The Power of a Bold Bishop

Deal W. Hudson
December 1, 2008

An article published yesterday in the Scranton Times announced, “Bishop takes his place on the national stage with his staunch anti-abortion stance.” Bishop Joseph F. Martino wasn’t the only bishop who spoke boldly during the presidential campaign, but he was noticed, in part, because Scranton is Vice-President Elect Joe Biden’s hometown.

Martino was also noticed because he quite literally crashed a seminar on “Faithful Citizenship” being held against his wishes at St. John’s Catholic Church. Objecting to the spin being put on the bishops’ conference document, Martino told those attending the seminar, “No social issue has caused the deaths of 50 million people,” adding, “This is madness, people.”

The Scranton Times rightly observes that Bishop Martino has not become a national figure merely because of his prominence during the election. But the article fails to note a very important and pertinent fact: Catholics in Pennsylvania did not vote for Barack Obama as they did nationally: Self-identified Catholics in Pennsylvania voted 52 percent to 48 percent for McCain.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported this fact but made no attempt to discover the reasons for the anomaly. Pro-life activist Brian Gail from Philadelphia has no doubts as to the cause; he credits Scranton’s bishop for this result: “One man did this, and did it all but single-handedly. His name is Bishop Joe Martino.”

Other Catholics involved in the campaign agree with Gail and view the numbers in Pennsylvania as something to build upon. Bud Hansen Jr. from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, was co-chair of Catholics for McCain. “I am happy to say that our efforts were not in vain. The results tell us that we can re-build the Catholic vote in our state, starting from the grassroots. There is no question that there are very major problems that we are facing at this time, including the economy, immigration, healthcare, and especially national security, but all these issues can be dealt with at the same time that we are protecting life.”

Also not mentioned in the Scranton Times profile was the most important thing the bishop said the night he walked in on the “Faithful Citizenship” seminar: “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese,” he was quoted as saying in the Wayne County Independent. “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me.”

Nothing stirs the pot like a bishop declaring his independence from the bishops’ conference. Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, told the Scranton Times “that people perceive him to be a spokesman” for the U.S. bishops, when “the views he has voiced do not represent the U.S. bishops as a whole.”

But the bishops are clearly divided over “Faithful Citizenship” – there is no unified understanding of its interpretation. Furthermore, Father Reese does not mention the 100 bishops who did speak out in the last six weeks of the campaign.

The Scranton Times article concludes that Bishop Martino is now “disliked” in his diocese, quoting William Parente, a political science professor at the University of Scranton. Parente suggests, “The solution to the problem is for the papal nuncio to promote Bishop Martino to a commission in the Vatican where he can start fresh, and we can appoint one of the local clergies who would be more popular as the new bishop.”

Bishop Martino may not be popular among the Catholic Left, but he has become a hero to Catholics all across the nation, and that is what has some people (perhaps Parente?) worried. No doubt Bishop Martino is unconcerned about a loss of popularity among some of his flock.

That the majority of Pennsylvania Catholics bucked the national trend and voted against Obama is a fact that requires further investigation. Such study will very likely reveal a lesson in leadership – one that will be of particular interest to all the bishops as we approach the consideration of the Freedom of Choice Act.

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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