The Jesuits Produce A Great Political Candidate

Deal W. Hudson
November 20, 2008

Joseph Cao is a Catholic lawyer and former Jesuit scholastic from New Orleans. He is running as a Republican for the Congressional 2nd district seat in Louisiana presently held by Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), who is best known for the $90,000 found in his freezer. The election will be held December 6.

Few candidates for public office are as forthright as Cao when asked about their position on abortion. “I am very anti-abortion,” he told me without hesitation. Cao would like to overturn Roe, but in the meantime, “We have to find a way to defeat Roe without having to overturn it.”

His solid pro-life credentials are attested to by the endorsement of the FRC Action PAC, among others.

At age 41, Cao has been married for seven years to Hieu, also called “Kate,” and has two children, Sophia 5 and Betsy 4. Kate is a pharmacist who works to “pay the bills while I play politician,” Joseph told me. They met at a Marian festival at Our Lady La Vang Parish, a Vietnamese Catholic congregation in New Orleans.

Cao was born in Vietnam but immigrated to the United States at age 8 with his older sister and younger brother. The Communists had jailed his father after the fall of Saigon in 1975, and Joseph was raised by an uncle in Houston where he attended middle and high school and was eventually reunited with his parents. Joseph attended Baylor University in pre-med, where he met a Catholic chaplain who introduced him to the Society of Jesus.

He entered the Jesuits in 1990, spending two years in the novitiate in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. While working as a Jesuit in Mexico he had an experience that led him out of the Order and into the world of politics.

“I went all over the world to work with the poor and experienced a crisis of faith in Mexico over human suffering and God. I asked my spiritual director, ‘What is God doing about all this suffering?’ He told me that ‘God sends people to help.’ That was when I began to realize my calling was politics.”

Cao earned his M.A., in philosophy at Fordham University and spent a year teaching ethics at Loyola University, but left the Jesuits in May 1996. He earned a law degree and continued teaching at Loyola before he began his legal career as an associate at the Waltzer Law Firm. Cao left Waltzer to become in-house counsel for Boat People SOS.

Cao lost his bid in 2007 to become a state representative in his home state, but he wasn’t discouraged. “I have a deep faith, and I believe that I am called to public service.”

Running against an entrenched incumbent doesn’t faze Cao. “The election of Barack Obama suggests that people are willing to cross party and racial lines to vote for the person they think is best for the country and will bring accountability back into politics.”

Cao admits that his personality is not ideally suited for campaigning: “I have a personality that is the antithesis to political life – I am a rather private person.” There’s something else about Cao that is unlike most politicians. When I asked him about his personal philosophy, he spoke expansively about Dostoevsky.

“I read a lot of Dostoevsky who wrote works of literature but really was addressing philosophical questions.” His favorite is Brothers Karamazov with its story of the “good man [Alexei] who lives in a conflicted existence but holds on to his goodness.”

His attraction to Dostoevsky is mirrored by Cao’s commitment to upholding his Catholic faith in politics: “I hold on to my Catholic values, the good of the family, of faith, of social justice in various forms, including the defense of unborn life.”

Joseph Cao represents a new generation of Catholics in politics – a generation with the courage of Dostoevsky’s Alexei who will not follow in the way of the majority of Catholics presently serving in the U. S. Congress.

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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