High Noon at College of the Holy Cross

Deal W. Hudson
October 15, 2007

The Jesuit College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, is in trouble.

Bishop Robert J McManus, S.T.D., issued a statement on October 10th warning President Michael McFarland, S.J., that the official Catholic status of Holy Cross was at risk.

The reason for the showdown? On October 24, representatives of both Planned Parenthood and NARAL are scheduled to speak on campus as part of a “Teen Pregnancy Conference” sponsored by the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy.

This could be historic – a clash that has been decades in coming between a bishop and a Jesuit college. Remember, even Jesuit colleges receive their “Catholic” status from the local bishop.

“No university, even if it is, in fact, Catholic, may bear the title ‘Catholic University’ except by the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority” (Code of Canon Law 808). The “competent authority” within each diocese is the bishop.

Holy Cross is renting space to the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy for the conference, and President McFarland responded to Bishop McManus by saying Holy Cross has “contractual obligations” and cannot cancel the conference or dictate its speakers. (Sorry, but Holy Cross had plenty of time to cancel the conference. A spokesman for the diocese, Raymond L. Delisle, said the bishop had a number of discussions with Father McFarland over the past two weeks.)

The Holy Cross statement also included the following:

The college believes a meeting of adult professionals pooling resources, engaging in a dialogue and exchanging information is a beneficial way of grappling with pressing issues related to the health and well-being of Massachusetts teenagers and children.

When October 24 arrives and the Holy Cross Jesuits have not acted in accord with the statement of Bishop McManus, a domino effect may begin toward the official secularization of Jesuit institutions in the United States, beginning in Massachusetts.

Will Father McFarland lead his school out of the Catholic Church? He’s already remembered for defending the honorary degree awarded to Chris Matthews in 2003, in spite of Matthew’s explicit comments about being “pro-choice.”

Bishop McManus’s warning doesn’t sound like an idle threat:

It is my fervent wish that the administration of the College of the Holy Cross will unequivocally dissociate itself from the upcoming conference… so that the college can continue to be recognized as a Catholic institution committed to promoting the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

Like so many Catholic colleges inviting their students to embrace “the dialogue” of the virtues of abortion, Holy Cross alumni are dividing on the issue. John P. Hamill, chairman of the college’s board of advisers, commented, “I find it very hard to understand why this is an issue of great concern after six years.” (As it turns out, NARAL and Planned Parenthood had been guests on the campus for the previous five years.)

Vic Melfa, a Holy Cross alumnus, class of 1957, is co-founder and president of the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society. “It’s a great concern to me because the group that’s sponsoring the conference is diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching on life. President McFarland should have said ‘no.'”

If this clash does reach ahead, it will be the direct result of a document signed in 1967 at the Land O’Lakes Conference organized by then-president of the University of Notre Dame, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C.

The opening statement of the document set the wheels in the motion for a sea change in Catholic colleges and universities:

The Catholic University today must be a university in the full modern sense… To perform its teaching and research functions effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself (Emphasis added).

Now, forty years later, Bishop McManus has challenged the heart of the Land O’ Lakes statement (one of the signatories was the president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, the former-Right Rev. Theodore E. McCarrick).

Will the local bishop and Canon 808 prevail over the Jesuit president and the Land O’ Lakes document? We shall see.

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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