – directly contradicting their professed beliefs? Will historians say that, after 40 years of strong papal leadership opposing “the culture of death,” American Catholics chose to turn a deaf ear? That the U.S. bishops said too little, and with too soft a voice?

If Barack Obama is elected president on November 4 with substantial help from Catholic voters, the historical record will show precisely that. As Justin Cardinal Rigali has argued, Catholics will have voted to remove all legal restrictions to abortion, as well as taxpayer funding of abortion both here and abroad. Why? Because Barack Obama has promised, as his first presidential act, to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.

Just as many Catholics sold and owned slaves or remained silent during the Holocaust, Catholic voters may let loose the full force of another moral evil that contradicts the heart of their faith: “Human life is sacred – all men must recognize that fact” (John XXIII, Humanae Vitae).

Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton has recently reminded us that the voice of the Church was heard in the midst of Nazi Germany. In 1941, Bishop Clemens von Galen – the “Lion of Munster” – gave a homily condemning Nazi officials for many crimes, including the murder of the mentally ill. “The right to life, to inviolability, to freedom is an indispensable part of any moral order of society.”

Bishop von Galen’s “Three Sermons in Defiance of the Nazis” are breathtaking for their courage in face of the likelihood of arrest and possible execution. (Shortly after these sermons, the Nazis placed the bishop under house arrest until the end of the war. The Lion of Munster died of an appendix infection in 1946 and was beatified on October 9, 2005, by Benedict XVI.)

There are bishops speaking out – more than 40 and counting – and their voices are growing louder. The loudest of all is Archbishop Charles Chaput who, in addition to his recent book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving Our Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Public Life, has issued two public statements, the latest titled “Little Murders.”

Archbishop Chaput directly addresses the arguments made by Catholic supporters of Obama, including Prof. Doug Kmiec, who have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.

Archbishop Chaput further notes the relative lack of conviction among Catholics on the issue of abortion compared to the abortion lobby. “Apparently they believe in their convictions more than some of us Catholics believe in ours. And I think that’s an indictment of an entire generation of American Catholic leadership.”

He is exactly right – and history will note this failure of Catholic leadership all the more if Obama is elected president. His policies will surely bring about an increase in the number of abortions, not the reduction he and his surrogates have promised.

Of course, what historians have to say is not the real issue; it’s what history will be recorded – the loss of life and the impact of these “little murders” on those who commit them and on families. History will also record the failure of the largest Christian community in the United States to protect it is most innocent and vulnerable, the unborn.

As Bishop von Galen reminded the Nazis sitting in his church on August 3, 1941:

“Thou shalt not kill!” This commandment from God, who alone has power to decide on life or death, was written in the hearts of men from the beginning, long before God gave the children of Israel on Mount Sinai his moral code in those lapidary sentences inscribed on stone which are recorded for us in Holy Scripture and which as children we learned by heart in the catechism.

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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